Multilingual People From Around The World Share What They Heard When No One Thought They Could Understand

Multilingual People From Around The World Share What They Heard When No One Thought They Could Understand

All around the world people speak in different languages. English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and so on.  Occasionally those same people will travel somewhere that people don't speak their language. Or so they think. Turns out, you should always act like everyone around you can understand you, even if you speak Arabic and you are in Japan. Odds are SOMEONE can probably understand you. So don't be a jerk, or you might end up like the people on this list.

Remember, Be excellent to each other!

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42. Should have punched them anyway

I’m a black American.

My dad was military and stationed in Korea from his late teens to mid-20s. He picked up on the language, and as a child, he taught me, it was like our secret language to talk around my mom with, she hated it. Anyway.

I went to college with a large Asian population, while me and some friends were in a study room a group of students came and I asked us to leave so they could use the room (in English.) There was no time limit, no signup, no nothing where they had that right. So I explained that we were here first why do they want this particular room. Then they start speaking Korean and say something along the lines of “Ugh, of course, the black bitch is being difficult they’ve been here for a while they need to leave, maybe we can lie and say the professor reserved it.”

I respond, in Korean, “Call me a bitch in English so I can punch you and everyone in this room knows why.”

Their faces turned bright red, they couldn’t say anything they just looked at me in shock and then left the room.

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41. I'm sure she appreciates the gesture, though

I was solo traveling in Morocco. I'm 22/ female and speak Arabic enough to understand conversations, basic words and phrases, etc. I was trying on clothes at a small shop and there were two women helping me choose what to try on.

They started talking about me in Arabic, saying how I would be a great wife for one of the lady's sons. They were going on and on, and as I was leaving I responded in Arabic, "No thank you, but I appreciate your help," and they were stunned.

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40. It's a small world, after all

I was in line at Disney Land California with a group of Japanese teenage tourists were ahead of me in line. I speak Japanese, so I could understand that they were making fun of Americans. They were mostly saying things to the effect of, "On TV they seem so cool, but all of these Americans are so fat and ugly." They were laughing and even occasionally pointing at people.

I was just staying quiet but then one of the cast members who evidently also spoke Japanese walked up to them and told them in perfect Japanese, "You guys should really be careful, most Americans can speak Japanese."

They all froze up and looked around at people, many of whom were giving them dirty looks. I nodded at them like I was backing him up, and they were horrified. They all left the line promptly afterward.


39. Who knew Flemish was so specific

Flemish guy here. Working as a safari guide in Kruger area, South Africa.

One time, my boss asks me to go pick a family of 4 up at the Klaserie reserve gate, do an afternoon game drive with them, and drop them off again afterward. This was very uncommon; normally we only do game drives with people that book a room in our own lodge on the reserve.

So I pick them up, introduce myself and go over the rules, all in English. They reply in English, or at least the dad does, and normally I can pick up straight away if it's someone from France, Belgium, Holland or Germany. But his English was Oxford English. So I thought; English people. Off we went!

10 minutes into the game drive I hear them speak in Flemish, and not only that, IN MY OWN DIALECT. Side note; every Flemish town has a dialect, we can hear what region/province other Flemish people are from, and if from the same region, we can often even pinpoint the exact little town or community they are from.

Oooh I was going to have fun with these folks! Found a few nice animal sightings, spoke English all the time, but then one sentence to the next, switched to their exact dialect. I thought; now they're going to be surprised! But nope... we all kept chatting in Flemish now. Only 20 minutes later, the daughter, maybe 10 years old, goes "wait a minute; he speaks Flemish!"

After all, had a good laugh, I asked them where they were from. They literally lived one street away from me. It's a small world, folks!



38. He handled that very diplomatically

Here in India, I was in a lift, and there were 2 women inside. Later, an African man stepped in. The 2 women started making fun of his skin color and his country, in Hindi. They exited on the next floor.

A moment later, the guy started talking to me in Hindi. He said he has been living in India for 5 years and is a diplomat. He said that people say this in many places where he goes.

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37. Is that a confidence boost

My best friend is Vietnamese but apparently looks Chinese and most nail places are run by Vietnamese. Whenever we go, she texts me what they're saying if it's something funny or interesting.

