I know, I look Chinese. And to the average HKer, I look just like one of them. That is…until I open my mouth.
The thing is, I’m not really that bad at Cantonese. I can get by for a few minutes before they either hear my accent and/or realize that my vocabulary is limited to that of an 5th grader, and sometimes when I talk too fast, I tend to mix words up… for example:
Me: Yea, I really enjoy going to the gym!
HKer: Oh ya? How often do you go?
Me: I ‘animal’ quite often!
HKer: (awkward silence)
Seconds pass before I realize I said ‘animal (dong-mut)’ instead of ‘exercise (wun-dong)’, but… it’s all good right…Same diff…I’m suure they understood me…yeaaaaa…*awkward!*
It happened again the other day when I was shopping for a camera neck strap:
Me: Excuse me, do you have any 吊頸帶 (lit. hang-neck-strap)?
Me: Y’know, for my camera.
Man: Ohh, you mean 掛頸帶 (lit. hang-neck-strap)!
*erupts in mocking laughter*
Turns out there’s more than one way to say ‘hang’ in Cantonese, and the way I said it meant I wanted a camera strap to hang myself from my apartment ceiling. Riiight…lesson learnt.