Are You Sure You Understand Me?
Any expat in Shenyang can tell you about communication issues. I came here without knowing even one word of Mandarin and have never had time for official lessons, I think my Chinese is at a respectable level considering my situation. If that level had a title, it would be called ‘still not good enough, fix up.’, but I get by on this basic level allowing me to survive.
One of the things that keep me in China apart from a job I like, a few brilliant people and a lot of beautiful places I’m yet to see, is the memory of how hard it was in the beginning. From being completely alienated by language on arrival and getting tongue-tied when people asked me what were likely incredibly simple questions, to being able to meet Chinese friends who can’t speak any English and hold basic conversations with them for a few hours. Every time I understand something it feels like an achievement and reminds me how far I’ve come. Just now while writing this on the way to meet a friend, my subway card wouldn’t work and I was able to explain my dilemma and resolved it. A while ago that would have been a nightmare, but now it’s just a slightly awkward inconvenience.