A sensitivity to my own language

{Disclaimer: This post contains vulgar language. It does not in any way shape or form express my personality but it is the only way I can truly portray this particular incident and the thoughts I have surrounding this topic.}

Perhaps I’ve adapted to the western culture too much, but I’ve really gone sensitive to the Chinese language, in particular swear words and the need to speak loud unnecessarily. Swear words aren’t nice in any language but I would argue they sound the worse in Cantonese. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be a Cantonese speaker but when I hear people arguing in Cantonese throwing up swear words left and right, I cringe and partly wish I didn’t understand. If you’re a Cantonese speaker, you will probably understand where I’m coming from. Somehow, swear words in Cantonese has the ability to be make the most insulting insults.

I arrived to work ridiculously early today unready to tackle yet another boring day at my internship. As soon as I got out of the car and began walking towards my office, I noticed a lady maybe in her 40s and a older male taxi driver talking to each other with aggressive looks on their faces. At first glance, I didn’t notice much because as you probably can tell, Chinese people tend to sound like they’re yelling at each other even when it’s a normal conversation.

Anyhow, as I got closer I realized they were furious with each other, thus yelling so loud the guy from the next block could probably hear them. Being my nosy self with so much time left before I had to be in the office, I stood at the corner with earphones in (but no music actually playing, obviously) and eavesdrop into the argument. I only got the jist of the argument, something about the lady not having change to pay for the cab and the taxi driver getting angry. It doesn’t matter what the plot of it was anyways, what I want to explain is what happened following.

Neither party made any aggressive physical gestures but I could argue the verbal aggression that was thrown around is much worse. Swear words such as diu (fuck), diu lei lo mo (fuck your mother), hum gah chan (I hope your family goes bankrupt), chi sin (insane), were yelled out effortlessly. To my surprise and disappointment, the lady was the more vulgar one and continued to throw out insults without any reaction or response from the taxi driver. She said two things that really stood out and made me cringe (directly translated);

  • If you want to fu** my mom, she’s at home right now in (this area of the city), why don’t you go over there and do it?
  • If you have a mental problem, why don’t you go to the mental asylum to seek help?

Maybe it’s a gender bias or a false stereotype. Maybe it’s because I expected a lot more from a educated (from the looks of it) lady compared to a male taxi driver but I really did not expect those words to come out of her mouth. I was tempted to record it with my iphone (I could be the next YouTube star!), but decided to ditch the technology and embrace the situation.

Some might argue it’s the culture and we must accept it, or at least try to accept it. I am sure  incidences as such would occur all over the world but I can’t wrap my head around it. Saying those things are rude and unnecessary. When I hear people like that almost everywhere in Hong Kong, it frustrates me and makes me wonder, do I really want to live here in the midst of all these people?

Perhaps instead of avoiding people like that, I need to accept them, love them and show them the right way to behave, just as God accepted us for who we are and all of our sinful natures before trying to mold us into who He wants us to be.

Conclusion? Harder said than done.

Any thoughts? Have you experienced something similar with your own culture/language?

2 thoughts on “A sensitivity to my own language

  1. kaorichen says:

    It is true what you say about cantonese speakers tend to shout rather than talk, whether its on public transport or just in the streets.

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