Monday, July 21, 2008

Passing for Chinese

While enjoying a couple beers al fresco at Schiller's the other night we got to talking to our patio mates. We do tend to meet the neighbors. . .

They were diplomats from Burundi and have lived in Beijing for 2 years and speak fluent(ish) Chinese, English and whatever language they speak in Burundi (I could Google that for you, but nah).

They asked FM and I how long we'd been in Beijing, we replied, "Four and a half months, and we'll probably be here around seven or eight."

There response was, "And you don't speak ANY Chinese??"


Well, we can say "Straight", "Left", "Right","Hi", "Thank You", "How are you?" and count to five or so.

We are pretty comfortable not being able to speak the local language, obviously. It's the case most of the places we live. However, the absolute lack of English here in China has made things a little trickier and we've had to resort to very different avenues in order to get around and communicate over very basic transactions.

But the Burundians couldn't believe it was possible to live here without any Chinese language skills.

We talked about shopping, and they told me it would help if I bargained in Chinese. Now, I'm a pretty good bargainer, and the sales girls at the markets all speak good English, so I haven't really considered this.

However, I don't think they are going to mistake me for a local.

Or the guys from Burundi, either.

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