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Communicating with Other Pilgrims


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Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (SJPP-Santiago) (Oct-Nov 08)
Santiago to Finisterre (Nov 08)
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabres (Sevilla-Santiago via Ourense) (Oct-Nov 09)
Camino Primitivo (Oviedo-Santiago) (Sep-Oct 14)
I hope this is not too silly a question but it's been bugging me a little.

Am about to set off for my first Camino (1 October) and although I am a bit a of loner, I am looking forward to meeting all the other pilgrims/nationalities on my route. Those of you who have walked the Camino before, what's your technique to suss out where another pilgrim comes from when you first come across them on the Camino - I mean, how do you say hi the very first time - in Spanish, in English? Do you have secret signals? Country flags on your backpacks? or do you just end up asking each new person you come across where they come from in the first language that comes into your head, and if the other person looks at you mouth open without answering, you just try another language, until you find one in common? This all seems very time-consuming to me :wink: but i'd be curious to know.

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There is a Camino lingua that everyone seems to understand. It involves sign language, body language, facial expression, tone of voice etc.
I only saw two black women on the camino last year - one was from Germany and the other was French. They were a natural attraction for other pilgrims, curious to find out where they were from!
A big smile, a wave of the hand, a nod of the head. Pilgrims say, "buen camino" when they pass each other. When you are resting in the albergue or sharing a meal, everyone 'talks' with a combination of all of these communication tools. If you see a sad pilgrim, or a hurting pilgrim, a gentle enquiry or sympathetic tone will say a thousand words.
Don't worry about it now - everything will just fall into place when you are on the camino.
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Some Pilgrims have a country flag on their backpacks... A young man passed me last summer saying "Buen Camino" and as he passed, I saw his Canadian flag and called out "Are you Canadian?"...(since Pilgrims from this continent are fewer, we notice one another!) he paused, we chatted for a few minutes and he strode on to meet his friends... but we met later in the Albergue and walked the same "etapas" for a few days. Casual meetings at dinner can enable great conversations during the walk and if you decide yo want to walk alone, everyone respects that and will walk on or pause for you to go on alone.
Don't worry - you'll meet many people, but as often said here, you will walk alone as much as you choose to!
Buen Camino,
falcon269 said:
Hello. Where are you from?
:) Thanks this made me smile. Obviously I know WHAT to say, I am just unsure what language I should be saying it in. I think my query boils down to - how do you guess in what language to talk to someone, before you accost them? However at the end of the day this is not important, I'll soon develop my own nationality/language radar once I have started walking.
Don't worry about "guessing" the other's language. Most pilgrims know some English &/or Spanish, so a "Buen Camino" or similar in English is enough to get the party started. ;) There is a Camino lingua franca, & you'll be surprised at the number of conversations you can have using 3 or four different languages, hand signs & facial expressions. :)

on edit: from my blog from September of last year:

The next day, I checked out of the hotel & headed towards the Cathedral plaza. I met up with 2 German pilgrims & somehow in German, French, Spanish AND English, I gathered that the main albergue was "very bad, don't go there." I somehow a referral for a good pensione for the Germans, since they didn't want to stay at a hotel. It's amazing what information you can get using 4 languages (including 2 that no one is fluent in), maps, & charades.

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I guess it depends on which languages you feel comfortable conversing in. Buen Camino is used by all, regardless of your ability to speak Spanish. I am, unfortunately, unilingual and so after my initial Buen Camino greeting, I'd speak in English and either a conversation would start or the other pilgrims would smile, shake their heads, and say (in their language) 'sorry, we don't speak english'. Though I must say this was rare, almost everyone I met spoke some english....
I wear South African flag shorts, have an SA badge sewn onto my hat and also have a little flag flying from my pack. With all this advertising, it wasn't surprising that three members from this forum (Kevin, Belinda and Javier) recognized the flag and asked me if I knew 'Sil" from South Africa!
At Bercianos, two cyclists did an about turn when they saw my shorts - they were from Cape Town cycling from Santiago to Pamplona.
I also had one person say, "Hello Jamaica!" Didn't have the heart to tell him that he got the flag wrong!


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