You never know who might speak your language, and talking badly about others could backfire on you. These bilingual Redditors shared their strangest encounters with people who thought no one could understand them.
From trash-talking to confessing feelings, these anecdotes will put a smile on your face!
1. The Look On Her Face Was Priceless
So I went to a Russian store with my friend. We both know Russian but are Americans, and he’s married to an American woman.
As we walk in, he’s talking to his wife in English. There’s a Russian couple already in there shopping (it’s a small store), and as we walk around, she starts complaining to her husband about “those goddamn Americans, why are they even in here.”
She threw out a few swear words and just wouldn’t shut up. Then, as we walk past them, my friend says to his wife, in flawless Russian, “I’ve got to go, honey, this girl in the store won’t shut up, and I’m starting to get pissed.” The look on her face…Priceless.
2. Do You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?
My parents are both Moroccan immigrants, but for one genetic reason or another, they have very pale skin.
My mother even has light eyes. (For those of you who don’t know, Moroccans are moorish looking, with darker skin and features). I turned out light-skinned as well, with blue eyes, so I pretty much look like your regular old American.
Anywho, Moroccan Arabic actually was my first language, so I speak it fluently. One summer, while visiting my family in Casablanca, I decided to go shopping with my sister and aunt.
All of a sudden, I see a couple of young men look me up and down and say, “Wow, check out the ass on that one. I’d like to give it a nice tap.”
I casually turn around, look them square in the eye, and say, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Needless to say, they were a bit surprised.
3. Don’t Mess With Me
So I was lifeguarding at a pool in Canada when a group of teenagers from Argentina (they spoke Spanish), a pretty rare thing here in Canada.
So as they’re talking to each other, they go on to say something along the line of let’s freak this guy out. ( I was the only lifeguard at the pool, and they were the only people in at the time).
So I play it cool, say nothing pretend to not understand. So they plan to have one pretend to drown and have me jump in and then try to dunk me.
Not cool, so knowing what their plan was, I decided to turn the waves on at that moment, all the while opening the cold water and starting the suction pumps.
So the result of all this is that one guy’s shorts got stuck in the pipes, and he had to leave only wearing a towel. And once they left, I told them bye in Spanish.
4. Don’t Worry, I’ll Never Come Back
I went to get my hair done at a Hispanic salon. Walked in and was greeted in English, so I responded in English and kept speaking English during my time in there.
The woman doing my hair starts talking to another stylist in Spanish. Talking badly about me and who do I think I am coming to a Spanish salon because apparently, in their twisted view, white people should only go to white salons and blah blah.
Well, I’m Mexican, just light-skinned. I let her finish while she’d jump back and forth in conversations in English with me and in Spanish with the other stylist. Just let her keep talking.
Once she was done, I got up and, in fluent Spanish, thanked her and told her I’d be sure never to come back. I walked out without paying. No one came after me.
5. You Never Know Who Might Understand You
My parents are Hungarian, so I learned to speak the language despite being in a part of Australia with a very small (and rather old) Hungarian community.
I was walking around a shopping centre with my dog when I hear an elderly couple loudly saying horribly racist things about a passing Arabic family, calling them disgusting breeders, and ironically saying they should ‘go back where they came from.’
I walked up to them and simply said, in Hungarian, “Be careful what you say because you never know who might understand you,” and casually walked away. The silence was golden.
6. What’s Wrong With Camels, Though?
It happens to me all the time because I look middle-eastern when I’m really Hispanic.
I was working at a coffee shop, and two Hispanic men came in talking mad smack about our food. They were confused about the menu.
Right in front of me, one of them is like, “Let’s ask this guy” “This guy? What’s this camel gonna know about anything here?” (I guess ‘camel’ is an insult for middle eastern or something?) I responded in Spanish, and it was suddenly back-pedal o’clock.
7. “Me Too”
My uncle, who is from Belgium, was visiting America with his family, wife, and three young kids (like 3, 5 and 7), when they went to see the grand canyon.
So he’s sitting there enjoying the view with my aunt as the kids are running around and being loud and annoying as kids at that age do.
He then overhears a couple sitting a few feet away from him talking in dutch (which he speaks, obviously), complaining about how annoying his kids are.
One of them went as far as to say something along the lines of, “Man, I wish I could throw those kids off the cliff they are so annoying!” So my uncle seeing a golden opportunity turns to them and says in fluent dutch, “Yea, me too…”
The look on their face must have been pure gold.
8. 50 Shades Of Grey
I speak Spanish pretty fluently, and in Costco today, a 6-ish-year-old boy and his mom were looking at books.
The boy says,” 50 shades of Grey?!?” And by this time, I’m looking at his mom, and she says to him, “Yeah, well, I read the first two books, and they were… enjoyful..”
I look at her, and I can’t help laughing a bit. The boy’s GRANDMA comes over and says,” Ooh! Wow, those books gave me more pleasure than your father.” Not so interesting, but definitely worth all the classes…
9. That Was A Fun Day
I speak French and Portuguese and live in Brazil. One day I was walking home, and this car stops next to me, and this guy asks some directions in Portuguese but in a heavy French accent.
I try to tell him where the place he wanted to go is, but it’s kinda complicated, he doesn’t understand. The place was near my home, so I ask him if he wants me to get in the car and take them there, and he accepts.
Now I know this is awkward (and dangerous), but hey, I trusted him, and he trusted me. There is kindness, after all.
Thing is, besides him, there is this old couple in the car, and as soon I get in, the old guy (not the one who asked directions) started screaming, in French, something like this: “HOW DO YOU LET THIS THIEF GET IN OUR CAR? THIS IS DANGEROUS, YOU DON’T KNOW WHO HE IS, WE ARE IN BRAZIL, YOU ARE INSANE!”
Nevertheless, the guy started his engine and followed my directions, and all the way, the old guy keeps yelling in French: “YOU ARE PUTTING US ALL AT RISK, THIS GUY (looking at me) CAN BE A HOMELESS MAN” and so on…
There is this one point when I say for the guy driving the car to turn left, but he doesn’t understand it because the other one is screaming, so I repeat, and he doesn’t understand again. Then I say in French: “Tournez à gauche” (turn left).
Then a few seconds pass and the nice guy, the one who’s driving, asks me in French if I speak French, I say, “Yes, a little.” The other guy, the one who’s complaining, turns white and stops yelling immediately.
I tell him to stop the car (in French) because the place (hotel) they want to go to was right there, and my house was the other way.
That was a fun day.
10. Where Are The Escalators?
I was in Berlin and overheard an American Southern couple who had apparently become confused at a train station. “Gladice, where are the escalators?”Still my all-time favorite.
11. It Was Hilarious
I’m French. I was in NYC, on top of the Empire State Building, and a young couple was standing next to me admiring the view, the guy turns to his girlfriend and says in French, “Ahh, I need to go number two so bad!” I couldn’t not laugh.
12. “How’s The View Up There?”
It’s not my story, but my old Spanish teacher told her students this story. One day she went shopping in the mall, and there were two Spanish-speaking workers working on the lights on a ladder.
“How’s the view up there?” one worker said. “Nice,” he replied. Her being a Spanish teacher, understood their every word, and we can say they were looking down their shirts.
She actually confronted them and had a full Spanish-speaking conversation with them about what they were doing. It ended awkwardly and they just walked away.
13. She’s The Ugly One
This happened to my church member many years ago. She had just moved to the States from South Korea.
She was out shopping with a friend and started talking in Korean about how ugly the white, bald American man next to them was.
He turned to her and, in perfect, fluent Korean, said, “I’m sorry my looks and lack of hair aren’t up to your standards. I hope you have a nice day.” She and her friend were mortified.
14. It Was Scary
I was with a friend on a train once. A man enters and sits across from us. At the next station, another guy sits beside him, and they start talking about drugs in Spanish.
Transactions, usage, etc. Before they arrived, my friend and I were talking to each other in Spanish. Right after I heard their conversation (it was pretty loud), I texted my friend to only speak in English for the remainder of the ride.
I did not want to let them know that we understood them. It was a bit scary.
