Desperate times call for desperate Mandarin

In hindsight (after my one and a half hour cry fest and finally resolving my money problem) my first post about Shanghai just sounds like one big whinge so I thought I’d share a positive side to my experiences too.

I think the biggest benefit I’ve gotten out of this stressful situation is me having to use Chinese in order to survive. I have never spoken so much Chinese in such a short time but when you’re stuck in a foreign country and desperate to get things done with no one else you can rely on you have no other options. Whether your grammar is correct or not becomes irrelevant, as long as the other person can understand you you’re good. Neither does it matter if your more advanced classmates listen in on your conversation, as long as you can understand the person who’s speaking to you you’re good. In the past few days I’ve already improved my speaking and listening skills more than I could have ever imagined and that just makes all the hardship worthwhile. Here are the series of fortunate conversations and encounters I’ve had:

– Speaking in Mandarin with the passenger next to me on the plane who was somewhere in his 30s – not usually the kind of person I’d choose to start a conversation with but why not?

– Asking to borrow someone’s phone to send a wechat message when I was stranded at the airport (harder than you think when they’re parents are suspiciously looking at you…)

– Asking the hotel receptionist if I could use their phone and subsequently having a phone conversation with one of my mum’s acquaintances in Chinese

– Getting lost several times on the way to said acquaintance’s house and having to ask 3 different people for directions

– A lady asking me for help on the subway back to my dorm

– Ordering some random street food as a super late dinner

I’ve come away with new skills and experiences and I discovered that Shanghai is filled with more friendly people than I had realised.


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