Lost in Translation

I had an interaction today that reminded me how living in a foreign country is not always easy.

My son needed new gym shorts, so off I went to the school uniform shop. A simple enough task, right? Ha, why would I think that? Silly me!
Walking into the uniform shop, I greeted the lady behind the counter. Our conversation went something like this:
I said, “Hi! I need a pair of extra-large gym shorts please”.
To the reply of, “Gym…? What do you mean gym?”
“You know, gym…umm…like to work out…umm…exercise…?”.
Blank look in response. I walked over to some sample gym uniforms hanging on a rack and pointed to a pair of gym pants.
“Like these but short”.
To which she repeated her question, “What do you mean gym?” In an effort to understand what I was trying to say, she went to her computer and begin a search. I have no idea what her search word was, but the result yielded a picture of jeans.
“You mean this?”, She asked while pointing to said picture of jeans. At this point, I’m sure she thought I was utterly crazy coming to a uniform shop looking for jeans.
“No, gym…er…umm…P.E.?” Ding, ding, ding! I could see her eyes widen as realization set in.
Off she went to find the shorts. When she came back, she was holding two pairs of gym pants.
“No, I need shorts. You know, short, not long.” I explained while pointing to my knees.
Off she went again. Returning empty-handed she said, “we don’t have any men’s extra-large. Our largest size is children’s 16”.
“Well, according to your chart right here,” I began while pointing to their sizing chart posted on the wall, “my son would be a men’s extra large (While he is very tall, Chinese sizes tend to run suuuuper small). If you don’t carry anything bigger than a 16, what is he supposed to wear for gym? I mean P.E.”
Again, blank look. She tap, tap, tapped at her computer, looked up and said, “maybe he could wear shorts for P.E.”
“Yes!” I replied, more than a bit exasperated. “Do you have size extra large?”, I asked thinking we were going around in some sort of vicious circle.
“Yes, we do.”, She replied with certainty. With that, she turned around to the fully stocked shelf behind her and pulled down two pairs of size extra-large gym shorts.

I left having completed my task but giggled and muttered under my breath, “what the heck just happened?”.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this interaction but things like this happen on a daily basis. Some days I wonder if I really do make any sense at all.

Here are a few more examples of things that just get lost in translation:

Hey, who are you calling a loser?
Well this is a nice shirt for Disneyland
Shanghai good-looking corporate image planning. Nice!
I can’t make this stuff up!
“waring danger”

All in all, this is just another part of our adventure living abroad. I am thankful for frustrating yet ridiculously funny things like this that happen. I hope I made you smile through my story. Sometimes it’s the ridiculousness that makes life entertaining and keeps you giggling your way through this crazy thing called life.

One thought on “Lost in Translation

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