I don’t know Spanish very well, but I work with a lot of Mexicans. Today, I was doing my job, minding my own business, when two girls suddenly switched over from speaking English to Spanish, looked up at me, laughed, then went back to speaking English.
It was a bit obvious they had been making fun of me for some reason, so I looked up, said, “Really?”, then went back to working. Their eyes got bigger than dinner plates. They didn’t do it for the rest of the day.
16. The Rated R Version
I was sitting in an Uber Pool. Two Korean guys from a music school were in the back seat while I was in the front.
They were discussing intercourse at first, but then they started talking about women in a super disparaging way. Things like, “You have to try a white girl at least once, they’re different.
If you just play music for them, they’ll take their clothes off.” Except for the rated R version.
The Uber algorithm decided I should be dropped off first. The one asked his friend, “Where are we going?” in Korean. I answered in English, “He’s dropping me off first.” They said “Oh” in unison, then quickly changed the subject to “Hey have you eaten yet?”
17. Live A Little
My dad went to Germany during college and was having lunch with a friend, chatting in English.
Two Germans were sitting at a nearby table, and one commented in German, “I hate how Americans eat. They’re so messy. It makes me sick.”
The rant continued for a bit, but when the Germans got their food, my dad commented to his friend (also in German), “I hate how Germans eat. They’re so neat and orderly. It makes me sick. Live a little,” and glared at them.
Needless to say, they ate the rest of their meal in silence.
18. We’re From Canada
Two pieces of background information: My mom was born in Canada but spent the first few years of her life in Switzerland, and Swiss-German is her first language. Also, as a toddler, I hated wearing clothes.
It was a chilly day in Switzerland, and my entire family was on a boat on the Rhein, speaking English. I took my clothes off. Some older Swiss women were astounded and had a lengthy conversation about these terrible American parents.
My mom smirked and let them go on about it for a while, but as we were getting off the boat, she turned to them and, in flawless Swiss German, told them, “We’re from Canada.”
Apparently, that meant I was used to being undressed in the cold…
19. I Listen
I worked for Kroger in Carrollton, Texas, a few years ago. In high school, I took a few Spanish courses, and I guess it sank in better than I thought it did because I understood a lot of snippets from Spanish conversations.
One day I heard some guys in the back room talking about how gorgeous the Starbucks barista was. Her name was Katie.
Later that day, I introduced myself to her. We had dinner that weekend and started dating a few weeks later.
The next time that I saw the guys, they spoke directly at me and said something along the lines of, “How did this asshole get so lucky?”
I looked at them and said back, in Spanish, “I listen.” They got really quiet, then burst out laughing and invited me to eat their homemade tacos with them.
It was rad.
20. We Said Nothing
My wife and I lived in China, but don’t look like we would speak Chinese. At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first child, about five months along.
We were in Xi’An, renting bikes to ride on top of the city wall. There were two lines, one long line with Chinese signs and another shorter line with signs in English.
The first rule of China is never to let anyone know you speak Chinese, so naturally, we went in the short line.
When we get to the front, I hear one of the girls renting bikes ask the other if pregnant women are allowed to rent bikes. Rental girl #2 looks at my wife for a moment, then says, “She’s not pregnant, she’s just fat.”
Naturally, we said nothing, rented bikes, and went on our merry way.
21. My Name Is Yuemeigui
I was sitting at a communal lunch table for a big international event with coworkers who didn’t know me and didn’t know that I was their coworker.
I just listened to them trash-talk all sorts of people, including my direct supervisor, his direct supervisor, and the unknown professional translator with the unbelievably stupid-sounding name — Yuemeigui. They said all this in Chinese.
They presumably assumed I was media or an early arrival (who, for some reason, was in the Staff Dining Room).
As they got up to leave, one of the English speakers apologized to me for spending the whole lunch chatting in Chinese with her coworkers and asked me what I was doing at the event.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m the translator. My name is Yuemeigui.”
22. Ugly White Boy
I’m a very pale person, and I was a waiter at a Tex-Mex restaurant. A pair of customers came in, and one of them said, “I don’t want this ugly white boy serving us,” in Spanish.
I chimed in that I had started going to the gym as a joke in Spanish to break the ice. They were clearly very embarrassed and gave me a 25% tip to make up for it. So it worked out.
23. A Self-Absorbed Teenager
I was doing a year abroad in Australia and went on a vacation with my boyfriend at the time in Melbourne.
We were in the tram, and he wanted to take a funny photo of something outside for a friend when this French teenager on a class trip started saying in French, “Oh my God, I thought he was taking a photo of me.
Well, that wouldn’t surprise me, I’m beautiful, and his girlfriend is so ugly. Imagine if they spoke French.” I turned to her and just said, “ Well, yeah, I do” (it’s my native).
24. Silent But Deadly
My mom and I were sitting in a completely packed theater for the Dark Knight.
Before the movie started, when it was completely silent, two Brazilian men (my mom and I are also Brazilian) go, “Oh my God, I just let out the most horrific fart,” and the other goes, “Silent but deadly, kind of like Batman.”
Since they were a couple of rows in front of us, my mom and I started giggling, and they heard us, so they turn around and stared at us, completely terrified/embarrassed. My mom and I did the obvious thing and waved. It was hilarious.
25. Peace Be With You
I was studying abroad in Fes, Morocco, and I was walking around the ‘market.’ I was looking to buy a rug for my mom as a souvenir.
Anyway, as I’m looking around the store, the guy working there was talking to his friend in Arabic about how they were going to basically screw me over and how I’m a stupid European tourist (I’m American).
When I found the rug I wanted, I started bartering in Arabic with this guy, and needless to say, he was astonished, and I got a great price.
When I left, I said, “Oh, and I’m American; peace be with you.” It was one of the cooler things I’ve done with my Arabic skills.
26. We Got Lucky
I was on the subway once, and I was with my friend who speaks Spanish. There were two Mexican guys in front of us, and I had no clue what they were talking to each other about because Yo no hablo Espanol.
My buddy turns to me and says that the two guys were scoping people to pickpocket. Right after that, we hit my stop and hopped off, but if anyone lost a wallet on the B line in Allston like 4 years ago, some Mexican guy probably has it
27. Girl Or Boy
I was sitting in the dining hall in college, and I heard a couple of the employees loudly arguing and joking in Spanish about whether one of the students was a dude or a chick.
I looked to see in their direction and saw they were talking about my ex-boyfriend’s filthy roommate, who has long, stringy hair and does sort of look womanly from behind.
They stopped talking when they saw me look at him and chuckle.
28. I’d Like It For £10 Off
I’m Pakistani, but I look White/Arab. I have very pale skin, light-colored eyes, etc. Most other brown people (those who speak Urdu, Hindi, or Punjabi) assume I don’t understand.
I was in a mobile shop looking for a charger. I overheard one of the brown guys working say in Punjabi, “Just charge her £10 extra. She won’t know.”
I told him quite calmly in Punjabi that I’d like it for £10 off. Thank you.
29. It’s Racist To Assume I’m Racist
A few years ago, I worked in a bar in a small Midwestern town. One night a couple of Mexican guys came in, and one of the guys and I accidentally made awkward eye contact.
I looked away quickly because it was awkward, and it was the same reaction I would have had with anybody else.
The one I made eye contact with turned to his friend and said, “I think that guy’s racist,” in Spanish. I responded by telling him it was pretty racist to assume I was racist.
They left. Turns out, I’m one of the few gringos in the Midwest to have spent some of their formative years in Mexico and speak Spanish with a central Mexican accent.
30. “I Paid For This”
Polish priest was in a polish pharmacy in Toronto. The priest starts talking to the owner and says, “Watch out, that black guy will probably steal something.” The black guy hears it and, as he is leaving, says, “By the way, I paid for this” to the priest
31. Fart Or Poop
I overheard a bunch of French tourists in Nepal discussing, in graphic detail, the digestive problems they’d been having for a few days (i.e., “I CAN’T TELL IF IT’S A FART OR IT’S POOP”).
After a while, they turned to me and my friends and asked, in English, where we are from. My friends answered, in French, “We’re from the same place you are, and he (me)’s from Quebec.”
