People are usually pretty forward with their thoughts when they know the other person speaks the same language. But when you’re a bilinguist in disguise as a foreigner, some of the weirdest things are overheard. Reddit asked their users for their best stories, found here, and we’ve compiled our favorites below.
I was working construction (white guy in Nashville, only one on the site who spoke English). The painters were talking about my man-boobs in Spanish. So, in Spanish, I yell back across the house “They’re still nicer than your sister’s!” Dead silence, then roaring laughter. I got greeted with a super enthusiastic “Aayyyy, Gringo!” Every morning after that.
Many things overheard. But my favorite moment was early on when I first moved to Japan in 1994…. Waiting on the train platform in a rural village when a mother and her young son come through the gate. Immediately the son grabs her mother’s hand and tells her in Japanese that they have to be careful of me—that I’m a dangerous foreigner. He promised to protect her but he was hiding behind her. We had a long wait. Eventually he decided he could creep closer. Still muttering under his breath about the foreigner. So I muttered back, “I love Japanese children. They’re delicious.”
He ran screaming.
I did not feel bad about it.
I am a cashier at the local supermarket. One woman came in with her kids, and as I was ringing her up I saw her grab something off the belt that she apparently did not want to pay for. So she tells her kid in Spanish “Hurry, put it in your pocket before she sees.” So just to be a bitch, I picked up the phone and told security what had happened, in Spanish. The look on her face was priceless. It turned out to be a $30 bottle of vitamins or something along those lines.
HE SMELLS NICE THOUGH
Sat across from two German girls on a train. They said I was “7/10, maybe 8/10 if he smiled more. Looks like his mother died or something. Smells nice though”. I told them my mother was fine
ROOKIE MOVE FAIL
A friend of mine and I (both Americans) were in Sweden riding a train to our apartment. We were both fluent in Swedish, but we were talking in English, because it’s easier. Two girls get on the train and sit across the aisle from us, and they say in Swedish “Look at that guy (my friend), he’s SOOO hot. He looks like he works out, has a nice beard. I want him, I need to have him.” My friend and I both play it casual because we know that they’d be pretty embarrassed if they knew either of us spoke Swedish. Then my friend pulls out his phone and calls a friend of ours, and in Swedish says something along the lines of “Hey, just checking if things are still on tonight, call me back when you get the chance, see you later.” to her answering machine. We sat there in silence for maybe 5 seconds until one of the girls says, “And he speaks Swedish. How awkward.” Then we made small talk for a bit with these girls, until they ran off the train at the next stop.
”YOU WOULD TOO, TINA!”
I’m a black guy living in Japan. I hear things ALL the time, but this exchange remains my favorite. I was sitting on the train and there were two girls standing next to me.
Girl 1: Wow look, it’s a black guy.
Girl 2: Yeah, I’ve never seen one in person.
Girl 1: He’s quite big and scary, don’t you think?
Girl 2: Yeah…but you’d still sleep with him, wouldn’t you?
Girl 1: So would you!
Unfortunately I didn’t make anything happen from that. :/
I am a native Polish speaker living is Australia.
It was Christmas Eve and I had not yet bought my girlfriend a present. I went to one of our malls which is open 24 hours on Christmas Eve and decided to do some shopping.
The queues were ridiculous everywhere but I decided to go to the Tiffany & co. store as I had little idea what to buy my SO.
I was in line to ask for assistance with an item, it was a pen that was on display.
I was in line for a good ten minutes when a, yuppie, posh expensively-dressed, entitled Polish speaking couple are within earshot and I over heard this:
“Honey, let’s not wait in this queue and cut in front of this guy (referring to me)” and slowly they inched closer and closer in front of me and sort of merged with the queue.
I thought I’d let them wait with me for a bit before I said anything, especially because they were praising themselves on how clever they are for jumping the queue. After about 5-10 minutes when they were well and truly in front of me, I thought back to my old days, living in the grey communist flats/blocks of 90’s Poland and thought of how I would have reacted to this situation back then.
I put on my Warsaw ghetto attitude and said “A wy co, kurwa mać?”
Translating roughly to “and what the fuck do you suppose this is?”
They looked at me with shock as I directed them to the back of the queue.
I’ve always hated the wealthy Polish migrants. They have weak souls.
I have the opposite problem. Everyone assume I speak their language. In New York I have been asked for directions in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Korean grocers and 7-11 Pakistanis all assume I speak their language for some reason. I guess my slightly dark average Asian look blend in everywhere (maybe not northern Europe)
WHITE PEOPLE PROBLEMS
I lived in Western Africa, where most 99% of white folks are visitors who don’t stay long enough to learn the local language- even though English is an official language most prefer their native tongue.
One day I left my cell phone in a taxi, and had to chase it all the way to the taxi ranks. Out of breath I asked, in English, for my phone. She said she had it and I had to pay what amounted to $10. I said no, and she should give it to me, i paid my fare.
Her and the other drivers started speaking Fanti, saying I should pay more, maybe $20. I had the money. I was an American.
So I walk over to her slowly, put my hand on her shoulder and say “Auntie, Osiande me ye obroni, wo dwin m'insase fanti, a? Wo se, Dzin Pa ye sen Ohonia. A?” (Auntie, because I’m a white guy, you think I don’t speak Fanti? Your people say that a good name is better than riches, yes?)
All of the cabbies got quiet and turned to her. She just held out my phone, and I grabbed it and casually walked away to the “Ooooooo"s of all the other cabbies. From that day, whenever I took a cab in that town, they called me Dzin Pa (A Good Name)
GAMER NERD WIN
Not in real life, but I was once playing Stronghold 2 online (2v2). Apparently pretty much everyone on there was German. Anyway, I’d greeted them in English, so I guess they assumed I only spoke that, and so even though there’s no Allies-Only Chat, they felt comfortable talking about their plans with each other.
They discussed their strategies in German. I understand German. I did well that game.
UNCLE RICO’S IN TOWN
I dated a Latina girl who had no idea I understood Spanish. We weren’t together long and I knew I didn’t speak it well enough to bring it up.
One day I’m sitting at her house in the living room, her phone rings and she tells me it’s her uncle. She takes the call and process to talk in Spanish.
When she got off the phone she said something about how she misses her uncle and I respond, "is that why you said you can’t wait to fuck him?”
Needless to say that was our last day together.
My mother was visiting hers in Prague, and walked to her car with German plates. Some idiots were standing next to her car, one said: “I can’t wait to see how that stupid cow is going to get out of that parking spot.” and my mother answered “Well, if the stupid cow got her car in there, she’s going to get it out of there too, right?”