“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley
And today came one of those funny cultural experiences that I promised to record on this blog. This morning I got up early enough to eat breakfast, even after getting in at around 1:30 AM on my way back from Chiang Mai, and on our way south for the day my mother graciously swung by the breakfast shop so that I could satisfy my cravings for a dan bing (aka, the best breakfast food known to man, composed of a thin, herb flavored pancake skin, a fried egg and bacon rolled up inside, and topped with bean curd sauce…luxury for your taste buds). Anyway, seeing as there truly aren’t many foreigners living among the corn and sugar cane fields on the outskirts of Puzih, and seeing as we’ve frequented the breakfast shop enough, the owners of the place have become familiar with my parents. They have also become familiar with the fact that my parents speak Taiwanese, rather than the more common Mandarin. Thus, when it took me a second to compute what the ladies were saying to me in Mandarin, they assumed that it was because I, too, like my parents, spoke Taiwanese.
False. Big false. Though somewhat related, Taiwanese and Mandarin are not the same language, and knowing one doesn’t always help you with the other. So, when they told me the price in Taiwanese, I just decided to give them all the money I had in my hand and let them figure it out. Somehow Taiwanese for 45 NT sounded more like 6-something in Mandarin, and I sure hoped I had enough. They were like, whoa, 60 NT is way too much. I got back in the car and, as my mother so eloquently pointed out, usually you get people assuming you speak Mandarin and you get them to speak Taiwanese to you. In my case, I had them assuming I spoke Taiwanese and they wouldn’t stop, even when I told them that I spoke Mandarin…guess I should go and learn Taiwanese now.