Their look of embarrassment was just delectable; the awkwardness was palpable (more so than their poop).
32. Forgetful Girlfriend
I had a Hispanic girlfriend that would often talk in Spanish over the phone. I guess she forgot her gringo boyfriend had taken Spanish classes in high school and could understand her talking to a friend about kissing another guy.
33. I’m A Good Bargainer
I am a tall Pakistani guy (6′ 4″) and have fair skin compared to the brown people who live here. So I walked into this computer shop in Karachi to buy a speaker.
Since my question was in English, I overhead a shopkeeper saying to another in Urdu, “Double the price yaar”. I looked straight into his eyes and said, “Definitely do” in Urdu.
The look in his eyes was such as if he has just committed a huge sin. He was visibly shaken and had to sit down. The best part, I got 20% off the price. I am a good bargainer.
34. They Always Forget I Understand Russian
Sometimes my students forget I speak Russian and start saying stuff that is way inappropriate for English class.
The best was when this one boy, who always finishes his work early and fidgets around with things, was pretending to swallow a pencil.
Another boy, who thinks he’s very funny, said in Russian, “I always knew you could get it to the back of your throat if you tried.”
That kid turned a beautiful shade of red when I reminded him I could understand.
35. A Cheap Ass
I was working at a retail spot and was helping a couple who were speaking in American Sign Language.
He asked her if she was going to buy the pair of shoes, and she said she’d just wait and tell her mom to buy them for her. He called her a cheap ass, and at that point, I just about broke down laughing.
They got so embarrassed that I understood what they were saying, but we had a good laugh, and she ended up buying the shoes herself.
36. An Awkward Lunch
I was having a coffee in Spain, and the three construction workers sitting next to me were discussing whether or not the one gentleman could beat me up.
I proceeded to order my food in Spanish and then calmly asked the gentleman why he wanted to fight me. That was an awkward lunch.
37. Yes, You Will Have To Pay
In high school, I spoke Spanish fairly well. It was not common at that time and for my area.
A family was buying groceries, and as I was ringing up the items, the father said, “He has not seen the stuff on the bottom, don’t get it. We won’t have to pay.”
I rang up what was on the belt and sat there. After a few moments, I asked (in Spanish) about the stuff on the bottom. They would not look at me for the next 2 minutes or so of the transaction.
38. She Likes Me, Don’t Worry
My wife and I have adopted two kids from China on two separate occasions. We had some time to wait before the first one, so we learned some basic Mandarin to help with our trip and connect a bit with our daughter’s birth culture.
While there, a day or so after we got her, we were in the Walmart (yes, Walmart) in Zhengzhou when a younger woman walks by, sees a large American guy with a pale redheaded wife carrying a Chinese toddler in a sling, doubles back and with a fake smile says, “ni bu xihuan ni de mama, ma?” which works out to “You don’t like your mom, do you?”
My wife spins around and, in Mandarin, basically says, “Oh yes, she does.” The look on that woman’s face carried me through the day.
39. Don’t Mock My Weakness
I am a tall skinny blonde dude with a degree in Spanish. I went to recycle my bottles, and the Mexicans called me skinny and weak for not carrying all my cans at once. They said Jorge was stronger than me.
40. She Was Almost Kidnapped
My friend was almost kidnapped and probably saved herself by knowing Spanish. She was at a gas station when a man on a cell phone followed her in.
He was telling the person on the other end of the line, in Spanish, that my friend had come in alone, what she looked like, what she was wearing, and not in a casual, innocent way.
When she walked out, he followed her into the parking lot, now telling the man on the other end to “wait a minute until she’s out of sight,” at which point she went running back toward the gas station yelling in Spanish, “Leave me alone!” The guy bolted.
41. She Forgot I Understood Portuguese
Maybe not the strangest, but most awkward.I was dating a Portuguese girl at the time. My best friends were also Portuguese, so I had plenty of exposure to the language, eventually picking up on it.
One night my lady was acting cold and distant, I know something was up. She starts talking to one of her friends in Portuguese, saying how she’s miserable, I’m acting awkward, she just doesn’t care, and picking apart anything she could about me.
All a few inches from me. Safe to say, we ended a few minutes later.
42. Thank God My Partner Was There
I used to be a cop in Australia. Was working with a guy who spoke fluent Arabic because his parents spoke it when he was growing up.
Guess he looked fairly Aussie, if not tanned. Got called to a mental health job one day by this girl’s parents. They claimed she was threatening to take her own life.
She told us she definitely wasn’t. She walked away and screamed at her parents. In Arabic. I looked at him. “What did she say, bro?” “She just said, ‘I’m gonna do it when they go.’” Okie dokie. Let’s take you to the nearest mental health clinic, love.
43. The Benefit Of Knowing Multiple Languages
I speak several languages, and this surprisingly came in handy when I was in London.
Sitting on the metro (tube or whatever your Lordships call it), I hear two Swedish girls bad-mouthing these two guys standing next to them while the same two guys are talking about how beautiful and lovely the girls are in Arabic.
Other than that, I love walking around Stockholm, speaking other languages than Swedish and English, pretending to be a tourist. There is a remarkable difference in how people treat you and the things they say about you.
44. “We All Understand You”
I was on the Brussels tram, and these two Texan girls (they kept talking about Texas) were being really loud, and in the end, one said to the other, “I wonder if any of these people can understand us?” and a guy getting off the tram said, “We all can, we all speak English.”
Bizarrely, I hear a lot of Chinese people in China talk about my girlfriend (I’m Chinese, and she’s white) as if I can’t understand it, even if it’s in the dialect, although I usually just yell at them a little bit and I don’t think they’re embarrassed.
45. “I Bet She Speaks Russian”
When my mom was younger, she was in a liquor store, and two men were making really lewd comments about her in Russian. “I bet she’d do… I bet she likes…” She turned around with a big smile and said in fluent Russian, “I bet she speaks Russian!”
When my mom was younger, she was in a liquor store, and two men were making really lewd comments about her in Russian. “I bet she’d do… I bet she likes…” She turned around with a big smile and said in fluent Russian, “I bet she speaks Russian!”
46. An American That Speaks German
In high school, I spent a month in Germany as an exchange student. The family had a son my age. Everyone I met commented on the fact that they had never met an American who could speak German. Until they met me.
One night shortly after I arrived, I was at a party. Two girls about my age sat down close to me and started talking. I tried to look oblivious.
Girl1 (In German): Isn’t that the American boy staying with Peter?
Girl2 (German): Yes. He’s rather cute, yes?
Girl1 (German): Yes! I’m going to say something!
Girl1 (English): Hey! Aren’t you the American staying with Peter? I’m Birgitte, and this is Hilde.
Me (In German): Yes, I am! It’s nice to meet you both!
They both turned bright red. It was one of the funniest trips I’ve ever had.
47. A Helpful Guy
My mom works with a man from the Dominican Republic. He was helping two Spanish-speaking girls at his job.
They were speaking in Spanish, thinking my mom’s coworker could not understand since he looks black. He fully understood their compliments about how helpful he was.
My mom works with a man from the Dominican Republic. He was helping two Spanish-speaking girls at his job. They were speaking in Spanish, thinking my mom’s coworker could not understand since he looks black. He fully understood their compliments about how helpful he was.
48. Fastfood Only
Pearson International Airport, Toronto: An elder, wealthy, and arrogant-looking couple were annoyed that they couldn’t find appropriate food (there was only fast food available) for them.
The husband said something in German like, “What is this food, who can actually eat this!” – His wife: “Ya, but the kids love it.” – Him again: “And the underclass people, here are underclass people everywhere!”, continued with several words about that all people are trash and can not reach their class and stuff.
I made a face like this, and the couple recognized that I could understand them. They looked a bit embarrassed, and I left the table.
