Vacationing in a different country can be complicated. Besides time changes and jet lag, there are also monetary conversions and language barriers to consider. On top of this is the difference in cultural norms. When you throw in the inherent excitement and newness of a place like Walt Disney World, with four separate gated theme parks, water parks, mini golf courses and a host of other recreation opportunities, it is easy for confusion to set in.
Luckily, Walt Disney World is a place where you can feel comfortable no matter where you are from. Thousands of international guests visit every day and Disney strives to provide for their every need. Park guide maps are available in a number of languages, and many employees are multilingual. You can always go to Guest Relations, located just inside each theme park and entertainment venue, for additional assistance.
As with any vacation, a successful Disney vacation begins with proper planning. Purchase a guidebook in your native language prior to your trip. Take the time to study the guidebook and familiarize yourself with the parks, attractions, restaurants, and recreational opportunities. You may not want to over-plan your trip, as half the excitement of Disney lays in making new discoveries, but familiarity will help prevent you from being overwhelmed.
Plan to spend a portion of the first day of your trip talking with Guest Relations. The Guest Relations staff is surprisingly multilingual, and if no one is available who speaks your language, translators are always on call. It does not matter which park’s Guest Relations office you visit, as all have access to the same resources. The staff will be able to answer any questions you may have as well as helping you with dining reservations and other needs. Be sure to ask about the guided tours if you are interested, as some of the tours are offered in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Italian.
Currency exchange can also be handled at Guest Relations, as well as the SunTrust Bank locations in the Magic Kingdom and across from Downtown Disney. Bank hours are generally 9 am to 4 pm, while Guest Relations is open during park hours. However, transactions at Guest Relations are limited to .
Walt Disney World provides Ears to the World headset translators for the shows at all four theme parks. Translators are available for French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Japanese languages. Although the headsets are free of charge, you will be asked to post a 0 deposit, which will be refunded when you return the headset at the end of the day. The headsets are available at Guest Relations.
International calling cards are available for sale at Guest Relations at each of the four theme parks. Pay phone instructions are printed in Japanese, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Another nice feature of the pay phones is the ability to dial directly to international locations without the need for operator assistance.
At each park, pick up a park map in your native language if available. Foreign language maps are generally available at Guest Relations or at kiosks located just inside the park gates. Such necessities as restrooms, water fountains, and ATMs are marked with international symbols on maps of every language.
As you make your way through the park, do not be afraid to approach any Cast Member (employee) for whatever you may need. From issuing child swap passes to taking your group photo, Cast Members are world renowned for their attention to guest service. The Cast Member may or may not speak your language, but all are well practiced at communicating across language barriers. If you need to discuss something in your language, approach a Cast Member wearing a small flag pin under his or her nametag. Cast Members who speak additional languages must take a test on each language prior to receiving that country’s flag pin.
Walt Disney World is truly multi-cultural. Guests from across the globe love to visit and many Cast Members are part of Walt Disney World’s International Program. Under the terms of the International Program, Cast Members are hired from around the world to live and work at Walt Disney World for a period of time. Therefore, you will likely encounter Cast Members from your country as well as many others.
At times, you may find cultural differences between Walt Disney World’s Cast Members and yourself. Although Disney strives to avoid offending guests from any country and carefully trains its Cast Members, some differences are inevitable. For example, if you are normally reserved around strangers, you may find the Disney familiarity to be a bit too friendly. Alternatively, if you are from a culture that is normally exuberant and close, you may find Cast Members somewhat standoffish. Again, Walt Disney World is multicultural and Disney strives to find a middle ground in customs of communication while avoiding offense whenever possible. It is perfectly acceptable to let the Cast Member know, through words or body language, if you feel uncomfortable with the level of personal space or familiarity of the conversation.
Walt Disney World is truly the Happiest Place on Earth for guests from a wide variety of international locations. Disney’s ideals are universal, crossing socio-cultural boundaries. Walt Disney was a master storyteller, and much of the story is told in ways that have nothing to do with language. Sight, sound, smell and touch combine to create a world that is fully immersive. Visit with the confidence that your communication needs will be met by an international staff who aims to please, and enjoy the world that unfolds before you. Regardless of where you come from, Disney will appeal to who you are, in a way that transcends differences in language and culture.