Tuesday, August 26, 2008 ;
1:22 AM
Hmm, I have a question.

Just what language do Singaporeans speak?

When we moved to Utah, people were surprised that we could speak English, and even complimented us that our English standard is very high. They thought we spoke Mandarin or some Chinese dialect.

Now, in Tianjin, we have met several people who are surprised we can speak Mandarin.

My ayi is one example. She said the housing agent asked if she can work for us, and upon hearing we are Singaporeans, she said she can't work for us because if there is a language barrier then it would be really tough to understand what her job scope is. When the housing agent informed her that I could speak Mandarin, she was still doubtful and came for a scouting visit. It was only after we communicated that Sat morn that she decided to take up the job.

She already expressed surprise in me being able to speak in Mandarin, and then when ds1 appeared and greeted her "Ayi, ni hao" (how do you do), she exclaimed: "啊, 你的孩子也会说国语 吗?
(What? Your son can also speak Mandarin?)
She said she thought Singaporeans don't speak Mandarin.

Hmmm, ok, so now I am very confused. What language does the world think we speak?

Fortunately when I go to Malaysia and speak in my hesitant Bahasa Melayu, they don't question me and ask why I should know Malay. :-) That's cos a lot of Malaysian Chinese speak that.

And yes, everyday, we really really get asked about our kids being twins. On Sat when we took a cab out to Carrefour, the driver asked us "他们 是一对 儿的 吗?
("are they a pair?")

On Sun when we took a cab to Little Korea to try another Korean restaurant, the cab driver asked us, "他们是双生 吗?
("are they twins?")

After Dh answered no, he proceeded to tell us that only Chinese in the rural areas can have 2 kids, if the elder one happen to be a girl. That's cos they need manpower in the farms and couples will then be allowed to try again for a boy, but only when the elder one is 12 years old. Not sure if that is really true, because each cab driver has his own stories to tell. But he said the rationale was to make sure the parents won't have too many fertile years to keep trying. He also said couples are encouraged not to marry too young, so that they'll naturally only want 1 child, since most would already be in their 30s.

Thus, he said he was surprised that our kids didn't look like they're 12 years apart, and yet are not twins. We've always have to explain we're not locals. We don't like doing that so often, because we don't want to be treated as tourists and be overcharged. Like one cab driver who took us from Carrefour back home did not turn on his meter and we didn't notice because so far all drivers did. (had been warned before to make sure drivers turn meters on)

So when we reached home and he said 40rmb (S$8) for the ride, we were very shocked. We took a cab out, same distance, and it cost only 26rmb. That was when we noticed there was no meter reading. No choice, can't dispute, and Dh doesn't like to quarrel with strangers so we paid. But now we'll be very careful.


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