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The Sleeping Dragon Can Stop To Give Directions

, , , , , | Hopeless | October 13, 2018

(My brother and I are around 20 years old, and we go on a holiday in China together. Due to our parents’ concern about our lack of language skills, we book a guided tour, but on our very first evening in Beijing, we have time to explore the city by ourselves. We take a tram to the city center and have a nice evening, and everything goes well until we get back to the station near our hotel. Then, we get lost. Keep in mind that it is already around 10:30 pm when this all happens. The station is quite large and has several exits on different streets, and even though we have a map, we can’t figure out in which direction our hotel is. Luckily, we spot a police station on the other side of the street and go there to ask for directions.)

Me: “Excuse me, we got lost. This—” *points on map* “—is our hotel. Which direction is it?”

(The two policemen shrug and answer something in Chinese. I figure they don’t speak English, so I try to explain our problem through gestures and with some more pointing. They study the map for some time, talk among themselves and ask us some things, to which I always have to answer, “Sorry, I don’t understand.” This goes on for some minutes, and then one of the policemen goes outside. The other one shows us to some seats and offers us cookies. Then, the policeman outside starts shouting something. At least twenty passers-by from the — not very crowded — street start gathering around him and he leads them inside. A young man starts talking to me in English.)

Young Man #1: “Hey! How can we help you?”

Me: “Hi! We need to get to our hotel, but we got lost!”

Young Man #1: “Which hotel is it? Do you have an address?”

Me: *taking out the map again* “It’s right here—” *points* “—and this is the tram station out there—” *points* “—but we can’t read the street signs and don’t know which direction it is.”

(The young man starts talking to the group in Chinese again. Some people leave.)

Young Man #2: “Don’t worry; we’ll figure this out. We’re trying to find the best solution to get you to your hotel.”

(After some more minutes:)

Young Man #1: “So, this guy—” *he points at an elderly Chinese man with a hat* “—knows the way, but it’s a bit complicated from here. We don’t want you to get lost again, so he’ll walk you there. He can’t speak English; just follow him. Have a good time in China!”

(With that, the rest of the crowd dissipated, everyone smiling and waving at us, except for the man with the hat. He gestured at us to follow him, which we did. What followed was an at least fifteen-minute walk through Beijing, until we could see our hotel at the next crossroads. The man pointed at it and waved at us. We waved, too, took some bows, and thanked him in English. He smiled and started leaving. To this day, I am still amazed by how many people went out of their way to help some lost tourists and the kindness they showed us. Now, whenever I travel abroad, I make sure to at least be able to say “thank you” in the respective country’s language.)


So Thtupid

, , , , | Learning | October 4, 2018

(I am Mexican, but this happens when I am studying in China. We meet a few Chinese people who are learning Spanish. However, they are taught that the only correct Spanish is the dialect that comes from Spain. In Spanish from Spain, the letter Z is pronounced close to English “th,” while in Latin America it’s pronounced like an S.)

Me: “Quiero comprar unos zapatos.” *I want to buy shoes.*

Chinese Girl: “Oh… You’re saying it wrong. It should be ‘thapatos,’ not ‘sapatos.’”

Me: “Well, in Mex–”

Chinese Girl: “You have to learn how to speak proper Spanish.”

Me: “You do realize I’m a native speaker, right? You’re actually trying to correct the way I speak my own language.”

(She just blushed and pointed to where I could buy a pair of shoes.)

This story is part of our Spain-themed roundup!

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For Some People, Running Is A Religion

, , , , | Romantic | July 23, 2018

(My partner and I are both school teachers with a long commute. On weekend mornings we get up early for training, so a lie-in is a rare treat for us. This happens on our first Sunday lie-in in a long time. I am absolutely useless as a human being until my first cup of coffee in the morning. My partner lightly nudges me awake.)

Partner: “Hey, sweetheart.”

Me: “Mrrrphrrr.”

Partner: “It’s Sunday.”

Me: “Yay.”

Partner: “What shall we do?”

Me: “Mrrrphrrbrdrrr.”

Partner: “We could go to church? Or a healthy jog?”

Me: “Sure, sure, that sounds nice.”

Partner: “The only problem is you’re Jewish and you hate running.”

Me: “Oh, yeah.”

Partner: “Shall we go back to sleep, sweetheart?”

Me: “Mmmmkay, if you want.”

(He got a good laugh out of that one!)

We’ll Be Mandar-In And Out

, , , , , , | Working | March 26, 2018

(I am visiting a friend in China. He is working as an English teacher at a university, and is fluent in Chinese. I know absolutely zero Chinese, so my friend has to tell me about this conversation afterwards. We are both pasty-white Americans, and we are both wearing typically American clothing at the time. A waitress comes over to our table.)

Waitress: *in bad English* “You decide what to eat?”

Me: “No.”

Friend: “Nah, I’m good.”

Waitress: *in Chinese* “Hurry up, you fat American pigs. I bet you are going to eat everything we have here and leave this place in a mess.”

Friend: *a little shocked* “Um… What?”

Waitress: *in English, looking as if she said nothing wrong* “Sorry, my English bad. You want water?”

Me: “Sure, we would love some water.”

(The waitress leaves and brings us water, and takes orders. Then, this happens at the end of the meal, when we are ready to leave.)

Waitress: *in English* “You have nice meal?”

Friend: *in perfect Chinese* “Of course. It is always nice to come to local restaurants. Of course, I will never come back here again. We both know why.”

(The waitress looked like she’d seen a ghost. My friend did not tell me anything else that she said apart from that first part, but I remember that she said something just about every time she came to our table to bring food and stuff, so she was likely being a big potty mouth every time. In hindsight, I should have noticed how stressed my friend was at the time.)

How Do You Say “Bird-Brained” In Cantonese?

, , , , , , | Friendly | March 2, 2018

(I’m in a park in Hong Kong, where they have an aviary with a wide variety of exotic birds, including several species of parrots.)

Parrot: “Hello!”

(I see an older gentleman, presumably a tourist from Mainland China, yelling at this bird.)

Man: “Ni hao ma!”

Parrot: “Hello!”

Man: “Ni hao ma!”

Parrot: “Hello!”

Man: “NI HAO MA!”

Parrot: “Hello!”


(Good luck trying to teach Mandarin to a bird that can only speak English in a region that primarily speaks Cantonese!)