We went to one for mani-pedis, never been before. We looked through the menu and told the woman what kind of pedicure we want (what scent and specials we want) and also ordered a glass of wine each.

The manager walks by a while later and talks in Vietnamese to the ladies that were finishing up our pedicures. My friend starts texting me that he is freaking out because we were served alcohol and nobody checked IDs. He's saying that there is no way we could be of legal age and he could get fined. He called us baby faces and said we were high schoolers. I was celebrating my 27th birthday with my 26 year old friend.

The conversation went on awkwardly back and forth as they tried to figure out what to do. Finally, just before going back for my manicure, my lady asked for my ID and looked relieved. Whoopsie.

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36. Crazy how McDonald's is teaching people English

I am a Canadian Aboriginal. When I was 18, I spent the year in Germany. This was due to the fact that from age 3, I was raised by a German immigrant family, and thus picked up the language and culture at an early age.

During my time in Germany, I got a job working at McDonalds. As usual, I started on the fry machine, worked up to the grill, and then someone realized that as a Canadian, I am fluent in English! They then put me on the front till, as there is no end to the Americans that frequent McDonalds when overseas.

American customers would come to my till, and in a loud, exaggerated and slow voice, with giant hand movements, would lean toward me shouting, "I would like a BIIIG MAAAC and a LARGE FRIES!" I would punch their order into the till, and respond with, "OOKAY! Are you eating it HERE, or will you be TAKING it WITH YOU?!"

At least a dozen jaw drops per shift from astonished Americans!


35. This takes the cake for the dumbest people on this list. Literally everyone speaks English

I'm Irish and I'm studying in Spain at the moment. I was in a restaurant the other day with my friend and there was a group of English guys beside us. My friend and I were speaking in French, so they must have assumed we were French or didn't understand English.

They started shouting about how hot my friend and I were and how I have a better chest and she has a better butt. I think they were deliberately using a lot of slang in the hopes that even if we did speak English, we wouldn't know English slang (I do because I have an English housemate).

My friend doesn't speak much English, but I told her what they were saying and started loudly talking (in English) about how there are a lot of English speakers in this city and people should watch what they're saying because they never know who can understand them. They went completely silent and beetroot red. Bunch of idiots!

Why they would assume that nobody in this city can speak English is beyond me. It's a university town with a high international population!

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34. Love a wholesome story like this

My family is Italian, I don't speak the language but have a pretty good understanding after listening to my Dad and Nonna over the years.

We went to Italy to visit family and my great aunt was talking about how she was so happy to meet us and she asked her son if we could understand her and when I said yes she broke into a huge smile and gave me a hug it was so sweet.


33. Had a good laugh with this one

I am a Polish-speaking Mongolian, currently residing in London.

Once I was in Kew Gardens enjoying a cuppa next to this lovely Polish couple, obviously tourists planning their route through the garden. After a while I noticed the guy left his hoodie behind, so I tracked them down to one of the places they were discussing earlier and casually handed him his hoodie back, with " I think this is yours..." in fluent Polish. He was utterly flummoxed and just stood there with his mouth wide open for a minute or two. Forgot to thank me even.

I love their expressions when that happens!

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32. I've been told that the best way to learn Japanese is to be born Japanese

African-American English speaker here. Married a Chinese woman who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin. However, we took a trip to Japan on our honeymoon. I speak fluent Japanese. She speaks none.

Went to a restaurant in Roppongi. The waitress approached us and began her evening script of the menu, specials, drinks, etc. However, she was speaking directly to my wife. I guess thinking that since my wife was Asian, and I was not, that she spoke the language. My wife was super confused. When the waitress finished her speech with, "What can I start you with today?" my wife had no reply. The waitress began to look confused and ashamed as if she had done something wrong.

It wasn't until I chimed in with, "My wife is Chinese, but I'd like to know what's on your wine menu tonight, please" that everyone had a good laugh. Though both of them still had a confused/cautious look on their faces.

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31. Honestly, should have kept your mouth shut and took more of his money

I'll try to simplify this for non-poker players but just know that 8s beat 7s. I was in Detroit and playing cards for a little higher stakes than I'm used to and this obnoxious group of Lebanese guys come to throw their money around. They weren't good at all, just bet big and bluffed a lot.

