It’s very interesting being a typical Asian travelling across Asia. In ALL the countries we went, people thought I was a local. Myanmar. Thailand. Vietnam. Laos. China. I must have a very “international” look.
I can comprehend all these ‘misunderstandings’ in other countries, but in China… Oh, CHINA. I must admit that I’m a little embarrassed that I speak crap Mandarin and don’t read except for a few simple words and numbers. I am 100% Chinese, pure. My grandfather is from Guangdong, China. My cousins all went to Chinese schools except for me and my brother. Ha! I went for Chinese lessons when I was a kid, but had totally zero interest in it that I only read the pinyin and I even slept in class! I gave up, which was a wrong move obviously. A few years ago, I bought a box of Chinese reading cards (for kids) but never got to learn any, the box is still sitting nicely at home. Fail whale.
So, when Ed says to spend most part of the trip in China, I said er…Okay! Let’s do it! At least he speaks and reads Mandarin. But at the back of my head, I’m like “[email protected]#?” Almost a week here and from my simple observation, it IS difficult travelling in China if you don’t know the language. The Chinese is so proud of their language that everything is in Chinese characters. Transport schedules, travel agencies, menus, signboards, heck, even bottled drinks are in Chinese! except for the few businesses that deal with foreigners. And people don’t even bother speaking English except for the younger generation. To be honest, I always feel like a retard whenever we need to buy a train ticket or order food coz I’ll stand aside and wait for translations! Not cool. I’m slowwwly learning more spoken words each day, though I don’t think I’ll attempt to read, yet.
(it’s so ironic writing this that I’m laughing at myself)
In Malaysia, we have a term for people like me. Chinese who don’t speak or speak little Chinese. They’re called “bananas” or “xiang jiao ren” which literally means “banana people”. The term is coined because we are “yellow” on the outside (our skin colour) and “white” in the inside (meaning we are very Western-oriented). A very common term for Chinese “farangs” like me.
But hey, though I don’t speak/read Mandarin, I can speak Cantonese and Hokkien! Cantonese because my family is Cantonese and Hokkien because I grew up in the province where the most widely-spoken dialect is Hokkien. So, I’m not that “banana” after all
China has been good to me so far. I’m looking forward to more adventures and will attempt to interact with the locals more with my broken Mandarin. Had a conversation with a lady at the hostel and she commented that I speak pretty good Mandarin. I shared with her my story as above and she says that I’m quite smart then, to be able to explain myself clearly to her. Confidence booster.Yay! Will start small talks. Ni hao?