Thursday, 6 January 2011

Do you speak Chinese?

The question people asked me most frequently during these eleven years of my life in Italy is: "Are you Chinese?". Obviously my aspect says that I'm more or less Chinese. Moreover, Italian people aren't able to distinguish well the particulars of facial aspects among different Asian nations. They often think only of China and Japan.

Judging from my eyes' shape, people think I'm Chinese with no doubt. Even Chinese ones greet me in Chinese. Several times at the train stations, Chinese people who might not speak Italian came to me speaking a lot in Chinese but I had to reply them "I'm sorry, I don't speak Chinese", leaving them disappointed because they were looking for someone to ask for help. When I enter any Chinese groceries for the 1st time, the shopkeepers looked into my eyes and they had an expression like they doubted if I was Chinese and I returned an expression in my face like saying that I was not. I found no need to tell them that I'm Chinese when I don't speak the language, and have never been to the country either. However, in the Chinese restaurant where I and my husband frequented in the first year of my arrival, the waitress told me that I had the cantonese accent when I spoke. I said "well, I'm Cantonese indeed."

To the question: "Are you Chinese?", generally asked by the Italian, my answer isn't always "Yes" or "No". It depends on the situation. For those who don't know who I'm but they talk to me only to exchange some words in a local or a supermarket and very probably I'll not meet them again, I just simply say that I'm Thai. Many people know Thailand by beautiful beaches so they say: "Oh, you come from such a splendid place!". Some of them instead don't have much idea about the country, neither where it's situated. They immagine Thailand as a poor land where people live in misery catching animals and fishing as they used to see some kinds of documentaries about tribes at the Northern border of the country. Once, an old man asked me how I could contact my parents, and if they owned a telephone. Although I tried my best to describe Bangkok, where I come from, the old man seemed to commiserate about me. Well, I just let it be.

When it's a case, such as to friends, my husband's relatives, or whoever seems to be interested in knowing more about me, I like to explain my origin. It's not that complicated but to say if I'm Chinese or not, it needs a little bit of explanation. I was born at Bangkok, Thailand, so I've 100% Thai nationality. My parents too were born in Thailand and they're Thai. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents were born in China and they lived their youth there. They moved to Thailand as many Chineses did because at that time they could have more freedom in Thailand. My grannies settled down at Bangkok. They worked hard to get stability and gained Thai citizenship.

My parents and relatives always speak Cantonese among them. I understanded it fairly but never tried to speak it. My mom often told me, my brother and sister that one day we would regret not wanting to learn Cantonese. Well, she was right. Now that I forgot most of Cantonese words I feel a pity. Once an office where I applied for a job called me for an interview believing that I knew Chinese language. They said they assumed that Thai and Chinese languages would be similar. Many times my Italian friends asked me if I could translate a Chinese writing. I think that Chinese language is very difficult and I would never reach out to learn it. I once took Japanese lessons in my university but I stopped after one semester because I realised that it was not for me. I did better in European languages.

At this point. I suppose I did give a clear idea of my origin. Now I also own the Italian citizenship but I feel weird to say I'm Italian (although I use my Italian passport to travel).

1 comment:

  1. Spanish don't ask me but they think I'm Chinese or Japanese and Chinese people in Spain also talk to me in their language. Hahahaha! I do agree with you that Chinese and Japanese are difficult (at least for me). Keep writing naja.


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