Nothing Kind To Say? Don’t Say Anything At All
“I was raised in Spain (born in Houston, Texas) so although I don’t look like it I can speak Spanish fluently. I was volunteering at an aquarium in Dallas when a Hispanic family came in. Their two children ran up to the touch tank (a small tank filled with horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs sea anemones, etc) I told them (in English) that they would have to wash their hands before touching the animals and they understood just me just fine so I reasoned that I wouldn’t need to explain anything in Spanish.
The day went on and the children came back to the touch tank. The young girl (she was maybe five) proceeded to pick up a hermit crab. I explained to her that she wasnt supposed to pick up the animals.
Apparently, that ticked the mother off. She turned to her husband and in Spanish started ranting about what a brat I was, how I didn’t have the right to talk to her children that way, and how all white girls were the same. And proceeded to call me offensive names in Spanish.
I calmly got up (having dealt with raging mothers before) and in perfect Spanish told her that my manager was right behind her and that she should address any complaints to him because I was only trying to teach her kids some manners that she obviously lacked.”
“I Speak Spanish”
“I walked into the public library and headed to my favorite spot to read my book before work. This was the only bench in the whole library that had padding, and it made for a pretty comfortable place to sit compared to the rest of the library. It’s about 16 feet long and settled against the wall.
So I walked over, and there was an old mexican woman sitting on one end talking on the phone. No problem, I just sat on the other end, get out my book, and began to read. Funny thing though, I took spanish throughout middle and high school, and am fairly conversational in it.
So I was in the middle of the first sentence when I heard the words ‘aggresive’ and ‘dangerous’ come out of this woman’s mouth in spanish. I didn’t immediately assume that it was me, but I looked up at her, and she was staring straight at me. She raised her voice and started talking more about how she was scared and thought that I was going to attack her.
Now I was about 135 pounds despite being about 5’11 at the time, and I didn’t once look or do anything toward that woman. So I calmly said in Spanish, ‘I speak Spanish.’
The look on her face was priceless, as her paranoia kicked into hyperdrive. She began talking to her friend on the phone more, saying, ‘He’s approaching me, help me!’
I asked her, ‘Why are you uncomfortable? If you would like me to move, just tell me.’
She yelled something to me about going to the police and ran off. I found the nearest person and asked them what they saw happening. They agreed that the woman was crazy. Anyway, when security arrived (apparently she told them that some guy tried to attack her) I told them what happened, and they said that she was well known around the library for being crazy. I went back to reading and never saw her again.”
He Should Have Know Better
“I used to teach English in Japan for a couple of years. I’m nowhere near fluent, but by the time I left, my Japanese was better than most of the folks I worked with.
I ended up with a nasty case of pneumonia one winter and practically the only thing that made me feel better was being in excessively hot places. Being the practical guy that I am, I found a large indoor onsen (public baths fed by hot springs) nearby and visited it several times a week. After a few weeks of this, most of the regulars would recognize me and knew that my Japanese was okay. One night while I was getting changed in the locker room, three high-school-aged kids came in and were (apparently) surprised to see my gigantic white self at an onsen (I’m over six feet tall and tend to tower over most Japanese folks). One of the kids loudly asked in Japanese, ‘Woah, check out the foreigner! What’s he doing here?’
For a moment you could almost hear a pin drop. The regulars knew I could understand this and were clearly worried about how I would react. I took about two seconds to make up my mind and jumped into a corner and loudly replied, ‘A foreigner? Where? Where? Those people are dangerous!’
The whole room immediately began laughing at the kids and had clearly sided with me. Japan is a really insular society and for a foreigner to win over a crowd by mocking a rude person in his own language was a huge win for me.
Before I left the onsen for the evening (there’s a ‘relaxation lobby’ for people who need to cool down a bit before leaving), the lead kid came out and apologized to me in broken English. I replied in Japanese, ‘It’s okay, but this isn’t Tokyo. Most of us foreigners this far south understand Japanese pretty well.’
He gave me a really sheepish grin went back into the locker rooms.”
