Nov 19, 2010

Communication difficulties on China-US flights

You'd think that if people are traveling to the US, they'd typically speak some English, right?

I'm not quite as crazy as Michael Douglas's character in Falling Down (You come to my country, you take my money, you don't even have the grace to speak my language...), but I do expect some level of English from foreigners traveling to the US.

On a recent China-US flight, and on the return US-China flight, I had several interactions with my fellow passengers that went like this:
I get up from my seat, walk down the aisle to the toilet. I see a bunch of people mulling about near the toilets.

Me: "Is this the line for the head?"

Random Chinese passengers: <blank stares from the group>

"Is you all waitin' on the bathroom here?"

Random Chinese
passengers: <more blank stares from the group>

At this point, I just assume no one is actually waiting on the head, and I jump into the restroom as soon as it's empty.

I think that the whole communication problem is my fault. Probably, the toilet on an aircraft can't be referred to as "the head", and this is where I went wrong. Head can only refer to the toilet on marine vessels.

I'm going to make sure to adjust my terminology on my next transpacific flight. Hopefully things will go more smoothly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you know how I feel when I travel to China from the U.S. On all the flights I have ever taken 99% of the people I encounter do not speak a word of Mandarin. Goes both way.

6:55 PM  

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