Pearson International Airport, Toronto: An elder, wealthy, and arrogant-looking couple were annoyed that they couldn’t find appropriate food (there was only fast food available) for them. The husband said something in German like, “What is this food, who can actually eat this!” – His wife: “Ya, but the kids love it.” – Him again: “And the underclass people, here are underclass people everywhere!”, continued with several words about that all people are trash and can not reach their class and stuff. I made a face like this, and the couple recognized that I could understand them. They looked a bit embarrassed, and I left the table. PolaroidOfAPolarBear
49. They Picked The Wrong People To Mess With
My parents are Cuban-born but also very white and lived in the US for almost their entire lives, so they don’t have accents when speaking English (you’d never know they aren’t American).
Before I was born, they had gone to Spain as they traveled a lot back then, and while walking down the sidewalk, 2 guys were discussing in Spanish how they were going to rob my parents.
My dad (a purple belt in judo at the time) turned around, started yelling at them to try him, and chased them a bit with an umbrella until they ran off. Good times, I guess.
50. “Eh Merci Fils De Pute”
My dad was the modern language teacher at the private school, which lead me to be pretty knowledgeable about how things worked.
When walking through the street at the end of the school term, some French exchange students asked me for a light. I don’t smoke, so I told them as much, and I carried on.
I got 5 meters down the street before one said, “Eh merci fils de pute”. This means oh thanks, son of a ….. .
I turned back and asked them to repeat themselves. They apologised and were really suprised and also extremely embarrassed.
Not nearly as shocked as when they turned up to gym class for their first summer class, and I was their teacher…
51. What’s The Problem?
Not me, but my boyfriend is Cuban but looks like a gringo (read: white skin, red beard, pale hair), and he and his best friend had been backpacking in Spain.
They got on an elevator in a hotel at their next stop and were chatting to each other in English, and these women who got on kind of turned up their noses at them and then started going on and on in Spanish about stupid American tourists.
So my boyfriend looked at them and, in perfect Spanish, said something along the lines of “excuse me, but do you have some sort of problem with me?”.
He said the woman was so embarrassed that he spoke Spanish that she couldn’t even look him in the eye and got off on the next floor.
52. “Dzień Dobry”
I live in Poland near the German border. Once, together with my wife and daughter, we decided to go to a nearby German town for shopping.
While we were entering a mall, my daughter (13-14 years old) tells me how cool it is that nobody really can understand what we’re talking about and we can practically say everything we want.
At the same moment, a security guard standing next to the entrance grins and greets her with perfect polish, “Dzień Dobry” (Good Morning).
I didn’t realize that her skin tone could get that red. I just thanked that man for a mild but practical lesson.
53. Free Repair And Giftcards
I went with my friend to the Apple store. The Genius Bar guy was either Polish or Russian.
I’m Asian, my friend is black, she’s fixing her MacBook, and they get into an argument over whether or not the damage is covered (video card problem).
Anyways, he gets upset, and as we’re walking away, he cusses her out in Russian, which I speak because I majored in it. I threaten to tell the manager, so needless to say, we got a free repair and a bunch of gift cards.
I was standing in line at a Subway on my university campus when I see these two Arab guys standing in the same line and generally just trash-talking about everyone in the line, thinking no one spoke Arabic.
Little did they know that I have lived in the Middle East for about 10 years and learned fluent Arabic while I was there.
When the time came to trash talk me, luckily for them, they just commented on how nice and spiky my hair is.
Turned to them and thanked them for the compliment. Needless to say, they were shocked and shut up for the whole rest of their wait in line.
I was standing in line at a Subway on my university campus when I see these two Arab guys standing in the same line and generally just trash-talking about everyone in the line, thinking no one spoke Arabic. Little did they know that I have lived in the Middle East for about 10 years and learned fluent Arabic while I was there. When the time came to trash talk me, luckily for them, they just commented on how nice and spiky my hair is. Turned to them and thanked them for the compliment. Needless to say, they were shocked and shut up for the whole rest of their wait in line. agentmalder
55. “He’s Killed People!”
I’m taking the elevator down from my office while living in mainland China. I’m half middle-eastern, which to people on the east coast of China, means I look like a Uygur (wee-gur) from Xinjiang, which is bad for me since there is all kinds of racism towards the knife-wielding desert cowboys from Xinjiang.
The elevator stops on a floor with a restaurant. A crowd of drunk friends stumble in, laughing. They go dead silent when they see me.
One of the women in the back pokes her friend and says in Chinese, “oh my god, a guy from Xinjiang…. Look at his eyes… He’s killed people!”
I turned around, looked at her squarely in the eyes, smiled gently, then turned back around.
56. “The Terrorist”
My father-in-law is Moroccan but has lived 30+ years in Finland and is completely fluent in four languages (including Finnish).
He traveled a lot on business selling air conditioning units. Once, while he was on a connecting flight in the United States, he overheard two young Finnish girls on holiday talking to each other about which one would have to sit in the middle seat next to “the terrorist.”
They spent the flight being incredibly rude about my polite father-in-law, who bit his tongue the whole way. Only at the end did he finally let them have it.
When they got onto the terminal bus, he gave up his seat to one of the girls and said in Finnish, “You can have my seat. After listening to you, I have decided to stop being a terrorist and start selling air conditioning units.” He says they were absolutely mortified.
My father-in-law is Moroccan but has lived 30+ years in Finland and is completely fluent in four languages (including Finnish). He traveled a lot on business selling air conditioning units. Once, while he was on a connecting flight in the United States, he overheard two young Finnish girls on holiday talking to each other about which one would have to sit in the middle seat next to “the terrorist.” They spent the flight being incredibly rude about my polite father-in-law, who bit his tongue the whole way. Only at the end did he finally let them have it. When they got onto the terminal bus, he gave up his seat to one of the girls and said in Finnish, “You can have my seat. After listening to you, I have decided to stop being a terrorist and start selling air conditioning units.” He says they were absolutely mortified. SuomiBob
57. Jackie Chan
I was in Haiti with a rather large group of volunteers that went to help out with the Earthquake in ’10.
As we were talking through a village, I saw 2 teenage Haitian girls speaking Creole, saying things like, “He’s ugly…. she’s ugly…. oh, he’s cute”.
One of them points to me and says, “He looks like Jackie Chan.” I laugh and respond back in Creole, “Thanks, but I’m not Asian.” She responds, “O-o-o-oh, h-he speaks Creole.”
58. Off Limits
Being a blonde chick working in restaurants in the US, I hear all kinds of smut spoken by Spanish speaking line cooks.
I may not be fluent, but I took 5 years of Spanish and have worked in restaurants for 10+ years. On my first day working at a fine dining place, I mistakingly walked through a kitchen meeting (every back-of-the-house employee gathered pre-shift to talk about food issues).
One of the little bastards piped up that the next time I walked by him, he was going to grab a handful of my “j’lo” and that they would all be asking him how it felt.
I turned my heels and said that the employee handbook clearly states ass grabbing is off-limits. The line erupted in laughter, and I now know how deeply a Mexican man can blush.
59. Two Idiots
My favorite language story. My mom was lost in Montreal after dropping me off at the airport. She got scared and pulled over to ask two french Canadian men for directions.
Instead of being helpful gentlemen, they were pricks and started making fun of her in French. My mom speaks several languages and understood that they were making fun of her for being a dumb American.
So my mother replies first in Spanish with, “Perhaps you speak Spanish,” then in German, “Oh, you don’t how about German?” then in French, “Oh, you only speak French? So I guess you guys are the idiots.” They look back in shock and my mom gets back in her car and cries.
60. Be Nice
Great grandma and grandma were in an elevator. Two women started speaking in Yiddish, “Oh, look at the poor washerwoman.” As my great-grandmother got off, she turned and said, “I can understand everything you said. Be nice.”
61. We All Laughed
I am a blue-eyed, blondish hair white guy that speaks fluent Spanish, so I have had my share of poignant moments.
I have many examples, but here is just one: In Nicaragua, I was having lunch at an outdoor cafe in kind of an impoverished section of Managua, and I could hear clearly a group of guys on the street discussing the best way to rob us when we finish.
When we headed out, I went right up to one of the guys, looked right into his eyes, and said, “Su plan no funciona, pinche cabron.” They couldn’t help but laugh, and we did too.
