How can one approximate prior to traveling the percentage of products in local shops in a given area (e.g., a city) with an English translation?

When going to a new non-English-speaking location, I often wonder how difficult / time-consuming shopping will be, and knowing some approximation of the percentage of products in local shops with an English translation l would help find a proper trade-off between buying local and a heavy suitcase.

  • What does "with an English translation" mean here? Are you looking for full ingredient lists, instructions for use, etc. in English, or merely enough for you to know what the product is before you buy it? – hmakholm left over Monica Sep 15 '19 at 21:53
  • @HenningMakholm mostly interested in what the product is, and ideally but less important the ingredient list. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 15 '19 at 21:56
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    The results may also differ wildly within one area depending on which shop you go to. Here (Netherlands) each item needs a Dutch label. Some shops go for one country packaging as they only have shops here, others international packaging with up to 25 languages. So pick the supermarket chain right. – Willeke Sep 16 '19 at 3:55
  • I'm surprised the question is marked as too broad even though I don't see any answer directly addressing the question. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 24 '19 at 17:25

I'm not sure how you'd go about approximating the percentage of products with English, but I can suggest an easy workaround: the camera mode of Google Translate, formerly known as Word Lens.

enter image description here

This is available for Android and Apple mobile phones, costs nothing and works offline as well if you download the language pack in advance.

(Obligatory disclaimer: I work at Google, but have nothing to do with Translate, except as a satisfied user.)

Also, FWIW, I've done a lot of grocery shopping in countries where I don't speak/read the local language, and rarely if ever can I remember being seriously inconvenienced: you may not know what everything is, but it's usually straightforward to find a specific thing you're looking for. Most products are obvious in any language, since the packaging is either partly transparent or contains pictures of the contents, and many brands for things that may not be (detergent, shampoo, toothpaste, etc) are global.


I don't think such a list exists as such.
Also this will be very specific to the area / country you are travelling to.

My impression is that there are certain everyday items that you want to have during your travels that make you feel more confortable.

Make a list of these items:

  • Item name (Brand)
    • alternative brands that are similar in nature
  • Basic name (to be used for translations)
    • which describes what it is
  • where it can be bought
    • type of shop (Grocery, Pharmacy etc.)

For each item collect the package wraping

  • that may contain a picture and description
    • something that others may recognize easily through the picture

Make a list of the countries / Cities you are going to visit

  • get a translation of the
    • Basic name
    • type of shop
  • look for shops in the Internet of the same type or Brand
    • they often have search capabilities
      • search for Brand, english or local Basic name
    • note the name of the shop where you have found something
      • peaple may recognize the shop name and understand what your looking for
        • Lidl, Aldi --> Grocery Store

Compile this information into a A5 binder that contains plastic* envelopes

  • store the basic information for each product
    • with the original packaging
  • use this to show people
    • in a Hotel / Pension
      • they will help you find the right type of shop
    • in the shop
      • they may recognize the packaging and help you further

* I know and understand that plastic is a no, no - but on a windy, rainy day more practical

The best weapons against the language barrier are pictures

  • and will definitely be more effective than sign language

Properly prepared, just pointing to the picture and translated name of product and shop type will probably get your very far, very swiftly.

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