Friday, March 21, 2008

During my first year in Taiwan, I kind of figured that I should only speak Chinese when I want to buy stuff, and not expect the other party to speak English, and try to eat anything that's offered to me, and generally try go along with whatever's happening.

I thought about this while I was in America, and I came to the conclusion that I've kind of paid my dues during my first year, and that this year I will politely avoid eating stuff that grosses me out for whatever reason, and when I have a choice I will choose to spend money in places where they can communicate with me, either because they're so patient with my Chinese, or speak English.

I've done a pretty good job of not eating weird stuff, or getting into situations that make me uncomfortable. For example, I was at a teppanyaki restaurant (like Benihana's in the states, but a little more downmarket- like you can get a meal for $3-$4) and this lady started shooting the breeze with me and telling me how good the octopus is. She even tried to order it for me. And I was like, wait. I can eat octopus, but why would I, when it costs as much as steak? I prevailed. Similarly, a lot of places serve pork that's like a quarter inch of meat and a half inch of fat, which is gross. Everyone tells me, "It's good for your woman parts!" I've hit on the idea of explaining that American bodies are different than Chinese bodies, and so eating it won't help me. Everyone seems to accept this. Awesome!
It's also a good way of explaining why I won't, for example, eat the stinky tofu that's offered to me when I'm at someone else's house- it's not that I'm picky, it's that it's not healthy for an American body. Everyone is fine with it. (It sounds crazy, but they have this whole system built up of what you can and can't eat- like Maggie with her broken leg can't eat spicy food because it will hinder her leg's healing.)

The English-speaking thing hasn't come along quite as well. One problem is that not that many people speak English, or at least admit that they speak English. I could try a different restaurant every day and finally find a place I like where we can communicate, but who has the energy? Not me.

Then I decided that I would only require English when I was spending a lot of money- like last year, the few times I went to TGI Fridays, I unapologetically spoke English. Anyways, I'd like to get a new slightly expensive bike, because my second-hand $45 deal just isn't cutting it for long rides, and I decided since I know of at least 10 bike shops in the area I will ask around at each one until I find one that speaks excellent English. But I just can't bring myself to walk in and ask if anyone there speaks English, and if they say no walk out. So I haven't gone into any bike shops.

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