Listen Up In The Nail Salon
“My stepsister speaks both Spanish and English. We were in a very small, packed nail salon getting our nails done when a couple behind us started speaking in Spanish. I had no clue what they were saying, but my stepsister had the ‘what am I hearing?’ look on her face. (She wasn’t trying to listen in, but they were literally right behind us and speaking rather loudly.)
This went on for a few minutes, my stepsister’s face getting more and more shocked. She’d had pulled out her phone and dialed 911 at one point, but she was speaking softly and I couldn’t hear her for sure over the Spanish-speaking duo. A few more minutes passed when the female of this duo asked something to the male of the duo, to which he answered, ‘I dunno.’
My stepsister answered, in Spanish, and the looks on their face were priceless. The duo started begging for something in Spanish to my stepsister when the cops walked in.
The duo was arrested and when I finally got the chance to ask what the heck happened, my stepsister told me they were talking about how they robbed the local convenience store a few nights ago. It was big news in our little town at the time, as there were no leads or anything. It was extremely bizarre.
I don’t think my stepsister meant to answer them. She answered out of habit. I think she realized that something bad may have happened, and since I was underage (14 at the time) she was in charge of me. She knew if something happened, and we made it out fine, she would have gotten into a lot of trouble with my dad, who was going through a nasty feud with my mom. I’m sure my mom would have used that as something to keep me from him.
The female of the duo ended up breaking down, confessing once the police arrived. That’s what they were arguing about. Female had a guilty conscience about it all. The couple knew enough English that the female was crying and saying, ‘Yes, I did it!’ or something to that extent. We didn’t stick around much longer after that.”
Who Is The Cow Now?
“When I was in Canada my mom and I booked two tickets to a local college ice hockey team. When we got there we were seated and everything was ok. Then a woman and her son showed up late, apparently, the seats we had booked were usually her seats and she was very upset. Fortunately, two season ticket holders hadn’t shown up that night and the usher said they could sit in their seats which were directly beside ours.
This woman continued to give out remarks and try to guilt trip us into giving her our seats because her son had a mental disability. All the time this was going on my mom and I were actually standing up to move over to the other seats.
This woman was very rude to us and she kept trying to use her mentally disabled son as a bargaining tool/guilt trip to get better seats.v When a break in the game came my mom and I said we’d get something from the snack shop, so we got up and got into the line.
Then the lady from beside us appeared behind us in the line demanding she be allowed to cut in front of her because of her son. At this stage we were sick of this woman’s behavior and said no, that we regret her son has the condition he son has but shes being very rude and insensitive to everyone else.
Then she called my mam ‘a fat cow’ in irish to her face, she didn’t try to hide it she just says it right to my mom’s face. My mom let it slide and said nothing.
Then at the very end of the match, the woman made some snarky comments as she picked up her jacket to go and my mom replied saying, ‘I hope you enjoyed the game,’ in Irish.
Her face DROPPED. It was beautiful.”
Eggs And A Side Of Justice
“I am perfectly fluent in both English (absolutely no Spanish accent) and Spanish. I was out to eat with my dad, who has a hard time with English so I have to translate for him quite a bit. We were having breakfast in this little hole-in-the-wall place that was heavily employed by Mexicans. Well, my dad and I were next in line to order, and there were a couple of Caucasian men behind us in line. My dad ordered in Spanish, the cashier responded in Spanish, and my dad retorted in Spanish. My dad reached into his back pocket and realized he had forgotten his wallet. I heard chuckles behind me but I thought nothing of it as I offered, in Spanish, to pay for the meal. The more Spanish that went on, the more these guys behind us laughed and snickered and muttered things like ‘freaking Mexicans,’ (except worse) and ‘maybe he left it on his lawnmower’ under their breath.
Starting to get ticked off, I decided that it’s time to mess with them. I pretended that the pen the cashier gave me, to sign the card receipt, didn’t work. I pretended to fumble around for a pen. Then, I turned to these guys and waved the pen around going, ‘uh, do, uh, do you have, euhh.’
I could tell these guys were holding back their laughter as they looked at me and said, in a very condescending tone, ‘No. We. Don’t. Have. A. Pen.’
I cleared my throat and said, ‘Oh, my apologies. It seems like you two don’t understand. What I was about to ask was if you two grown men had something better to do than to demote yourselves to adolescents in front of these fine, hard-working men as you perceive this place to be a safe zone for rude, snarky, and flat out awful comments.’
