China Elevator Stories

“Are You A Designer?”

I chat with a waitress and a chef at a food stall in Shenzhen.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


On the way to the subway there is a small food stall I like going to for lunch. When I finish lunch the other day, the chef asks me if I’m studying in Shenzhen. I tell him: “No, I’m working here.”

He inquires: “How old are you?”
“I’m 25.”
“You look much younger than that.”
I ask him, addressing both him and the waitress standing right next to him: “Are you two older than me? You both look a lot younger than 25.”
The chef answers: “I’m older than you; she’s younger. Where are you from?”
I reply: “I’m from Austria.”
He goes on to ask: “Are you a designer?”
“I am, how do you know?”
“Because you’re from Austria, many people from Austria or Spain are designers.”
“Oh really?”

He switches topics and asks me: “How long have you been living in China?”
“A bit over a year.”
“One year!?”
“Yes, I have studied Chinese for four years though.”
He says: “You know, your Mandarin Chinese is very authentic. In China every city and every minority has their own dialect or language; your spoken Mandarin is better than that of many Chinese.”
I answer: “It’s probably the same when Austrians speak German; we also have an accent.”

When I get ready to leave, the waitress tells me: “If you tell us which dishes you like, we can prepare them for you. You just have to tell us a day beforehand and we’ll buy the vegetables you like and prepare a vegetarian dish for you, since you don’t seem to like eating meat that much.”
“I usually don’t know in advance on which days I’ll come here for lunch.”
“That’s not a problem, if you don’t eat it, somebody else will.”
“Okay, I’ll think about which dishes I like and will tell you the next time I come here. I have to get going. See you!”
“See you!”

Has anyone ever offered to cook you your dishes of choice in a restaurant?

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