I Can’t Speak Cantonese, a Curse or Blessing?

Hong Kong, 9th March 2018 Hong Kong is indeed an international city but it doesn’t mean everyone speaks English here. The local students around me, shop keepers and colleagues mainly use Cantonese for daily conversations, even if me or other non-cantonese speakers are there. It might sound rude to some of you but it happens a lot here and there’s nothing much I can do about it, except trying to understand that people are certainly more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue.

To give you a glimpse of how frustrating it is, I’ll share some of my experiences. All the societies in the campus use Cantonese to communicate. So to speak, we can’t join any of them except the international ones. There are options but very limited. In addition to that, there was a course that I was being so unlucky that I got group mates who reluctantly speak in English in every discussion, no matter how much I tried to remind them. At one point I was so mad and burst into tears because I felt very unappreciated (ofc, not in front of them). Another case, I quit an internship because everyone in the office speaks in Cantonese, even during lunch time. My graduate job options become so narrow because many of them require Cantonese. Sound frustrating enough? But lately, I have been thinking maybe at some situations, unable to speak Cantonese can be a blessing in disguise.

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Ignorant = Less giving shit about people

When you don’t understand what people around you are talking about, you start to be ignorant (well not everyone, but at least I do). You’re missing the hottest gossip, you’re unaware of campus secrets, and you don’t even know what’s cool or not-cool here. So, you just be yourself and less giving shits about others. Trust me, life is so much easier when you don’t care about what others think about you.

I don’t know what’s going on = Less responsibilities

Some team discussions and tasks, without the intention of excluding me, still occasionally use Cantonese. Since you don’t know anything and are tired of actively asking what’s going on, you’ll end up having less responsibilities! Shall we just be happy for this? HEHEgiphy

Less resources = Creative problem solving

This is one skill I’m grateful to develop in the midst of living overseas. Back in Indonesia, I can get almost everything I need handily because I have the resources & information from local websites, families, and friends. In Hong Kong, I can’t even order from Taobao (#1 e-commerce site) without asking my friends’ help. I don’t know where to buy this and that or how to do simplest thing such as printing. But all these hard situations push you to think extra to find creative solutions with limited resources you have. So, let say once you survive in Hong Kong, you’ll most likely survive anywhere else? 🍻

All in all, life in Hong Kong is still better if you can speak Cantonese. I can’t deny that! It’s just another point of view for all my internationals-slash-non-cantonese-speakers friends who are as frustrated as me. Don’t worry, we’re all in this together. It’s not the end of our world! 😜

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Shoutout to 2 teams full of Cantonese speakers but still willing to speak in English 🙌🏾


Selalu ada hikmah bersama Mickey,



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