Saturday, February 07, 2009

We don't have that in Chinese

After my last post, I realized you can't really say "Get out of my way" in Chinese. I asked around, and of course you can express the idea, but it's just not a concept that's part of the Chinese way of thinking. There's no "my way" to be in- we're all just kind of sharing the road, and if you want to part your bike diagonally across the bike path, I'll just have to go around you.

Chinese of course has a few things we don't really express in English- namely comfort and convenience. For example, one sister whose husband has been MIA for a few weeks says, "He's still uncomfortable." But it doesn't quite mean the same thing as it does in English. People aren't super into comfort like we Americans are- witness scooters, couches made of wood, and hiking in plastic slippers. But it's totally acceptable to say you're uncomfortable as an excuse not to do something. I guess it's kind of a euphemism for being sick or taking a "mental health" day.

It's also totally acceptable to say that something's not convenient- like I can say, "I can't meet you for lunch, it's not convenient." Or, "I can't bring my Visa paperwork for you today- it's not convenient." I guess in the US we'd have to make some big excuse- like I've got a million things to do, and I have an appointment at 1, so I really can't come to lunch- but here there's no need. At first it was a little weird being on the receiving end of things- what do you mean, I have to sub a class for you because you're uncomfortable?- but now I'm used to it.

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