After almost a year of planning, 23 hours of travel with a transfer and 4 hour layover in Taipei we made it to Shanghai yesterday afternoon. I am a spoiled American who is used to having another English speaker easily accessible in the places we travel, but here in China that has already proven to be different. Even at our hotel we are using translation apps and Siri to try to communicate requests that in other hotels would be simple. “Is there a refrigerator in our room” becomes a 45 minute frustrating puzzle between two people who are trying very hard to communicate. I read about the language barrier for non Chinese speaking people traveling to China, and watched Youtube from other tourists who have made the trip before, but until yesterday have never experienced such a significant communication issue.
KLast night we went to dinner at a local hotspot restuarant. We tried to order “hotpot” by pointing to what the table next to us had. It took our waitress a few minutes to understand what we wanted. Once she did it became a comedy of errors as we went through the various options to add to our soup. I was using Siri and she was using her phone. We finally ordered, but when the order came out it was not what we thought we ordered. A nice woman who was in the restaurant having Friday night dinner with her friends happened to speak English. She came over and acted as a translator! The best part of that story was “our translator” was able to convey to the waitress we weren’t mad just confused!
This is exactly what I need and why I love traveling. Despite the mishaps and communications struggles the food we got was amazing, and the experience of being the only people in the whole room who look out of place and can’t speak the language is why we travel. We are in China eating food the locals eat in a place they eat it on a Friday night. The bonus is we are learning what it is like to be somewhere where you do not look or sound anything like the local peoples. We get to feel the frustration of doing even the simpliest tasks and understand how that feels.
We walked along the Bund to get there while it was still daylight and then walked back at night. The views were incredible. Russell’s blog has some highlights of that.
I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you over the next two and a half weeks. If you enjoyed this click the like button and please follow my blog.