Then I signed the receipt and had a wonderful breakfast with my dad, as I waved goodbye to the two guys who had ordered their meal to go.”
Don’t Cut In Line Lady
“I had a situation while in an airport in Brazil with my wife, on our way back to Canada. Long story short I prevented some lady from cutting in front of me at the airport security line. She answered a phone call some minutes later and told the person on the other side that she was already running late and now might be even later for her flight because some ‘butthole American’ didn’t let her get in the line.
I turned and told her, in Portuguese, that I wasn’t about to let someone cut in line in front of me. She was in shock for a moment then started berating me, by saying something akin to, ‘Yeah freaking Brazilians always being rude’ (it’s part of our local folklore, and I notice it better now after living almost a decade in Canada).
‘No kidding,’ I responded without skipping a beat, ‘you were trying to cut in line.’
People started laughing and she hated it.”
Couldn’t Get Away With It
“So I spent a summer in Holland and stayed at my cousin’s place. I know enough Dutch to have a conversation and can get the gist of what you’re saying if you speak to me in Indonesian (have relatives of both ethnicities living there and here in the US).
So we ended up stopping in a Coffee Shop while we’re touristing around in Amsterdam, and the two guys at the counter were Indonesian. I spoke in my ‘happy-go-lucky-American-tourist’ sort of way (in English) and asked them what’s the best weed and such. So as I was walking to the basket where they kept papers, I started hearing some Indonesian. They were commenting on my cousin’s body, who was sitting at a table already, and what they’d like to do to her. I turned around and said in somewhat broken Dutch that I understood them and that it was not something they should be saying. Then I got her and we left.
It’s silly that they thought they could speak a language that’s really not that uncommon in Holland and say some offensive stuff within ear-shot. They probably figured since I was obviously an ‘oblivious’ American tourist that there was no harm done, but really? It’s like talking in Spanish in America.”
“The Look On Her Face”
“I had a lecture with a couple of French students in it. Two of the French students had an annoying habit of loudly conversing in French during the lecture (and this was a small class, maybe 12 pupils), and the lecturer frequently had to ask them to be quiet.
Well, come to the presentation of the final project (worth a quarter of the overall grade) and one of the disruptive French girls was giving her talk on a fairly technical topic (such was the nature of the subject). She sort of lightly passed over some of the more mathematical details, and come question time the lecturer asked her to expand on these ideas. She gave a half-hearted attempt to explain, but it was clear she didn’t know, and so she said, ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t remember the name of it in English.’
To which the lecturer replied, ‘En francais?’
Her bluff had been called. Turned out the lecturer spoke fluent French. She made a half-hearted attempt to say something in French, but it was clear that she didn’t know what she was talking about in her native tongue either. I just love that this lecturer was sitting there, understanding all their loud, rude chatter all through the semester, and bode his time until the last possible moment. The look on her face at that moment was awesome.”
No Harm, No Foul
“I’m not terribly proud of this but it was funny at the time. I’m living in Peru, and the bus stations in the city I’m in are a madhouse. The little old ladies here have elbows as hard as rocks and will smash into you and cut in front of you regardless of how long you’ve been waiting.
So my friend who was in the Peace Corps was with me in the bus station and we had been waiting in line for like twenty minutes for this bus ticket seller to get to us. My friend was beaten down at this point as she got played by the government, attacked in the streets twice, and let down by her boyfriend of 10 months-so she was tenuous at best, standing there in line with her heavy bags looking like a train wreck with a tomato for a nose (sunburn).
So we were standing there enduring the unwashed people who just press up against you when out of nowhere this woman, maybe 30, came up on us and shoved my friend out of the way with her bushels and her parcels and just settled down in front of my pal, and my pal crumpled. I barely registered the look of defeat on her face though, because I was spitting out, ‘Are you kidding me? Really?’ (With some cursing thrown in).
And this superhero friend of mine who looked like she was about to cry just stopped stock still from moving out of this cow’s way and just started laughing, she turned bright red, put her bag down, cried a little, and all the while I was cursing at this lady in English; just saying it in the most reasonable of tones, because it was making my friend laugh and I know not one of those people was going to understand me.
