China Elevator Stories

“In Europe, Every Family Owns At Least Two Cars”

One evening in September 2013, I take a motorcycle cab back to my place in Shenzhen and chat with the driver.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


The driver asks me where I need to go. I tell him the name of the closest bus stop, which is also what I would usually tell cab drivers, and get on the motorcycle.

While driving, he asks: “What’s the name of the neighborhood?” (At least this is what I think he asked in retrospect).
I reply: “Sorry, I don’t understand. Can you say that again?”
“What neighborhood are you living in?”
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”
He replies: “I’m sorry, my Mandarin Chinese is really bad. It’s actually much worse than yours.”
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Meizhou.”
“Yes, Meizhou in Guangdong province.”
He says: “Yes, Meizhou in Northern Guangdong.”
I answer: “I see.” (Epic fail at trying to understand the driver’s heavily accented Mandarin Chinese).

When we arrive at the destination, he asks:
“Are you from the US?”
“No, I’m from Europe.”
“Europe is really developed. I saw on the news that every European family owns at least two cars.”
“That’s often true for people living in the countryside. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t have a car.”

I give him 7 Yuan and say goodbye. He thanks me and drives off into the night.

Have you ever had a similar conversation or problems conversing because you couldn’t understand the other person’s accent?