Adventures in the
! land of Chinglish
Since I have no great insights into the life of a writer this week, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about my trip to
visit my sister. She has lived there for many years so it made sense
to take advantage of a built in guide who also supplies room and board! China
Ah, Chinglish! I’d never heard the word before that trip. Chinglish is what the ex-pat community calls the literal translations from Chinese to English that adorn numerous signs in public areas. Since grammar and the placement of words differs from language to language, this can make for some really amusing signage. I had to buy the one that proclaimed in large black letters. “No Smoking. I will anger.” Sometimes blunt works best!
An interesting sign on the outside of the elevator in the Langdon Hotel in
Hong Kong. “If you are on fire,
do not use the elevator” Seemed like very good advice. If I’m ever on fire I
will be sure not to use their elevator.
Then there was the sign on the inside of the elevator in my sister’s apartment building. “No kicking or jumping.” I had to wonder what prompted that one. Did they have a problem with people practicing their karate in the elevators?
I loved the sign on the lobby to the apartment. It looks like a child’s version of a pirate cartoon, with a big red line through it. What do you think? We guessed it means No Pirates, but since Dongguan is a two hour drive North from the
South China Sea, I have to
again wonder why? Inland pirates?
Language is always fun when you visit a foreign country. When we landed at the airport in Beijing, we figured the easiest way to get to our hotel was a taxi. So, we lugged our baggage down the inevitably long corridor, dragged it onto the escalator and finally made it to the taxi stand. Holding up an arm, we flagged down a cab and loaded our stuff into the trunk. Then we plunked ourselves into the back seat. “Raffles Hotel we said.
The driver looked at us with that totally blank look that is never good.
So we said it slower as if that would somehow help.…. RAaaaaffffleeees Hottttellll.
The blank look on his face didn’t change.
“Aha!” Says my sister. She rummages around in her purse and produces the hotel bookings. She hands them over to the driver and he looks at them carefully. We knew it wasn’t going to help when he turned them upside down and still looked confused. The confirmation was in both languages so my guess is that we got a taxi driver who couldn’t read. At this point the traffic cop starts looking annoyed and gestures at our cab to leave. And I mean gestures vigorously, the man did not look amused. Our driver yelled something at him and he started to stalk over to our car. Great.
Then, my sister goes “I got it!” She pulled out her cell phone and called her husband’s office. “Hi Jennifer, she says. Jennifer is the husband’s office manager. “We’re in a cab in
and I need you to tell the driver that we want to go to the Raffles
Hotel. He doesn’t seem to understand English.” She paused. “Great! Here he is.”
She hands the phone over to the driver. He puts it to his ear, and his face brightens immediately. He put the car in drive and away we went. And he kept talking and nodding, sounding quite happy. I look at my sister and she shrugged. “Jennifer’s a bit of a flirt. The company picks up the cell phone charges, so don’t worry about it.”
We were half an hour down the road before the driver gave the phone back.
is a new hobby. In the last five years, the number of cars on the
road have increased 5,000% and these are all first time drivers. Picture it. An
entire country full of new drivers. Getting anywhere is an adventure. There are
no speed limits, and very few rules. In the time I was there I didn’t see a
single traffic cop. You are not allowed to hit pedestrians, but driving on the
sidewalk is fine. You can make a U turn anywhere you want. We had one driver
who decided to change direction and he made one right through a line up of stop
and go traffic. China
He was quite offended when we laughed. I told him that we weren’t allowed to do that in
and he looked confused. “What do you do when you want to go the
other way?” he asked. We had to concede
that he did have a point. Canada
Chinese drivers use their horns as a way to communicate with each other.
“Look out, I’m going to pass you”. Honk Honk
“Didn’t you see me coming? Do you need glasses? Honk! Honk Honk
“I’m right behind you, get moving.” HOOOOONNNKKK.
My sister has an IE. I’m not actually sure how you spell that, but it is essentially a live in housekeeper who does windows, pet sits, and moves your plants when you are not looking. Every morning she comes in and puts the houseplants where she wants them. Then my sister tells her, no, she is the mistress of the house and she wants them here. The IE apologizes and makes tsking noises ,and comes back in the next day and moves them again. Apparently this has been going on for three years.
Most of the large buildings bordering the
South China Sea, especially in
Shenzen, have Dragon holes in them. Yup. Dragon holes. When I first saw them, I
thought it was some type of Architectural whimsy, this big hole in the middle
of each building, until one of the natives explained that you wouldn’t want the
Dragons to be trapped inside your city! Imagine the amount of damage they would
do. You needed to make sure that they had a way to escape back to the seas.
Hence, dragon holes! (Pictures) I explained we don’t have dragons in North America and she looked
I have to say that it was a very educational trip, and one I hope to repeat in the future. I can’t wait to see what the signs in
look like :) Shanghai