Sunday, October 18, 2009

Miscommunication Hilarity Part One

People back in the U.S. are always surprised when they hear that Singapore is an English-speaking country, but it's actually a little more complicated than it sounds. Singaporeans speak English, and most of them do it quite well- for example, many younger people especially speak English as their first language, and although they speak with a different accent than we do, they're typically pretty easy to understand. However, a lot of older people and people who have recently moved to S'pore learned English later in life and therefore don't speak it as clearly as others- the English is very heavily accented and sometimes disjointed. This has led to some rather hilarious miscommunications.

One day while Bryan and I were still staying on Orchard Road (and were pretty fresh at deciphering the local accents), we went to a hawker centre to get some dinner. I walked up to a Chinese food stall and began to try to communicate that I am vegetarian. There was nothing vegetarian on the menu, and I wanted to see if they would just make me some rice with veggies. Normally this isn't too much of a problem, but this lady and I were having a lot of trouble.

Me: Hi, is there any way you can make me something with no meat? No fish or anything? Maybe just some rice and vegetables?
Her: Rice!
Me: Um, yes, and maybe some vegetables? I'm a vegetarian.
Her: Rice!
Me: Um, rice, yes.
Her: A-OK!
Me: Oh, great! Thanks!
Her: A-OK! A-OK?
Me: Yeah, rice sounds great! Thank you!
Her: A-OK?! A-OK?!
(This is when I give her a super cheesy thumbs up and a goofy grin)
Me: Yeah! A-OK!
(It goes on like this for awhile. Bryan and I keep looking at each other and I keep nodding and saying "A-OK" like an idiot until she laughs and walks away and comes back carrying an egg. She points at the egg.)
Her: A OK?!
Me: OHHHHH!! EGG OK! Yes! Eggs are OK! I eat eggs! Thank you!
(She walks away shaking her head)
And eventually she brought me some yummy fried rice with eggs in it, and I was happy.

Another day I was in a taxi, headed to a restaurant in Holland Village to meet up with Bryan and his co-workers. When I got into the taxi, I said "Holland Village please," and then sat back. A few minutes later the driver said something that sounded like "Where'd you like to go in Singapore?" I thought maybe he wanted something more specific, so I said confidently "The Cold Storage in Holland Village" (Cold Storage is a grocery store that's located by the restaurant I was going to). I noticed the driver looking at me in the rear view mirror with a strange look on his face and he said "Ah...yes...Cold Storage is very nice..." and that was when I realized that he had actually said "Where DO you like to go in Singapore?" but by then we were there and it was too late to clarify what I had said. So now there's a cab driver somewhere in Singapore who may or may not think that American girls like to come to Singapore and hang out at the awesome grocery stores. Oops.

I have a million of these, so I will share more of my shame for your reading enjoyment : )

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