Get it in writing!

Filed in China, Travel by on July 16, 2013 3 Comments

When traveling you will inevitably come across a multitude of languages. Sometimes you are lucky and they are derived from Latin allowing you to stumble your way through it. At other times, you are faced with scripts such as Cyrillic or Pinyin and left at a complete loss.

Such was the case when I visited China which leads me to 2 travel tips I would like to share.

  1. Always get whatever you would like to communicate in writing so that you are able to at least show the piece of paper as a last resort
  2. Be persistent. (This has nothing to do with language tips but when all else fails…try again)

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During my time in Beijing I carried around several pieces of paper in pocket ranging from the address to my own hostel to asking for directions on places I wanted to visit. The most important however, was a note asking to purchase a train ticket from Beijing to Shanghai; a ticket I HAD to get to fit into a tight schedule.

So armed with my piece of paper, I lined up at the Beijing South train station and patiently awaited my turn. Once I was at the window and handed over the paper, the attendant read it, looked up at me and said “Mei You”. A phrase I had come to learn from other backpackers to mean “don’t have”; commonly used by the locals when they simply can’t be bothered dealing with illiterate foreigners

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After a few minutes of trying to explain that I was willing to consider a train at any time and any class, I eventually moved aside.

However, not willing to give up, I found myself standing in front of the next window where the attendant was just opening up. So, naturally, I tried again and..SUCCESS; that too, for the exact train I was after. I’m still not sure what my piece of paper said, but in the end, sheer persistence and a bit of pointing was the key to success.

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  • sasha

    What would have you done if the second guy said “Mei You”

  • Ashim Ranadive

    Sasha- Probably broken down in tears.

  • vincent lau

    You need to specify whether you want a sleeper or a hard seat in this case. Oftentimes, sleepers are hard to come by. Anyway, the attendants in China are famous for being unhelpful. I don’t blame them though. Everyday, they have to contend with loads of people who don’t speak the language properly.