I took a stand with pocket 8s and ran into a flop of (4 10 J rainbow) I called a big preflop raise of 50$ (4 ways) and dude shoves all in for 450$ more. Everyone folds around to me and I think for a bit. His friend asks what he has (against the rules) in Arabic (against another rule) and he answers "sabaa sabaa" which means 7-7.

I look up and say "call" and tell him "shukran" (thank you) in Arabic. I'm Asian, so it was obviously unexpected. The table erupts in laughter and he actually was a good sport about it. He got roasted by his friends for the rest of the night and most of the people there just ended up taking their money anyway.

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30. That's really cool

I’m Romanian and an architect, and in western Europe a lot of construction workers come from Romania. So a few colleagues of mine invited me to this party on a construction site (in Germany we have a celebration once the structure stands) the Richtfest, asking me to basically eavesdrop on the Romanians to find out how work went and if they were complaining about the architects or whatnot.

Didn’t hear anything negative from the Romanians all night so as they were preparing to leave (early, right after dinner), I bummed a smoke off one of them... in Romanian. They were thrilled!

Finally someone could translate between them and the other workers and planners and they were SO proud of their work and so happy to be able to communicate with everyone so we all (architects, clients, workers, engineers) partied super hard and had the best time I’ve ever had on a construction site.

My colleagues then reported that the work continued with a lot of new motivation the following day and good times were had by all.

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29. This list is making me think I should learn more languages

My husband grew up in multiple countries and, though his English is pretty heavily accented, it's a sort of unidentifiable hybrid of all the countries where he learned it in school (he didn't move to the US until he was in his late 20s).

When we went for our wedding rings and in walks super-white me and my very Latino looking finacé. It's a tiny little shop and the two proprietors begin to talk amongst themselves in Hebrew (one of my husband's "first" languages) about how much they should charge. The first says, "it should be at least $650," the second says, "tell him it will be $700 at least," "maybe, $750, I can try that." My husband says, in Hebrew (but with a smile), "I'll give you $500." They just froze, and everyone laughed and we went into a more open negotiation. We paid $600 and I think everyone was happy.

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28. Awww that's a cute story

I must have been about 8-9, and we were returning from a vacation in Agra. We were traveling by train and there was this lovely family seated in front of us (they were British, I think) My mom was asleep and I was reading Champak (A kids story magazine in India used to be very popular in the 90s). They were talking amongst themselves and suddenly one of the girls looked at me and said: "She's so adorable."

So instead of doing the proper thing i.e. say thank you, I blushed hard and pretended to go to sleep. If, by chance, you guys are reading this, Thank you, that memory still brings a smile to my face.

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27. Because no one in an airport may be traveling

Some workers at an airport restaurant were saying VERY inappropriate things about my sister in Spanish. The women were criticizing her appearance (arguing with the men) who were saying VERY inappropriate observations about what she was wearing and what they would do to her.

I ordered in Spanish, workers all went silent and looked stunned. I asked detailed questions about the food/menu in Spanish so that they understood I knew everything they were saying. I gave her my credit card, but she never swiped it, and a $40 (airport) meal was free. So at the end of the day, it was a win.

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26. New York City is the one place you should always assume at least someone speaks the same language as you

I was in New York, and entered one of those electronic stores. I asked the price of an item in English. The guy at the counter turns to another guy who on a ladder stocking items and asks in Hebrew how much he should charge.

I speak Hebrew, so I'm following their dialogue. The guy on the ladder looks and me and notices that I am following them with my eyes, then he switches to Arabic. I don't speak Arabic. The counter guy tells me the price in English. I say "too expensive" in Hebrew and leave.


25. Based off all the other stories on here I thought he was gonna try to scam him

I live in India and I don't really look too much like the people in my home state, so people always assume I'm from another state or another country and don't really understand "their" language (Tamil, for those curious), despite it being my mother tongue since I was BORN there.

Here, the transport buses have a 'conductor' dude from whom you buy a ticket. So I was traveling in one such bus and I was approached by the conductor to buy a ticket.

Seeing me, he assumed I didn't know Tamil and tried his best to ask me to purchase a ticket in what little English he knew. He could've just said "Ticket" and I would have got it, but instead he tried to form a sentence along the lines of: "Ticket... You can... have..?"

