Thoughts on Listening to Cantonese

It’s the end of my third day here and things have been going amazingly well so far.  Winnie and I have just be spending time with her family and doing lots of shopping. The one I’ve felt since I’ve been here is that I have gone back to square one when it comes to speaking the language.

First let me say that most people here speak Mandarin or English, so I’m not having a difficulty here, but I am finding it an interesting experience.  It’s triggering memories of my first days in China when I didn’t really know what was going on because I couldn’t really follow what everyone said and I was constantly wondering what people were saying and did I make the right choice to come to the country. This time, I’ve got all the wonder but none of the worries. Everything is going great with Winnie’s family and I am understanding more of the language as I spend more time in the stores and with Cantonese speakers. Most importantly, I am more patient about things now. I know the world is not going to end if I have to work a bit to understand what is going on. Plus people are really patient with me — they’re happy enough that I can speak pretty good Mandarin. So it’s not hard to stay patient.

I can’t say that is the same for most of the non-Cantonese speakers here. Tonight, Winnie and I were at Happy Lemon, a tea stand, near my hotel. There was a Mandarin speaker ahead of us in line. I’m not sure where she was from in China, from her accent, it sounded like maybe she was from Beijing. Anyway, the woman was acting really impatient — there was a lot of people around the stand waiting for their tea. Most of them were Cantonese so the Happy Lemon stay were just speaking the numbers in Cantonese and so the woman was sticking her receipt out every time a number was called hoping it was hers.

Since there was two or three people ahead of her, she had to wait for a while. After we were there for about five minutes she started to get really angry. Yelling at the staff for her tea. The staff were really good, they told her in Mandarin to calm down and be patient and then took her receipt and a minute later passed the woman her tea. I don’t think that we could see this happening Shanghai. The staff would just yell at the person and the person would probably just yell back.

That’s the other thing that impresses me about Guangzhou, the service in shops and the restaurants are excellent. The service people really understand the idea of a market economy and that they have to work to earn people’s business. Not so in Shanghai were a lot of people in little shops will just sit there and complain if you don’t think the goods are good or ask for a different color.

I’m really not looking forward to go back to Shanghai — after the last couple of days I’d rather just move to Guangzhou.




Filed under China Society, Personal

3 responses to “Thoughts on Listening to Cantonese

  1. Idetrorce

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  2. oneeyedpanda

    Thanks Idetrorce. If you don’t mind could you elaborate a little more? I’m interested on hearing where you disagree.


  3. Pingback: My Holiday in the CAR (Cantonese Administrative Region) « One-Eyed Panda’s Journal

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