62. “Let Me Hold Those Bags For You”
I’m Pakistani but have a lot of features of a Black Man, including dark skin and very curly hair. At an airport, some exceptionally sized middle-aged Indian/paki women in Hindi said, “Stay away from that black guy he might steal your bags!”
I responded by politely saying in Hindi back, “Ma’m you look tired, let me hold those bags for you!”
63. $300 Tip
Total white guy here, but I speak fluent Spanish. When I was waiting tables, a huge Mexican family I was serving had a bunch of drinks, and they were making fun of me for a solid hour.
You know, speculating about my mother, criticizing my work, etc. When I presented them with the check, I wished them a pleasant rest of their evening in Spanish. Total silence from them, followed by mumbled cursing. $300 tip.TrustMeImALawyer
64. Yes, I Understand Chinese
I was in a 3-story shopping center in a small town near Shanghai. I was riding a long down escalator when I overheard two women behind me say, “Look at the big foreigner. I wonder if he understands Chinese?”
I turned around and simply nodded. In horror, they then proceeded to run back up the down escalator in high heels, which led to one of them sprawling on the escalator, being carried down away while she collected herself and then running up the escalator once again (by which point I was at the bottom and just watching the spectacle).
The funny thing was, they hadn’t said anything offensive.
65. We’re Now Married
One of my first dates with this girl who’s blind. It’s a long-distance thing, and she’s about to get on a plane, so we’re both sitting at the airport terminal, feeling pretty bummed.
Two ladies sit near us and start talking in Spanish about her. Nothing mean, just about the fact that she’s blind and has her guide dog with her. She and I are both as American as it gets, but she grew up in Texas, where there are lots of Mexicans, and I was pretty good in Spanish class in high school, so we both knew what they were talking about.
Eventually, I looked over at my girlfriend and said, in Spanish, “Do you think they’re talking about us?” The look on the other two women’s faces was awesome! That was over 7 years ago, and we’re now married with a little boy.
66. Snot On The Pizza
I was in a pizza shop sitting in a chair by the counter while I waited for the pizza guy to cut up my pizza that just came out of the oven. I overheard him say to his friend in Spanish, “Lol, I just got snot on the pizza.” Thankfully I hadn’t paid yet, so I just stood, smiled, and walked out.
67. They Were Impressed
I was in South Africa recently and listened to two women speaking in French about the humongous testicles on a statue of an elephant. They were quite impressed.
68. She Was Cheating On Me
I started dating a girl and decided I’d learn her language (Punjabi), but I obviously didn’t tell her because I wanted to keep it a surprise.
Anyways, that’s how I found out she was cheating on me because I overheard her conversation with her friend. Eight months of effort wasted in vain.
69. Bleeding Like A Murder Victim
In class a few years ago, this Brazilian girl’s iPhone froze on her while texting, and she was becoming visibly frustrated, so I offered to help.
She hands me the phone, and it was frozen on a convo she was having with her friend. She was texting in Portuguese and sent her friend a text that was something along the lines of “Oh my god, I have my period right now. I’m bleeding like a murder victim”.
70. This Gringo Speaks Spanish
I was at a Mexican restaurant with a bunch of my girlfriends and one guy friend. We were at the bar and my guy friend overheard the bartender joking with another worker saying, “Let’s get this gringo drunk and steal his women.”
He looked at them and responded, “This gringo speaks Spanish, but if you’re paying….”
71. Not A Date
I was sitting eating Mcdonald’s with an Italian (male) friend in Rome, and these female English tourists came and sat next to us and said, “These two are so cute they look like they’re on a date,” at which point I said in English to them “It’s not a date, however, you’re welcome to join us if you want,” the look on the two girls faces was brilliant.
72. Sneaky German Ladies
I was in a restaurant with my wife and a close (female) friend of ours in Strausbourg. We all spoke German and French, but as Americans were talking amongst ourselves in English.
The next table over was a pair of german speaking women a bit older than us, and they were speculating loudly in German over what the story was behind our party.
They concluded that both of the girls were my lovers, and our dinner was proceeding to something more. We had a lot of trouble not laughing at the table as we listened in.
As we were leaving, we joined up a girl on each side and made sure to pass the table and tell them we hoped they had a good night…In German.
73. No, He Wouldn’t Fit
I was walking in an open-air market in Africa, and I overheard a mother (she was speaking a West African language) say to her little toddler that he’d better be careful, the white man (me) would put him in a sack and take him away.
I stopped, set down my backpack, measured up the kid against it, and told her he wouldn’t fit. She laughed a lot, though the little boy was crying and pretty scared. I gave him a piece of candy and told him his mom was mean before moving on.
74. “I Haven’t Decided Yet”
I’m American, so many people assume by default I don’t speak any language other than English. Years ago, I was dating a guy who was from Ghana but grew up in Francophone countries all over Africa.
I was visiting him in New York, and a female friend of his from growing up was there for the day as well. She wasn’t too happy that I was there, and she turns to him and says in French, “She isn’t staying the night here, is she?”
I just stared at her and calmly said back to her in French, “I haven’t decided yet.” My guy fell over laughing so hard at the look on this girl’s face.
75. Nice Butt!
I lived in China, and being blond and white, people don’t think I can understand Mandrin. I was walking into a coffee shop in Shanghai, and I saw two old women look at me. They stared for a moment and said: “He has such a nice butt!”
It was hard not to laugh.
76. The Crazy White Boy
Living in Southern California at Knotts Berry Farm around Halloween. I was next to a fountain, and some Hispanic children are splashing me with water out of said fountain.
Mother looks at the kids and tells them to “stop splashing the crazy white boy, or he will bite your hands off” in Spanish. I barred my teeth, and the kids went running.
77. I Love Arizona
I was in Arizona (Scottsdale), and I was in Starbucks at a big mall, and these 4 gorgeous Serbian girls behind me were commenting on how good-looking/cute I was.
“Oh, he’s so cute, how come we don’t have guys like this in our classes, etc.” Nothing crazy, but they didn’t think I could understand them.
So after I got my drink, I turned to them and said “thank you” in English, and they looked at me kind of weird, and then I told them in Serbian, “Thank you for the compliments, they made my day.”
Their faces were priceless, I ended up hooking up with one of the girls the next day. Was a good time, I love Arizona!
78. Go Away
About 10 years ago, I was on a night train going from Rome to Naples. These 2 criminals were discussing robbing me while I was sitting in the same cabin with them.
I told them I spoke Italian and that if they wanted to rob me, I wasn’t going to make it easy for them. They actually apologized, told me they thought I was German, and moved on down the car.
79. Yes, I Understood You
When I was in the Rome airport at the end of my first semester abroad, the guy at the check-in desk made fun of me for having two bags and asked someone else behind the desk why Americans always need two bags, not realizing that I had been studying there for four months.
He stopped talking to me when I explained my reasoning to him in Italian.
80. Your Outfit Makes My Eyes Hurt
I speak a little bit of Spanish and know enough to get the gist of a conversation.
One time I was at the mall waiting for friends, and two girls standing near me started talking to each other in Spanish. They started making fun of my clothes, my hair, etc.
I let them go on for a while before I told one of the girls, who was dressed all in bright neon, that I didn’t like her outfit either, and it made my eyes hurt. They both just seemed surprised and slipped away.
Also, freshman year of college, my boyfriend had a French roommate. I was taking French at the time, so I could pick up little bits and pieces.
One time he answered a call from his girlfriend and his demeanor completely changed. Turns out she thought she was pregnant.
81. Where’s McDonald’s?
When we were 19, my two best friends and I were studying in Spain and decided to take a side trip to France.
We were traveling light and trying to save money, as poor college students tend to do, and had stuffed our carry-on bags with lots of granola bars and snack foods to sustain us for the weekend.
Apparently, we were also obviously American. At the security check, the conversation between the workers went something like this: “Look at this bag! Always eating! Can they not even make a flight without food? I think if they stop eating, they die! Why else would they be so big?”
The best part was the looks on their faces when my friend looked at them and said, in perfect Spanish, “Thank you, can you tell us where our gate is? And where we can find a McDonald’s? I’m so hungry!”