I just smiled and told him that I'd like to buy a ticket for the place I was going to in regular Tamil with the appropriate slang.

All of a sudden, he had this huge smile on his face and handed me the ticket. He then asked me where I'm from, in Tamil this time, to which I responded that I'm from this state.

He did a double take, but then nodded happily and went on to the next passenger.

Not gonna lie, it felt pretty cool to me.

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24. Teenagers sure are dumb

So I wouldn’t consider myself fluent in Spanish but I do speak and understand enough to know when people are talking about me and the general topic.

So I was servicing an ATM in a rather sketchy neighborhood. While loading the machine a school down the street must have just let out and a whole group of teenagers came in, all speaking Spanish talking about teenager things. Well a few of them noticed the $5k in fives I had in my hand and started loudly talking to his friend how that was the most money he’s ever seen. Now I get this reaction a lot so I was going to ignore the kid but right after that, his friend started talking about going home to get his dad’s pistol to put 2 in the back of my head, steal the money, then use it to buy a bunch of illicit substances and video games.

Of course, these kids don’t think I understand them at all (white guy in a Hispanic neighborhood, most don’t think I understand their language in my experience). So I calmly lock everything up while they continue making plans to kill me and rob me, finish with the machine, then turn to them with my hand resting on my gun and tell them in Spanish to go home and don’t talk about murdering and robbing a person right in front of said person. It’s quite rude and could possibly get them hurt in the process. They nearly pooped themselves and I walked out of the store laughing about it.

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23. How do people get satisfaction from being so rude for no reason

I am Greek but study in Belgium. Greeks are notorious for talking about people loudly when abroad. The language is rare enough that most people including myself usually feel comfortable doing that. The only problem with that logic is, there are so many of us around the world, it's generally not a good idea.

So I get on the tram one day and there's this woman (30s) sitting across from me who says to her friend very loudly and in Greek: "What is that supposed to be, a boy or a girl?" (Context for non-Greeks: we have a third, neutral gender that we use for objects, animals, or when talking about someone in a very rude and derogatory way. That is what she used, and in a very mocking tone as well). So I very calmly validated my ticket, and as I was walking away I reply, also in greek. "It's a girl. And it speaks Greek as well."

Her face was hilarious. She just made a mortified "Ah" sound and didn't utter another word until she got off a few stops later. I love this story, but it kind of terrifies me as well. I avoid talking about other people, but I do tend to have very personal conversations with my greek friends in public places, confident that nobody understands, even after being myself proof that it's not very safe.


22. Got him good

I lived in Japan when I was little and retook Japanese in college so I didn't sound like a child when I spoke. To solidify my new language skills, I went to my "hometown" for about 6 weeks a summer in college. It was a small town so most people remembered me or my family, but some people I stayed with (6 weeks, 11 families that at least wanted me to spend a night in their home) were new to the area since we left 15 years or so earlier.

One of these families had a high school aged son who wanted to borrow me for his high school's International Festival. No problem. I'd go and let other high schoolers practice their English with me and do carnival games and stuff.

However, the guy apparently did not get the message that I spoke Japanese and proceeded to introduce me to all his friends as his girlfriend. I let him have his moment for the night (without leading him on), but on the train ride back to his home, he was talking to his friend in Japanese and I joined in on the conversation. Also in Japanese.

The embarrassment on his face was worth knowing all his friends thought I was his girlfriend.

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21. What a strange turn of events

This was during the Christmas season. I was walking with my friend to a local bar. There were a few Russians standing outside there home smoking and one or two had a drink in their hand. As we walk passed a gentleman says, “ what are you looking at handsome guys,” in Russian. It’s meant to come off like what are you looking at. I turn around and say, “ I completely understand Russian.” Suddenly they get cheerful. The gentleman gives me a hug/handshake. I was then offered a drink and smokes.

It was hilarious, especially to my friend who didn’t understand Russian.

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20. For every one he gets caught, he gets away with 10, though

I'm an extremely white American man. I was stationed in Korea, and a buddy and I went into a store that was slightly "off the beaten path". My buddy was in a different section of the store and found something he liked. He asked the shopkeep how much it was, the shopkeep said, in Korean "well, you're an American, so $65" (translation and currency exchange provided for ease of reference). I looked over, and saw a sign on the wall that said the exact item he wanted was $40.

