My town, Changping, is widely known as a “man’s town”. Nearly every man I meet, whether a local or foreigner visiting this town on business asks me how I like living here, or more frequently, how can I stand living here. And it’s true, Changping is definitely better suited for men who enjoy certain activities. Other than KTV or massage there really isn’t much fun to be had. I should point out though that not all KTVs or massage parlors here are of the adult variety- although many are. Even though the need to sing horribly along with Journey songs is my blood (I’m half Filipina), even I get bored of singing the same limited number of English songs every weekend.
It was on one of these nights out that I had one of my most insulting experiences in this country. I joined some friends at a KTV I like to frequent for a night of drinking and singing. While playing a Chinese drinking game, in Mandarin mind you, one of the local girls in the group said to another, “她 很 笨” (Ta hen ben.) Translation: She is stupid. Why? Because I wasn’t translating her calls and responding fast enough… in a foreign language. I told to my host who is my very good friend what happened and long story short, the girl got kicked out and fined for insulting a customer. But I still can’t get no satisfaction, because I never got to stand up for myself. That’s what’s so frustrating about being in a foreign land- not being able to communicate.
I can understand calling someone stupid if they are truly being/are stupid. I mean, I call people idiots all the time, but they’re usually darting in front of moving traffic or parked in a busy lane while they play with their cell phone. But I would never insult someone for not understanding a foreign language, especially if they are trying to participate in that language. Maybe it’s because I have an immigrant mother or because I grew up in a country of immigrants and was surrounded by Filipino immigrants my whole life. I’ve always had a pretty good idea, but now I know first hand what it’s like to experience life in a society as an outsider. Here I feel deaf, blind, and mute. On the other hand, she is probably deaf, blind, and mute to the rest of the world. It’s easy to be spiteful to anyone who’s different when you have never been different yourself.
But as I mentioned, there have only been two times I’ve felt that isolated in this country (the first being a taxi who yelled out to me unsolicited that he “doesn’t pick up foreigners.”) so it is definitely not the norm in my life here. Aside from some stares, for the most part folks are friendly, accommodating and encouraging as I navigate my way through this country. The rude girl’s managers were apologetic, her friend distanced herself from her (probably to make sure we knew she didn’t feel the same way), and the rest of the night ended up being a total blast.
In the end I have to remember- I’m not the one that insulted a customer to her face and assumed she wouldn’t understand. That level of idiocy transcends all language barriers.