82. She Shrieked Like A Dolphin
I’m white and lived in China and Japan. I am conversant in Mandarin, fluent in Japanese. People assume I can’t understand them so often it doesn’t even faze me anymore.
The funniest time might have been when I was on the subway reading a French magazine, and the couple standing behind me were chatting about whether it was Spanish or French and whether I was American, English, or German because I didn’t look Spanish or French.
I put away the French magazine and pulled out a Japanese one. The girl shrieked like a dolphin.
83. They Were So Embarrassed
Am ethnically Chinese but grew up learning German.I was in Germany for a student exchange and attended a dorm party one night.
Two German guys at the party started flirting with me and openly discussed who would be able to sleep with me that night.
Played dumb and rejected both their advances. A week later, at another party, I conversed with other friends in fluent German in front of them. Their expressions were priceless.
84. A Ghost
Sitting in the back of a pickup truck in Northern Thailand. A little kid, maybe 5 years old looks up at his mom and says, “Mom! Mom! That big foreigner has white eyes! Is he a ghost?”
I lean really close to him and point at my eyes and say in Thai, “Actually, my eyes are blue, but ghosts can have blue eyes, right?” He then buried his face in his mom’s side trying to hide from me.
85. Don’t Hate, Grandmother
I used to teach in Korea in a fairly small town. Some kids I taught told me about their grandma. She saw a black man at the train station and muttered at him, in Korean, to go wash his skin.
She, of course, assumed there was no way he spoke Korean, but he immediately answered back, in Korean, “Don’t hate, grandmother.”
She was so shocked and embarrassed she just stood up and left the station. Took the afternoon train instead.
86. No Pool For You
I worked at a pool a while back, and I’m extremely white-looking but also very fluent in Spanish.
A family came in at one point asking about memberships/if we had day passes. I could tell that English wasn’t their first language, but I always feel awkward jumping into Spanish in these situations because of my appearance, and I don’t want to come across as presumptuous.
Anyway, I explained to them very nicely how membership works and that, no, sorry, we didn’t have day passes, but I could recommend some pools that do.
At this point, the wife turns and says to the husband, “This guy’s just trying to make it more difficult” (presumably because she thinks I’m racist), “Let’s try another pool.”
Incredibly uncomfortable for me, but not as uncomfortable as it was for them when I gave them directions to the pool with day passes and wished them a nice day and good luck in Spanish.
87. What’s So Funny?
I went to go get a pedicure. The ladies started talking about relationships, and the person working on me had just recently broken up with someone.
An older lady said something along the lines of “stay away from older men. They always want something new. You need someone like this kid who is young and stupid.”
I, of course, started cracking up, and they looked at each other and said, “what so funny, hehehe,” I replied back in Viet, and everyone in the salon started to laugh.
88. Mind Your Own Business
When I was in Iran when I was a kid (I’m half Persian, my skin color is very light, especially next to most Persians), I was sitting in a park reading a book in English when two women stood across from me and started arguing in Farsi whether I was Persian or not.
I looked up and told them in perfect Farsi that my mother was Persian and they should mind their own business.
89. His Face Turned Bright Red
I had gone over to a friend’s house to play cards. I knew a few of the people there, but not everyone.
So we are all sitting on the floor, I’m getting ready to deal, and one of the guys playing says (in Hindi) to my friend, basically, “So where did you pick up the lady from?” with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge in his voice.
I’m not even good with witty comebacks in English, so I just snapped my head up and looked right into the guy’s eyes with a “shut up” look (by the way, this works better than witty comebacks or badly-pronounced expletives in a foreign language).
My friend told him, “She speaks Hindi. And we work together.” I have never seen a brown guy turn that bright red.
90. Have A Nice Day
Not my story but my sister’s. She used to work at a department store in one of the clothing sections, and one day, two ladies came in and asked her for help.
They both spoke French, and we live in Saskatchewan in, Canada, where very few people can speak it. So as she’s helping them out, they’re just laughing and insulting her in French the entire time. Talking about how she doesn’t know what she’s doing etc.
She doesn’t say a word in French until they’ve paid for everything, at which point she said something along the lines of “Thanks. Have a nice day.” in French.
They looked like they were both having heart attacks, and after a few moments of stunned silence, they rushed out of the store.
91. “Etouffé, S’il Te Plaît”
The first time I visited Montreal was on a school trip. I’m from Alberta, and our hotel receptionist knew this. I guess she had assumed we couldn’t speak French, which, looking back, was pretty stupid of her.
What kind of school would send non-French speaking kids to the only French province?
Anyway, one of my friends was having an asthma attack, and the receptionist muttered under her breath, “Etouffé, s’il te plaît” (suffocate, please).
To which I responded, “Madame, parlez-vous à tous vos clients de cette manière?” (Madam, do you speak to all of your customers this way?). Not super clever on my part, but it shut her up.
92. Yes, I Speak Spanish
I speak both English and Spanish fluently. I go to an English University (I’m not from England originally). A friend and I were relaxing in the rare sunshine on the campus field one afternoon.
Some Spanish male students sat near us and then proceeded to perv on me loudly in Spanish for the next 30 or so minutes. I understood everything they were saying and couldn’t help but laugh.
They got the shock of their lives when I answered a call from a friend in Spanish, and they then tried to call me over as I left. It was hilarious!
93. All The Kittens In The World
I speak Mandarin, so I’ve heard some weird stuff. Maybe the best was “I wouldn’t marry you if you owned all the kittens in the world,” which I overheard in a restaurant. I always thought that was a sick burn.
But I also speak some French, and while in the Baltimore airport, I overheard a little girl who was pointing at a huge preying mantis on the window and saying, “It’s not going to come on the airplane, is it?” Adorable.
94. I Added Some Of My Own Jokes
I was at an airport in the Philippines heading back to Canada. When I handed my Canadian passport to the men at the check-in counter, they started making jokes about Canadians in the local dialect, which I understand. I added a couple of jokes of my own and got some very embarrassed looks from the men.
Edit: add the jokes The way they pronounce Canadian (kah nah dee an) here sounds like a phrase in Cebuano that translates as “you must.” What they were saying was “magloto ka na dian” which means “You must cook” in Cebuano.
I added a couple of my own – labanda ka na dian (you must wash) and lakaw ka na dian (you must walk).
95. They Had No Manners
As an American who works abroad, it always baffles me how some American tourists seem to think that nobody else in the world speaks English.
The one that comes to mind was at a train stop where some tourists who were clearly American were talking about how smelly everyone in the country was.
Tourist A mentioned that Tourist B should keep her voice down, and Tourist B replied, “Why? None of them know what I’m saying.”
A guy standing behind them piped up with something like, “Pretty much all of us speak English.” The tourists faces dropped, and they were silent until the train came. It was excellent. This was in Argentina, by the way.
96. Back Off
I was in Munich with my family last summer (we’re American), and as we were going into this little chapel that was fancied up by some Baroque artist, there was this big Bavarian fella (Lederhosen and all) behind us who kept rambling on in a heavy Bavarian accent about how all of us fat Americans need to stay out of “his cathedral.”
As we left, I turned around in my best, most civilized poetic German to kindly back off and lose ten kilos himself.
Of course, I felt pretty awful afterwards cause I really don’t like telling people off, but after ten minutes of stereotype after stereotype, while trying to check out some cherub statues, I kinda snapped a little bit.
97. Those Lessons Were Worth It
I took Mandarin lessons when I was in school, so I understand a decent amount of the language. I walked into an elevator with a Chinese couple talking. After I clicked the button for my floor, I heard them talking about me, and the conversation went like this.
Wife: “He’s brown, but doesn’t smell brown.”
Husband: “Yeah, usually they smell really bad.”
Wife: “Kind of like fish or curry. Are they dirty?”
At this point, I begin to start laughing because I can understand what they’re saying. But it’s awkward because there’s no one else there, and I’m not wearing headphones, so I could only be laughing at them unless I’m crazy.
Wife: “Do you think he can understand us?”
Husband: “Stop talking.”
Those lessons were so worth it. Uncensored people are the best.
