Attitudes / Expat Life / Hong Kong / Living in Hong Kong

Dear lady on the tram…

Today I sat on the tram opposite you and you smirked gleefully when you saw me. You turned to your friend and in Cantonese told her to look at me – the fat “white” lady riding on the tram. You both laughed at my expense as you talked about me in front of me clearly confident I had no idea what you were saying.

I’m glad I offered you some amusement for a few seconds of your day.

I’m also glad you noticed as I spoke to my son sitting next to me in Cantonese. You and your friend stopped short turning to stare at me. I saw the colour go from your faces as you watched me speak, realised I spoke your language, noticed me glare back at you in understanding, and then you abruptly turned your head in shocked silence to stare out the window.

Yes… Yes I did understand you. Every word you said.

Did I shock you? Confuse you? Embarrass you?

You and your friend remained silent and looked anywhere but where my son and I were, shuffling uncomfortably and fidgeting awkwardly.

Lookin' at'chaAnd so I smiled. I know I shouldn’t, but you dear lady, and your friend, provided me a few moments of amusement in my otherwise mundane day running errands with my child as the tram rattled down the busy roads of Causeway Bay towards Wan Chai.

You see, today I hope you learned a valuable lesson.

Perhaps you will think before you speak the next time you choose to judge someone by the way they look…

Perhaps you will think before you speak the next time you choose to talk in front of someone because you assume they don’t understand what you are saying…



2 thoughts on “Dear lady on the tram…

  1. Hi Lisamaree, I really enjoy reading your blog. I am a long time reader and first time commenter! My family and I are moving from Sydney to HK in about a month, and I am interested in how you became fluent in Cantonese? I know you have been there for a while, did you do some formal lessons or did you just pick it up getting out and about around HK?

    I really enjoy your blog and your insights into HK life. I have read it from start to finish over the past few months while my husband’s job negotiations continued and feel I am prepared as I can be before arriving.

    Thanks so much, Sally.

    • To be honest I don’t consider myself truly fluent in Cantonese. I am always learning and have so much more to learn. I certainly understand a lot more than I speak. Part of that is to do with my fear of using the wrong tone as Cantonese relies on 9 different tones for each sound and it can be confusing/difficult to say a word with the right tone. I haven’t had any formal training (although I am actually looking into this as I would like to boost my language skills further). My husband has taught me most of what I know. It has escalated 10-fold by getting out amongst the locals, watching and interacting with them. As crazy as it sounds I also find watching Cantonese movies helps improve my understanding to the point where I will sit there now and complain the english subtitles are incorrect ;).

      I want to thank you for reading my blog. Knowing that someone stops by and reads more than one post is uplifting. I hope you enjoy your move and the new challenges of living in Asia. Maybe we’ll catch up once you’ve settled a bit.
      Good luck with your move!

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