I think we’ve all had a friend who went to England for the summer, and came back with a terrible fake accent. Or the totally white friend (who can’t speak another language and has never been out of the country) who says Puerto Rico with deep rolling R’s and a strong accent. Little things that make us roll our eyes and think “yeesh.”
I’m afraid I’m that person now. I’m trying not to, but it’s hard. Last time I was conscious of the word “Shanghai.” The American pronunciation is a sharp A, like “hang” and “shang” rhyme. But the real pronunciation is a softer sound. More like, Shhong-hai.
Last time I was here I changed my pronunciation to match the American way, but this time I just can’t. It feel too wrong. I kinda stumble over saying the word now, I can’t decide between the two pronunciations and I probably sound like a douche.
And then there is the old, “In China…” I know it’s annoying to start every sentence with “in China,” but I kinda can’t help it. Like, it’s been my home for 5 years, so if I talk about anything recent it’s probably gonna be in china. I know people get bored and tired with hearing it, so I try to drop it from sentences, but I can’t do it totally. Or it’s even worse when I say, “The time I went to Thailand,” or “When I was in Hong Kong.” Douche city.
And then there is chinese. I don’t wanna be that person that says chinese words, cause it’s not a language most people understand. English is already peppered with words from other languages, but it’s things we all can understand. Mi casa e su casa, and arrivaderci, are two examples that come to mind.
But chinese isn’t like that. I can even say just ni hao, which means hello, and almost no one has any idea what I’m talking about. So I have to be careful. Some things just slip out, like when I bump into someone I habitually say bu hao yi si, which means sorry. Or when a store clerk offers me something I’ve (twice now) replied bu yao, which means I don’t want it. You see, these are just common things that pop out. Like, it took me years to get out of the habit of saying god bless you, when someone sneezed in China, its taking time to stop myself from saying the things I normally do in china. But I know to reply to someone in Chinese is, yep, douchy. So I’m trying to stop that too.
Some of this stuff maybe wouldn’t be a big deal and if I was just here for 2 weeks, like normal, I wouldn’t even try. But I’m here for the whole summer (still have a moth to go *grimace*) and like any good traveler I’m trying to fit in an “go native.”
I just hope I’m not a native douchebag.