Prepare your vocabulary of positive adjectives
I found it surprising to hear how positive European people are about everything (although later I doubted their sincerity). After attending a workshop, for example, my response was only, “Meh. It was okay.”, while theirs would be, “It was amazing. The speakers are all fantastic.” You will find yourself talking with people you are not too close with, and that’s when you need those positive adjectives. And you will look stupid if you only repeat awesome, great, and nice all the time. Ah, and lovely particularly works well with grandmas and grandpas.
Say ‘please’ when asking or ordering something
It might sounds obvious but it took a while to get used to it. In Indonesia, you don’t say please that often. Say, in an airplane, and the flight attendant asked you, “Mau kopi atau teh, Mbak?” (Do you want coffee or tea, Miss?) – You will answer, “Teh aja, Mbak.” (Just tea, Miss.) while smiling politely. Your tone and smile are already counted as ‘please’ in Indonesian.
While here, you have to end every sentence with ‘please’ when you are asking something.
You: “Can I have one chicken, please?”
Him: “Dine in or take away?”
You: “Take away, please.”
Him: “With sauce?”
You: “Yes, please.”
Few months ago, there was a bomb threat in Baker Street, and the traffic was held. Everyone was panicking. My friend’s bus was stopped, and she wanted to get off the bus instead of waiting for uncertain hours. She said to the driver, “Can you open the door?” – and the driver replied, “Can you say ‘please’?” Yes, even in the time of crisis, you can’t never be too polite. Can I hit you on the face, please?
‘Sorry’ is the magic word
Use it all the time. And I really mean all the time. When you bumped into people on the street, no matter whose fault it is, just say sorry. I once watched The Book of Mormon Broadway, and during those two hours show, I exchanged ‘sorry’ five times with the lady who sat next to me. First when I arrived to my seat. She had to move her leg a bit to give me room, and we both said sorry to each other while smiling friendlily. Then in the middle of the show, my huge backpack touched her feet, and we both said sorry. Then during the break, she needed to pass to go to the loo or something, and we both said sorry again. Et cetera, et cetera. Saying sorry doesn’t mean you are really sorry. It can be a magical and practical replacement of ‘excuse me’ or ‘thank you’ in some situation.