Scary taxi driver: or why NOT to study Chinese
Yesterday I took a taxi and the driver started with the usual chit chat. Where are you from, “your Chinese is so good” etc. Then he asked me where my husband was and what he was doing. I told him he worked in a factory an hour north of Nanjing and that he wasn't here, because he is busy.
There it went wrong. Are all Dutch ladies so 漂亮, 健康 etc. I was feeling a bit 不舒服 and started acting if I did not understand. The guy started making suggestions I should have an extra guy and shamelessly promoted him self. That went on for about five LONG minutes. Chinese men will satisfy all your needs etc. To be honest I was completely shocked and had no clue what to say. This never happened before and have never felt unsafe because of anything else then driving and traffic related things, which of course is almost all the time. I was alone in the taxi and got a bit scared and thought: hmmm he might take me somewhere and I should say something good (which of course I could not remember). I could only think of showing my wedding ring and saying I am a 天主教徒 and the bible says no 小三。That did not really impress him and he said 阿门.
After a while, he asked me why are you going to 湖南路 and I told him I was seeing a friend (I was going to buy a name chop, but I figured shopping would NOT be a good answer): he asked me if the friend was male or female. In the meantime I was frantically looking for the taxi number which of course was not there! He was just scary, creepy and constantly looking in the mirror at me (and not on the road). “I can wait for you and bring you back home!”.
I tried to call my husband and of course the phone was busy. So I figured the following: I should make myself very unattractive. He started talking about my age (42 first time I added 10 years) and then he asked me why I did not have any children yet?! And that was an excellent opportunity to tell him “I hate children”: I think they are 麻烦, 贵得不得了and continued to say all the “wrong “ things.
The the money topic came up. “You must have a lot of money so you will give me a big tip later” (really this guy had a lot of nerve). I said: No, in Holland we have split accounts, we are famous for being stingy and my money is my money and I do not have my husband’s card. So I am not rich! I continued stereotyping and trying to explain all the differences between Chinese and European women. I told him: my husband is not allowed to drink 啤酒和白酒, no Karaoke, has to cook himself and do house all the choirs, never listen to him and refuse to do anything basically! Wasn’t much help either.
Then I started to shift the conversation to food. He asked me if I could cook Chinese food: and I (proudly) told yes my 阿姨taught me. His face lit up and I thought: WRONG answer! :-P. THANK GOD we arrived at 湖南路. Was the longest driver to town ever! My husband called me back and asked me: why did you call me during a meeting? I answered: “Well, I wish I never started learning Chinese, makes your life sometimes so much easier!”. Ignorance is bliss.
Later, I arrived at the stamp shop and there was another “nice guy”. I was asking the boss about stamps, and if he had a particular type of stone. I told him I would like to have a little dragon because my husband is a 龙 (我属小龙).Then the other customer started to comment, you are a foreigner, you cannot have a Chinese sign, and it was not appreciated either I bought a name chop. Why did I have a Chinese name at all?! That was silly to have! Then I needed to get some cash because I could not pay with my card and after I returned that nice guy blocked the door and did not want to let me pass and had to push the door to move him.
What is wrong with you guys? I am writing my name IN CHINESE, having the whole conversation IN CHINESE (yes it is not perfect but I really do my best), and you dare criticize me? Honestly I do not care! I will buy an even bigger name chop next time! I will put on it “I survived 2 years in China!” I put up with this crap (spitting, cutting lines, cheating, laughing, staring, messing up my house, coming late, not showing up at all etc.) for 2 years and that just gives me every right to buy one! Actually they should give it to me!
Note: the first 6 months I hated China, now I am the one who wants to stay.
TalDecember 19, 2009, 04:45 AM
An engrossing tale chanelle, even if an edgy one. I'm afraid it's true that greater fluency in Chinese increases one's awareness of the things you mention. Perhaps when one is struggling up the lower slopes of the Mandarin mountain one's eyes are fixed so firmly on the path that certain details of the landscape can be missed.
Don't be discouraged though, and keep that strong heart! I have days where I seem to encounter more of the annoyances, and days when I repeatedly run into delight. I've come to think holding delight in the mind is the way to go. But as a foreigner living in China, a mental 'shield' should always be kept ready. That's just the way it is.
changyeDecember 19, 2009, 06:25 AM
42 first time I added 10 years
Sorry, I just can't resist laughing loud. Why don't you get a stun gun (made in China) just in case? This is not a joke.
By the way, did you find a good sushi restaurant in Tokyo?
chanelle77December 19, 2009, 06:38 AM
Changye, happy I made you smile! After I got out of the cab I laughed, but the experience was quite scary :-). In stead of a gun I should get a BIG chubby dog and drag it with me every where!
