A surreal conversation here in China

One of the things I’m probably most embarrassed about, when it comes to my life in China, is my lack of language skills. I’ve got maybe 10/20 words, and I get by with that, and a lot of pointing. Given I’ve been here almost 3 years, it’s not good. I could defend myself by saying that I’m a visual learner, and that I have no chance of grasping the script, but let’s face it, that’s bunk.

Anyhow I was in the bank today (yes banks in China are open Sundays) to pay my electricity bill (£6 or $10 for the month for those of you who care). I was queuing up when I had a conversation with what the Americans might call a “greeter” that saved me 10 minutes in line. It went like this (with English translations afterwards):

“No card, no card” (You do know sir that if you have an ATM card, you can pay you bill electronically).

“Yes card, yes card” (Interestingly enough I think I have the card I need).

“Card, Card?” (You have an ATM card?)

“Card, Card” (Is this the card I need?)

“Card, Card.” (Yes that is the right card. If you’ll follow me).

“Card, Card” (Good but I can’r read Chinese).

“Number Number” (Put your card in the slot).

“Number Number?” (Do I put my PIN number in?)

“Number Number.” (Yes then I’ll press some buttons)

“Number Number?” (So I enter my Account Number now?)

“Number Number.” (Yes)

“Green Green.” (That button tells the machine you want to pay your bill if the amount is correct).

“Card Card?” (How do I get my card back now I’ve paid my bill?)

“Card Card.” (Press that button)

“Shi Shi.” (Thank you).

“Bye Bye”

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4 Responses to “A surreal conversation here in China”

  1. johnbuckner523 Says:

    Three years? Should be enough to at least get the pinyin for “thank you correct”

    • jimbowen0306 Says:

      I didn’t necessarily say that it was written in the best pinyin, but that’s how it’s pronounced round here. I’ve also heard it pronounced here as “Shwee Shwee.”

  2. Elijah VII Says:

    David Foster Wallace noted that being surrounded by people who speak a language you do not understand essentially reduces you to the status of a toddler.

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