Chatting with Chinese people, by John Mulligan

Prior to moving to China it is safe to say I had very little interaction with Chinese people. Coming from a small rural town in the west of Ireland I had little idea of what to expect from the culture and the people itself. A quick Google search before setting out for pastures new left me with more questions than answers. With the ‘rules’ I had learnt on the internet for etiquette and conversation with Chinese people swimming around in my head I set off.

My first conversations with Chinese people tended to consist of a lot of blank stares and pointing on my part. Things taken for granted back home became quite the struggle such as ordering food or trying to tell a taxi driver where you want to go. In the majority of these situations however I found the locals to be very patient with me. A few months later and my broken attempts at conversing in Chinese have not improved a whole lot! Despite this I am more often than not greeted with warm smiles and bucket loads of patience, many natives are more than happy to wait for me to try and remember the word for ‘take away’ or ‘bill’. By simply making an effort to learn a few words and key phrases my life is made easier on a daily basis.

My Chinese co-workers are some of the most helpful people I have ever encountered. From helping me to find a way to watch my favourite sports, giving directions, tips on things to see in this vast city and translating I honestly don’t believe my experience would have been as enjoyable without their much appreciated input. They also poses the amazing ability to speak confidently in more than one language (something I fear is a skill beyond my grasp). A group of people every bit as kind as they are clever, I had not meet before. My advice to anyone worrying about how they will talk to people from such a different culture, don’t be! Don’t make my mistake, don’t Google it.

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