98. “It Gets Nicer Once All The Parents Leave”
Knowing a less-spoken language like Hebrew affords me some funny situations with Israelis in the US who think that nobody understands them.
I was helping out with freshman move-in at my school and caught a mother and daughter off-guard when they were complaining about the heat and the smell in the dorm, and I responded over my shoulder in an attempted native accent that it gets nicer once all the parents leave. The mother wasn’t amused.
99. A Priceless Moment
I lived in Ecuador for a couple of years in late high school and picked up Spanish (enough to hold a decent conversation). Fast forward a few years, and I now live in San Antonio.
I got a job as a bartender at a Mexican restaurant. I didn’t tell anyone that I spoke Spanish and went about my business. One day, a few of the female staff were standing in front of me and discussing me in Spanish.
They were saying that they thought I was cute, and it quickly became very dirty. Just about that time, a different server asked for a drink, and I responded in Spanish but looked at them the whole time. They all turned bright red and ran away. Priceless.
100. Repeat What You Said About Me
I live in Canada and speak French fluently, but I was traveling through Quebec last year on my way to NYC. Anyways, my sister and I stopped at a convenience store to grab some drinks and snacks, and we were talking in English.
All of a sudden, I hear these two greasy men behind us in line talking in French, thinking we can’t understand what they’re saying. Sure enough, I hear one of them go, “Listen to these two ignorant Americans in front of us, I’m surprised they aren’t fat like the rest of their cousins.”
At this point, I casually turn around and say, “Excuse me, I missed what you just said about me. Could you repeat it?” in French. The look in their eyes was so worth the years and years it took to thoroughly learn French.
101. We’ll Be In Touch
I worked at a grocery store as a bag boy during high school, and two of my coworkers spoke Spanish fluently to each other across their checkout lanes.
They figured that anyone who wasn’t a native speaker wouldn’t be able to understand them because of how fast they spoke. Since I have been to Spain multiple times and I am now fluent in Spanish, I understood every word they said during my three years there.
Fortunately, I heard gems such as “OP is cute, you should get his number,” and “I wonder if OP isn’t only good with his hands when it comes to bagging.”
On my last day of work, I told both of them that I would keep in touch with them and to have fun. All in fluent Spanish
102. Don’t Be Rude To Servers
I was in Monaco on a school trip for my French class with some California students. We were ordering food at some small local place when the California students in front of me were trying to order in English only.
They were pretty rude and demanding, saying things like, “Oh my god, I just want some ICE. Ugh, these people are so dumb.” The French cook was just looking confused, and after a lot of bickering, the California students walked off.
Then when I went to order, I tried to order in French (not very good but after 6 years of studying French in high school and elementary school).
I think I said, “Puis j’avais de..” when the cook cut me off and goes, “Dude, I speak English. Those girls were just over-the-top rude. What would you like?” I thought it was awesome.
103. You Know You’re Rude When…
I was eating at a restaurant in Quebec — where seriously, everyone speaks at least some English who isn’t super old — and a couple who only spoke English sat there and whined about everyone around them as if no one could understand a word they were saying.
It was crazy because we were speaking English (albeit not so obnoxiously loud as to draw everyone’s attention, as they were) a couple of tables over.
Anyways, it was embarrassing for them at first. Then downright terrible as they even made fun of their waitress right in front of her.
Eventually, a manager came out and basically told them to screw off. But as they went people were commenting loudly in English, and I’m surprised people didn’t actually clap.
104. Smart Tourists
My brother speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently. He had already lived in Taiwan for seven years when this little episode happened. This was many years ago when it was very unusual for a Westerner to speak Chinese.
He and I were in a taxi in Beijing one night. We gave our instructions to the driver in English and chatted together only in English, so the driver, of course, naturally assumed neither of us spoke Chinese.
A few minutes into the ride, the driver offered us a cigarette. We waved him off politely. He then said, according to my brother, “Only weaklings don’t smoke.”
Along the way, the driver would point out places, saying, in a mock-friendly voice, things like, “That’s where foreign idiots are given the bad and spoiled food they deserve.” My brother would report all of this to me with bemusement.
At the end of the ride, the driver tried to overcharge us. My brother, for the first time, spoke Mandarin, pointing out the correct amount on the meter and telling the driver he was making note of his name and taxi license number.
The driver’s eyes got huge with fear, he literally jumped out of the taxi and ran to open my brother’s door, apologizing in a desperate voice and bowing over and over, trembling (no, bowing is not part of Chinese culture).
My brother said the driver probably figured any guy who spoke Mandarin would have the connections to make his life miserable. We just shrugged it off, had a good laugh.
105. “I’ll Distract Them”
I’m Indian, but living in California, most people think I am Mexican. Getting ready to board a plane to Hawaii, and TSA is checking bags again at the gate for “random searches.”
My dad jokingly exclaims in Hindi that we are all going to get “randomly” searched to get ready to run. The guy in front of us starts chuckling and then gets stopped instead of us. He turns around and says in Hindi, “You guys go on without me, I’ll distract them!”
106. “Thanks Very Much”
I’m half Japanese, half Scandinavian– I was raised mostly by my mom (Dane/Norwegian), so I grew up speaking Scandinavian languages pretty comfortably.
But you probably wouldn’t guess it, looking at me–I’m short, dark-haired, and ethnically ambiguous. I’m living in the USA currently, and I kind of just blend in and look like a melting-pot American. As such, Americans and foreigners alike assume I can’t speak any other languages.
Anyway, recently, I was sitting on a train platform, and I overheard a couple of guys conversing in Norwegian. From what I gathered, they were both grad students at a nearby university, working on research.
Normally, when I hear Danish or Norwegian, I am overjoyed and introduce myself, so I can get some well-needed practice with my speaking. However, these guys were in a really heated conversation, basically complaining about classmates, fellow researchers, etc. I figured I would leave them to it and mind my own business.
I had been sitting beside them, but at one point, I stood up to get in the queue forming to board my train, which was pulling into the station. I’m standing a few paces in front of them, and one stops the other abruptly mid-sentence and says, “MAN, she looks nice.”
I turn around, and they stare back a little guiltily. One mumbles, “Oh, she understood?” “No way.”
I respond, “Thanks very much,” in Norwegian, with a wave and a wink as I step forward to board the train.
The expression on their faces was an awesome mix of surprise, confusion, and excitement.
107. Dirty Lingerie
When I was in high school, I was working retail in the women’s department of Marshall’s. One day, my boss sends me to clean up lingerie because corporate says we have to hang everything on fragile plastic hangers and people never put stuff back.
So I’m sitting on the floor when this young Hispanic couple and their three kids (the oldest was maybe 6) come into the department.
The kids are ducking around the aisles, giggling and making hand puppets out of the little disposable nylons they got from the shoe department, but they’re not being rude, messing anything up, or running into people, so I don’t care.
While they’re doing this, their mother is looking at undergarments, asking her man what he thinks, and he’s telling her all sorts of dirty things in Spanish.
The most tame comment was, “Mmm, those would look good on you….but they’d look better coming off.” or something along those lines. I’m trying to look like I’m ignoring them because he obviously doesn’t think the girl kneeling on the floor understands.
As they made their selections, the oldest girl came up to me with her nylon puppet and asked (in English), “What are you doing?” and I responded, “Oh, I’m just picking up all the clothes on the floor, so they don’t get dirty.”
At this point, the mother looks at the girl and says to her in Spanish, “Don’t bother the nice lady, she’s working.” Without thinking, I said to her in English, “Oh no, it’s really no bother! She’s okay.”
The look on the mother’s face when she realized I caught every dirty word. They booked it out of the section soon afterward.
That’s one of a few of those moments I had at that job. But my personal favorite.
108. Elevator Talks
My grandfather comes from the island/country of Malta, a very small land mass with not too many people. The language they speak there is called “Maltese.”
Anyways my grandfather and his dad were in London, England, where absolutely nobody has heard of Maltese, let alone speaks it.
They were in an elevator together when a woman walked in, and my great-grandfather said to my grandfather (in Maltese), “This women’s face is so ugly she could stop a clock.”
