Sometimes it’s hard to figure out people’s intentions, but I’ve found in life you can generally just go with the flow, and your intuitions will send up a flare when things really don’t feel right.
What am I on about now? I keep working myself into these awkward situations with Chinese girls. I’m essentially on vacation, and so I’ve got time to shoot the shit with everyone I run across, and I’ve found Chinese people are not afraid to strike up a “conversation” with me if I just say 你好.
I met this one girl on the bus from the Guilin airport to Guilin city. She was eager to practice her English, and I was eager to figure out how to get to the train station. We ended up getting to know each other a little bit, and she offered me this little chocolate cake from Taiwan. What was I to say? “No”? Well, it looked delicious, so I ate it! She also ended up offering to help me find the train station, and she even offered to help me figure out getting a sim card. How incredibly nice! Writing this up now reminds me that she also offered to cook up a meal for me if I came back up to Guilin; I should shoot her an email. Inside the local homes is where you really get to know a culture.
Alright, on the 10 times more awkward side of things, I met this Chinese girl yesterday, Angela. She heard me speaking a little bit of Chinese when I was ordering breakfast (I must say, this was probably my most successful attempt at communicating in Chinese so far). She started speaking a little bit of English to me, and I thought, “OK, we can hang out a little bit; I’ve got nothing to do today.” So like two seconds later, she decides she doesn’t speak English anymore, which was fine, except that my level of comprehension went from, let’s say, 80% to, oh, I don’t know, about 8%. Again, nothing too awkward yet. So we’re walking around town a bit, and then she starts telling me I’m beautiful, I have beautiful eyes, etc. OK, so like 0 to 60 in terms of awkwardness in no seconds flat. Any of you who know me know I don’t really respond to compliments, and I definitely don’t reciprocate compliments (not proud of this, but it’s definitely true). So then just awkward repeating of how beautiful I was ensued, and like a billion heaping servings of awkward silence.
Oh, being an expat. Sometimes you’re just along for the ride. I have a feeling there will be more of these stories!