I approached the shopkeep and asked him, in Korean, how much it cost, to which he replied $40. So I responded, in Korean, "Why are you charging him $65?". He got rather embarrassed and apologetic, offered to sell the item for $35, and gave us each a soft drink for free.


19. So many people speak Spanish, it’s like speaking English in being confident that nobody understands you

Happened to my wife when she worked at McDonald's. She looks a little on the Asian side but is from Guatemala. Group of Spanish speaking people pay at the drive through and try shortchanging her. The driver says "esa maldita China no save contar". Wife takes the money and very politely says they are short in Spanish. The driver turns red while passengers couldn't stop laughing.


18. This article could literally just be called "Don't scam people"

I lived in Riga for a short while and went out almost every Friday to meet girls. Riga has a lot of visitors from the UK and I've spent a chunk of my time in the US, so I generally speak English in the center. I feel more comfortable using it. However, I also speak Russian perfectly well.

So I'm drinking in a bar and all of a sudden some cute Russian girl comes up to me and starts speaking English to me. She invited me for a drink with her and her friend. I didn't really have anything else going for me that night, so I agreed.

What followed is an hour of them trying to make me buy them a Dom Perignon bottle and some really dirty talking about what one of them would do to me if I agreed. They also talked to the bartender (who knows me fairly well) how they're gonna rip me off big time and that I'm a foreign idiot.

I ended up buying them 4 drinks total out of decency. It was a lot of fun for a while, I'll give them that. Eventually, I got really tired of it all and my friend hit me up, so I just switched to Russian, thanked them for a nice evening and left.

Their faces were red from embarrassment and anger.

Oh well.

Don't scam people.

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17. Gotta love people who tell you how to parent your own kid

I live in Austria, but my dad is from Brazil, all my Austrian aunts and uncles married a Brazilian. My grandparents from my mother's side opened and lead a factory of our family company in Brazil, that's why everyone was there, but some eventually came back to Austria, just like my mom with my dad. Me and my siblings were raised multilingual but lived most of our life in Austria.

So once when I was around 10 my Mom and I were on a tram in Vienna with my little brother, who was around 2 at the time, in a stroller and he starts crying, really loudly. Then one Brazilian lady starts speaking really loudly and in an obnoxious tone something in the lines of: "Well, these European folks don't know how to treat their children with love, how can someone be so cold and unaffectionate to a child as to let them scream without taking them out of the stroller and holding them?" (We were standing btw, there was no seat big enough at the time where we could leave the stroller) Sooo, I was getting worried we were doing something wrong, I wanted to comfort my brother and get him out, but my Mom stopped me and really loudly said in Portuguese: "Leave him, it is too dangerous to take him out of the stroller while we are standing here and the tram is moving"

You could see the woman's face go from red to white and back to red, get up and get out so fast at the next exit that we just started laughing and my brother ultimately calmed down.

Not really exciting, but I find it funny when I think back.

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16. Nothing angers the Irish more than being confused with the English

My neighbors went on holiday with her sister's family in Spain. The sister can speak fluent Spanish (they're Irish). Apparently, a tour guide in Spain started talking about them referring to them as "those English bitches". They were never ones to let anything slide so an argument broke out very quickly.

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15. It’s never smart to assume an American can’t understand your Spanish

My husband is the bilingual one, not me. He’s from Colombia so he speaks Spanish fluently, but grew up in the U.S and has been here most of his life. He also has a really fair complexion. Most people think he’s just Caucasian.

Anyway, we were in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico looking for a place to eat. We get to a restaurant and he asks in English how much it would cost for all you can eat tacos. The guy at the door said it’s $15. His friend next to him said to the guy in Spanish, “I thought it’s $12?” And the first guy responded, “Yeah, but they don’t know that.”

My husband, of course, understood everything. He told them in Spanish that they’re lying rip-offs and we’d be going somewhere else. The guy’s expression was priceless.

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14. But did you get her number

I went to a psychiatric emergency ward once and asked for help and if they were comfortable to speak English.

I understand Danish but have a hard time making myself understandable in it and didn't really feel like an idiot at a crucial time of my life.