I said things like, ‘You’re a camel boinker, aren’t you? I bet you’re a weasel-faced queen of banging, you tiny ugly monster. You do realize you’re awful, don’t you?” and so on, in just the nicest tone.
She turned and kind of half-smiled at me like she was acknowledging that I was speaking to her in a nice voice, but couldn’t understand me, and all the while my friend was just gasping for air and the best part was the guy at the counter, who’d ignored us for twenty minutes already due to the fact that we were willing to give him a breath, whereas everyone else was crowding his beleaguered self. The lady walked up to him to get a ticket and he sternly said, ‘These nice people have been waiting politely!’ in his native language and sold us our tickets first!
It was so nice to vent in a way that harmed no one. I’m nearly completely positive that not a soul in earshot spoke any English besides us.”
Well It All Worked Out
“So I spent about a year down in Jamaica doing some work to help the locals, and I picked up a bit of the Jamaican Patois/Jamaican English. I never knew enough of the language to speak it myself, but I ended up being able to understand most of the language when spoken normally. It’s English-based, so when you get used to it, you can pick it up.
Now, I’m as white as white can be. About six feet, hefty, muscular, light brown hair, Irish. I stick out among a bunch of thin Jamaican rastas. There are about two ways you can dress down there. You can dress and act like a tourist, which is common. Then, you can dress and act like a mission worker/humanist/charity worker. The latter is less common, but still pretty well known. When I was down there, I was working and did a lot of the latter. Near the end of my time when the work died off and I had more free time, I started to act a lot like the former, i.e. dress and act like a tourist. I did it to see if I was treated any differently.
I was. Quite so. There was one time I decided to walk to a new small town and see the locals. Dressed about as American as I could be, khakis, polo, sunglasses, gel in my hair. Walked into town, tried to talk to locals with my American voice. This one group of guys started talking to themselves while I feigned a conversation with an older fellow. I was asking to have a meal with the older guy. They were talking about getting me high and seeing how I would react. They wanted to sneak something into some weed and offer it to me, just to see how a ‘typical American’ would react. They went on and on about how they were going to lace it. I couldn’t follow exactly what they were planning, as I didn’t understand fully understand, plus I was trying to hold a second conversation. Finally I finished my conversation and turned to them and said in my best Patois voice, ‘Nah just gimme that normal stuff, I’m too tired for that bull.’
They went dead silent. Then they burst out laughing. Then I got really high.”
You Never Know Who Could Be Listening
“At my high school, the head of the French classes and the head of the German classes were married to each other and were both fluent in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. It was quite common for one to drop into the other’s class and ask a quick question in Italian or Spanish, confident that the class of 13-year old British kids wouldn’t understand them. It always seemed to be something along the lines of ‘Can I borrow a green whiteboard pen?’ or similarly dull things.
Anyway, halfway through Year Nine, we got a new kid. He was quiet and unassuming and unknown to anyone he was totally fluent in all of the above languages (and more) due to a lot of traveling and living around Europe all his life. He kept his head down and didn’t mention this, not wanting to get noticed for being different.
Toward the end of the year, our German teacher came in to ask to borrow something, as was common, and the new kid (now not so new after a year at the school), stood up, waved his phone at the teachers, and replied in perfect Italian before storming out of the class. We were all mystified, but the teachers were peeing themselves and both chased after him.
Turned out that the ‘innocent’ questions and comments were actually things more along the lines of ‘Are you looking forward to the shebang tonight, baby? I can’t wait to see 20 different guy’s stuff on your face,’ or (and this is what made my classmate crack), ‘What would you do If I got [16-year-old schoolkid] to come and do you up the butt? Would you like that, baby?’ and similar comments.
Our classmate had been recording these interactions on his phone for months, and after a particularly graphic comment, one day had simply snapped and gone straight to the head of the school with his evidence of gross misconduct.
Both teachers were very swiftly replaced, but not prosecuted as they claimed any mention of schoolkids was just dirty-talk and they had no intention of (and there was no evidence of) actually involving a child in any way. They are no longer teaching.”