My grandfather laughed, but when the elevator got to the lady’s stop upon exiting, she turned around and said in perfect Maltese, “WELL, YOUR MOTHER WAS UGLIER.”
The moral of the story; never assume the random lady in the elevator can’t understand you.
109. “Shame On You!”
I was on the train in Brisbane on my way home from work, and there were some (male) French tourists on there, plus the usual gaggle of schoolgirls from the local Catholic schools.
The guys started talking and pointing to some of the girls (clearly kids in uniform) and saying some disgusting things. Along the lines of extremely inappropriate.
Bear in mind these girls are, like, years 8-9 (so like 13-14 years old) and definitely underage.
I was getting increasingly ticked off at the comments and turned to them and yelled: Honte à vous, vieux pervers rampant! (Shame on you, creepy old perverts!)
I’ve never seen someone look so shocked in my life. They got off at the next stop, but not before practically melding into the walls.
110. I Had Never Seen Someone So Shocked
Ohhh, the fun I’ve had being able to speak Indonesian. My family and I, like most Australians, go to Bali in Indonesia quite a bit. I learned the language for 12 years and was fluent enough to pass tertiary entrance exams.
The Indonesians just aren’t used to tourists making much of an effort to speak their language, so, as a consequence, they say a LOT.
My two favorite moments would be from my first trip. We were being driven from our hotel to a really popular restaurant. We were being driven by three young guys. They were happily chatting away, blissfully unaware that I understood every word.
One of them cracked a joke about my mother (they were very much just cracking a joke. No real ill-intent), and when they all laughed, I laughed REALLY LOUDLY.
They stopped immediately and said in Indonesian, “How long have you been learning Indonesian? Was a pretty quiet car ride after that.
The other time would be at the markets. I was buying some crappy jewelry from a small stall by the side of the road, and I made a point of bartering in English for a change.
In the middle of our transaction, she turns to her daughter, who was sitting next to her in the stall, and said, “Make sure you never barter much when the young ones are alone. They’re easier to make more money”.
To which I said, “Could you please repeat yourself but slower?” And her face!! It was magical! I had never seen someone so shocked. Her daughter ended up giving me the things for their cost price, and we chatted and hung out quite a bit too. All in all, victories all around.
111. A Judgy Woman
Every Afrikaans woman I know living in England, including my sister and mother, loves to gossip in Afrikaans to their fellow Afrikaners.
Once a family friend was riding the Underground with her daughter, and she was criticizing literally everything about a man sitting opposite them, his hair, his clothing, his weight, etc.
Now, he says nothing the entire journey, doesn’t even look at them, but when the train stops, he stands up, walks past them, smiles, and tells her to enjoy her day.
In perfect Afrikaans.
112. Hungarian Parents
I’m Dutch, and my girlfriend is Hungarian.I went to meet her parents for the first time at Christmas a couple of years back, and my GF suggested that I should learn a couple of words like: Hello, how are you.
Those kinds of things. I took it a step further and got a lot of help from two co-workers just to surprise my girlfriend and parents.
When we got there, her father was not so keen on me being not Hungarian. He was saying some things to my girlfriend like, “How will we ever communicate?” and “It’s such a shame that you couldn’t find someone who is Hungarian or at least speaks it.”
I look at my GF, then calmly responded to her dad that although my Hungarian isn’t the best, I will learn it for them because now they are my family too.
I also thanked them for having me over and told my GF’s dad that I hope that one day he can accept me for who I am — an “outsider,” as I put it.
The moment I said that, he teared up and said that no one ever did so much for his daughter and his family in this way, and he appreciates it very much.
After that, A bottle of Palinka appeared on the table, and from that moment on, I don’t remember much from that night.
Now several years later, me and my GF’s dad are really close, although we live on opposite sides of Europe.
Soon I will go again to Hungary for Christmas, And now I am planning to ask him for his daughter’s hand. I hope I will pronounce it correctly.
113. The Chinese Section
I was on the bus in Chicago, and there were a bunch of Chinese students on the bus. This old white guy comes back there asking if it’s the “Chinese section of the bus?” People are looking up slowly like what the heck is this?
Old guy busts out some perfect Chinese. Turns out he’d traveled all over China with his brother after WWII.
114. We Aren’t All Blonde
In the early ’90s, I attended an American high school. I’m Danish, and I’m adopted from Thailand. There was a Danish exchange student who was a white native, Dane.
Americans always fell silent and would stare at us if we were speaking Danish to each other. It was as if they couldn’t fathom how two people who look so different could speak the same language that none of the Americans around us spoke or understood.
Other Danes rarely assume that I won’t understand them today. That used to be a thing with older generations who would loudly backtalk me for several minutes before I’d interrupt them and defend myself in fluent Danish (of course, because I am Danish) with as much respect and dignity as I could muster!
Twice in the US — once in a California valley town in a Target where some Danish tourists were looking for camping gear and once in Yosemite at the foot of Vernal Falls, who were talking about trip plans for the rest of their grand CA tour — I surprised these Danish tourists by suddenly helping them in Danish.
I’m very short, and I looked like a little kid even though I was in my teens. The other Danes would look around for the voice but not at me until I repeated myself right in front of their faces. Both times it was groups of senior tourists.
115. Not A “Gringa”
I was living in Jersey and got into a taxi. The driver was on the phone and started talking in Spanish to the person on the other end about me, how he just picked up some white girl.
They must’ve answered, “What does she look like?” The driver replied that I was cute for a white girl. I’m very light-skinned because I take after my dad, who’s Cuban. My mom, who is Puerto Rican has very dark olive skin.
Once he got off the phone, I said to him in Spanish that he shouldn’t always assume someone is a “gringa” just because he thinks they look it. His eyes about bugged out of his head and I laughed.
He started apologizing, and I told him it was okay because he didn’t say anything bad about me but that I hope he learned a lesson.
116. Very Stupid Germans
We were visiting the Grand Canyon and found ourselves on the same tour bus as a group of Germans.
At the time, my mom was particularly heavy, which I guess one of the Germans took personal offence to; she loudly told her friends as much. Several laughed.
My dad speaks German and had a big issue with this, so he starts laughing with them and says in German, “That’s hilarious! I like to tell jokes too. Want to hear one? It’s about some very stupid Germans.” Needless to say, they did their best to avoid us after that.
He actually only recently told my mom what happened on that bus (at the time, he told her he accidentally offended them). She thought it was hilarious.
117. It Was Awkward
I know a decent amount of ASL (American Sign Language) and was in my second college course learning ASL when this happened.
My younger sister’s friend was going to buy a puppy and wanted me to go so she wasn’t meeting strangers alone. The group of people we are meeting get out of the car, and we realize they are deaf.
The girl selling the puppy to my sister’s friend starts talking to her, and I’m just chilling off to the side. Another girl and a guy were off to the side also. The girl was signing bad stuff about me and my sister’s friend being ‘hearing’ and just rude stuff in general.
I don’t remember much, but the guy noticed I was watching the conversation. He told the trash-talker to quit because he thought I could understand what she was saying.
She blew him off and continued. Eventually, my sister’s friend buys the puppy and as we are saying ‘goodbyes’ I sign, “Thanks for meeting us. Have a great day, and have a safe drive home.”
I swear to god, the dude that was telling the trash talker to be quiet earlier just about peed his pants laughing at her. It made my day.
118. A Long Ride Of Pleasant Silence
Was traveling in Austria, getting on a shuttle to go from Innsbruck to a little town higher in the mountains, I was chatting and laughing with a few friends as I got on.
My American accent was on full display. There were two older women who gave us weird looks as we boarded, and we sat down across the aisle and just behind them.
Almost as soon as we sat down, one turned to the other and said in German, “Stupid American tourists are always so loud.” I was sitting nearest to them on the aisle, so I leaned forward and said in my far less perfect (but still understandable) German, “And you’re not as quiet as you think.”
It was a looooooonnggg ride of pleasant silence up into the mountains.
We Speak English In Finland
I live in Finland and every summer we get some obnoxious middle-aged tourists who feel free to comment on people’s appearances in plain English. Just so you know, everyone here understands you from age 10 to 60, at least.