May 11, 2016
separated by a common language
I’m temporarily residing with a friend who hails from Taiwan (cue rant about Berlin’s housing situation - some advertised flats here are hella sketch and post-SF I really don’t have much patience for this shit anymore)
Anyways, since moving in I’ve discovered that my ability to understand Taiwanese accents is … super questionable. It basically borders on embarrassing, because any slang use on his part throws me off. Then there’s the words that don’t mean what you think - like gǎo (搞) means ‘to do’ in Mainland Chinese, but ‘to fuck’ in Taiwanese Chinese. I wish I had been warned about that one - how many times have I basically told him I was fucking around?
But my favorite difference thus far is the appropriate term for bathroom/restroom/washroom/lavatory/WC - it’s ‘xi shou jian’ (hand-washing room) or ‘hua zhuang jian’ (makeup room) in Taiwan versus ‘ce suo’ (toilet) in the Mainland. Can you really call a bathroom a ‘makeup room’??
And on Taiwanese slang - I’ve since learned that everything can be ‘che’ (扯) - the word is crazy versatile!
Mutual friend hiring prostitutes in Amsterdam? hen che (很扯)! Computer acting up? zhen che (真扯)! Interviewer not asking any of the expected interview questions? zenme zheme che? (怎么这么扯?)
It’s a great word.
My ability to read traditional has also improved exponentially since I started corresponding with him over WhatsApp. If only this process were as easy as English with just a few minor spelling changes… but a whole new character set when it already took a million years for me to get simplified? Damn, why…