May 6, 2010

Same Language Misunderstandings

Same Language Blues

Just because a country speaks the same language that you speak, does not mean that it cannot create misunderstandings and embarrassing situations. I was once bounced out of a bar in Australia. This is how it happened: I saw a bar in Sydney as I was walking down the street, and heard music coming from it. I became curious and decided to check it out. In front of it, there was a Fijian-looking bouncer. As I approached the door, I heard him say something that sounded like “right, right”, and I assumed that he wanted me to go in through the right part of the door. I pushed it and walked in. As I was looking at a singer and for a place to sit down, I suddenly felt a strong hand on my shoulder and felt that I was being pushed outside. He was actually very brusque in his behavior and treated me as a bum or a troublemaker. After I was kicked out in such an unceremonious and barbaric fashion, I stared at the bouncer in amazement. He told me that I could not come in in my track pants (I was wearing them because it was very cold out). He said that people inside were all nicely dressed (sneakers and jeans) and that I was not dressed appropriately. I got very upset and told him that I was a tourist and a college instructor and not a bum. He looked very apologetic, and I went back to my hotel, changed into something more decent and went back into the bar. He did let me in this time.

Only one month later I realized what had happened. The words that I thought were “right, right” were in fact “wait, wait!” The Aussies pronounce “wait” as “white”, and my brain automatically converted it into “right” as I boldly stepped into the bar only to be shoved out of it for being inappropriately dressed and not following the instructions of the bouncer.

I also remember vainly looking for a pharmacy in Sydney until it dawned on me that there are no such stores in Oz. They are called “Chemist’s”. And few ladies respond to “ma’m”. I remember trying to get the attention of waitresses and sales clerks and they simply would not respond. I had to yell so that they would simply turn and look at me just because my voice was loud. Aussies do not understand that term, for the most part.


1 comment:

Francesca Maggi said...

These are great!

We're collecting all of your hilarious language horror stories on our blog, Up Your Bottom!

So, feel free to post there, and maybe get published in our book...

There are many instances of two countries divided by a common language, too. Portugal&Brasil is a killer...