Thursday, December 3, 2009

Telephone conversations used to be so simple...

Except of course, when you are on the phone to Telstra or any internet provider, and an irritating piece of technical equipment is failing to do what it is instructed to do, and of course, you discover that there is noone out there - not even in India - who can actually help you.

Well, that's pretty much every phone conversation I have in Hong Kong.

N.B. I realise I'm in someone else's country and have no right to complain about language barriers. But I will.

Of course conversations are perilous in person - I once spent a whole hour in a local grocery store searching top to bottom for glue, because not one person who worked there knew what 'glue' was. In the end, I went home glueless.

Yesterday I was attempting to buy hand sanitizer in a chemist (yes I can be a tad germaphobish at times) and waited patiently while the friendly sales girls attempted to decipher my 'washing hands' gestures - bringing me everything from handcream, to baby wipes, to cuticle cream - no hand sanitizer surfaced and, again, I went home with empty (and germy) hands.

But without even those simple hand gestures telephone conversations really are the worst.

Yesterday I attempted to call a local yoga school about classes. Here's how it went:

me: "Hello, I'd like to do yoga, do you offer evening classes?"

them: "Tonight or tomorrow?"

me: "Neither, I'd just like to know which nights of the week you have evening classes."

them: "Our schedule change every week."

me: "Ah ok, well that's a bit hard to work out, but never mind... how much do they cost?"

them: "Our schedule change every week."

me: "No, how much do you charge for classes?"

them: "I don't know."

me: "You don't know?"

them: "No, only tutor know."

me: "Well I can't possibly book a place without knowing how much you charge..."

them: "Ok."

me: "Ok, thank you."

them: "Thank you, bye byeee..."

A few weeks ago I attempted to book a karaoke bar for B's birthday. Again, here is how it went down:

me: "Hi, I'd like to book a karaoke room for this Saturday night?"

them: "Hello?"

me: "Hello?"

them: "Yes?"

me: "I'd like to book a karaoke room for this Saturday night?"

them: "How many people?"

me: "Less than ten."

them: "Ok. You are Mr Chan".

me: "No, less than ten."

them: (spelling it out) "M-r C-h-a-n."

me: "No no, my name is not Mr Chan, I have less than ten people".

them: "Yes, Mr Chan."

(At this point I handed the phone to my friend because I burst out laughing)

And when it all gets too much - wear pigtails while slurping a giant lollypop!

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