Actually 10 mins. ago I called a restaurant in Tokyo (tempura: ten-ichi), I spoke half English / half Chinese and THINK I made a dinner reservation :-). The guy said "hai" a lot and ended with "moshi moshi" and "domo arigato" (unfortunately he spoke little english / chinese and my Japanese is not what its used to be *kidding*), but I have a good feeling! We will see what happens when I get there...
Zhen also helped me out a lot with some good info!
Now, I only need two more restaurants for the 25th and 26th (our short vacay revolves around food hahah!). Cannot wait to go to Japan!
changyeDecember 19, 2009, 06:49 AM
Please be noted that "hai" in Japanese often merely means "I'm hearing you", but not necessarily means "yes/OK/understand", hehe. Have a nice trip in Japan!
changyeDecember 19, 2009, 06:55 AM
In Japan, people get into "happy-new-year" mode immediately after Chiristmas ends. So I guess you would scarcely see Christmas decorations on December 26/27 in Tokyo, unlike China, hehe.
chanelle77December 19, 2009, 07:04 AM
No problem, will not miss those at all! Just spending some time with my husband and have a nice dinner together / walk around Tokyo is the best x mas for me! :-)
zhenlijiangDecember 19, 2009, 05:14 PM
... make myself very unattractive. He started talking about my age (42 first time I added 10 years) ...
hahaha, thanks a lot Chanelle!
I too when I was younger thought that being 40+ meant you no longer had to deal with that kind of nonsense. But that is not really true. You continue to have annoyances, just different varieties (you will begin being annoyed by snotty kids young enough to be your sons, who think it's funny, think it's sport to play at hitting on women our age. they'll say "Noooo! You look barely ... 26! You're not old!" Very Tiresome).
I had a cab driver shamelessly self-promote many years ago in Tokyo, not dangerous or scary though. I think that particular person was honestly just trying to meet as many prospects as he could on the job for possible marriage.
He was saying to me, "It's not generally known, but we cab drivers make pretty good husbands. Once we go on a shift we're gone for at least 24 hours, that's all that free time to yourself, we're not like the salarymen husbands who come home every night late and expect you to cook every meal like a chef. And our work exhausts us so, we aren't ... demanding. Do you think you might be interested? You should give it some serious thought." "Oh" I said.
I'm happy to say I haven't had your type of scary cab driver.
The scary ones I've met in Japan were usually not very healthy mentally. You'll always be with your husband I'm sure, but in any case I still hope you only get the good drivers while in Tokyo!
chanelle77December 19, 2009, 05:15 AM
Agree with you Tal :-). Just wanted to share another facet of Chinese life (in a humouristic way). Besides my lousy domestic skills I am very stubborn, strong willed and optimistic, so I will not give in hahaha!
chanelle77December 20, 2009, 12:50 AM
@ zhen, when I read back my story, i is not flattering for ladies having 10 years more experience than me, that was not my intention ;-). Adding 30 years was just a little over the top, but I am sure you know what I meant! *wink wink*.
When I read the rest of your story:if I go for the cab driver I do not have to cook anymore and gone for 24 hrs sounds soo atractive haha!
@ Andrew, thank you for your concern!
Thankfully these are exceptions and most of my interaction (especially women) have been very positive.
I truly believe that "racist" attitudes, most of the time are a mix of curiosity, innocent spontanity, enthusiasm, lack of knowledge / opportunities or different ways of communicating. Basically meaning no real (personal) harm intended. The more you know about the other, most of the time for me it get's much better :-) (except for the scary drivers that is haha)
Last night, when my bottle of gas was finished: I called the hotline and I I was a bit off. The lady on the phone said: no worries, we know who you are and 我听的懂。Withing 15 mins the gas guy came, carried the bottle inside AND helped me to change it (my husband does that). That is my average experience :-)
Although the story might come across scary or negative the opposite was intended. After 2 years I have a deep connection with China and it has become part of me. We are lucky / grateful to have one year added to our stay.
xiaophilDecember 20, 2009, 07:31 AM
I had an uncomfortable situation once where I was getting a haircut. The guy cutting my hair realized that I can speak some Chinese, so he decided to have fun. He was like, "Hey, you're an American, help me meet some American ladies... I'm an excellent lover... I have two girlfriends right now... Help me, okay? Okay?" I don't think I ever said 我会考虑一下 so many times in such a short period of time. Every staff member and customer was of course listening in with a slight or outright smirk. Actually, I couldn't decide if he was repulsive, annoying, fun or all of the above. In the end, I decided to convince myself it was option three as my hair was in his hands. Obviously, my situation wasn't scary such as yours, and for that I feel sorry that you had to go through that, but at least you have a story now, right?
andrew_cDecember 19, 2009, 05:25 PM
The first part of your story was scary. I'm glad you were OK in the end.
The second part is typical, and yet another example of the xenophobic and racist attitudes of the vast majority of Chinese people towards everyone else (some are just more blatant than others).