I stayed there for 4 days without anyone realizing I knew what they were saying about me right in front of me. Two of the nurses thought I was cute, a doctor thought I was lying all the time, and a patient thought I was a spy for the staff.

A lot happened in those 4 days. It made my stay way more enjoyable then it should have been.


13. I legitimately can't understand the mindset of someone who goes around being mean to people just because they think they can't understand them

My significant other is a tattoo artist who can speak Bulgarian, Turkish, English and German.

One day we were queueing in the supermarket and two guys behind us were laughing and snickering. She turned around and said something to them. Afterwards, she was laughing while one of the guys went bright red.

Later I asked her what that was about. The guys were like "Look at her arm. Those tattoos. Disgusting. How can you tattoo a naked woman on yourself?" In Turkish. My significant other turned around and said "Thanks bro". So first the guy asked her to repeat because he didn't even register that she could be speaking Turkish and assumed he misheard English. That's when she said, "For the tattoo opinion".

It was funny from there. The guy apologized and said he has never felt so much shame in his life. His friend was saying at least buy them (my Significant Other and I) some beers.

This was in a small town outside of Dublin city, so I can understand why they didn't think there would be any Turkish speakers around.

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12. Seems like Hebrew would not be uncommon

I was on the subway in NYC a few months ago when a family sitting across from me was playing I Spy in Hebrew with their kids. The parents went around describing each person they saw on the train, so when they got to me I decided to play along. I looked up from my book, made a funny face, and covered my face with the book before the kids could find me. The parents started laughing and said to their kids: “I spy someone who understands us!”

The parents and I shared a good laugh about it while their kids got really excited that someone else spoke Hebrew. They never figured out who it was, but it made my commute a lot more fun!

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11. Nowhere is safe

My late best friend, who was big tall and blond, was in Tim Hortons. He speaks fairly fluent Arabic, having spent 7 years working in Saudi Arabia. Three Arabic men were sitting at a table making very lewd comments about the women in the shop. My buddy turned to them and said in Arabic; "You need to shut up before someone kicks your teeth in. You never know who is listening."

They got very confused, and left soon after.

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10. Burns like hot coffee in the lap

Moved to Thailand and took extensive language training. I was drinking coffee in a quiet shop and the barista and the waitress started guessing my age... Where I was from... Why I came there three days in a row (lived close by). And I was thinking, "Cool... They think I'm cute... How flattering."

Then the barista said, "But he is a little fat..." so when I left I told her my age and home town. When she brought the change back I told her that yes... "I am a little fat."

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9. Revenge is best served in cold cuts

My great aunt told a story of how she once went into a butcher shop. When she walked in, the butcher was talking with a customer in Russian (which she spoke).

The butcher saw my great aunt walk in and told the customer (in Russian) that he'd take care of this "old hag," and then continue the conversation.

So my great aunt (in English) asked for pounds and pounds of cold cuts, all sliced and wrapped. When it was all ready, she told him (in Russian), to "Shove it up your butt" and walked out.

I loved that woman

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8. Can we get a doctor in here, because she just killed those guys

My dad speaks 5 languages (English, Afrikaans (similar to Dutch), French, Italian, and German). He emigrated to the UK in early 1995 when a lot of other South Africans were doing the same due to embedded racism of a fledgling nation... But I digress. He was on the underground in London when he overheard two guys speaking about a pretty woman on the train in Afrikaans - my dad's native tongue. According to dad they were being incredibly rude and using quite graphic descriptions of what they wanted to do to her. My dad decided to speak up, and told them to "cut it out, and to not speak to people that way, they don't know who is listening."

The two guys looked horror-struck and shut up immediately. The lady turned to my dad at her stop and said, in fluent Afrikaans "I bet they couldn't do half those things with their tiny junk"

My dad just laughed in shock and watched her get off the train.

Pretty hilarious

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7. Honesty is the best policy

My dad grew up in Egypt and now travels the world for Dole (the fruit company). Once he was in Morocco at a plant who were possible suppliers and they tried to deceive him. They showed him the safety guidelines that were written in Arabic, but were describing different standards in English.

My dad doesn’t look like a typical middle easterner and has a very non-descript accent, so they thought they could fleece him. After the dude was done talking my dad says “that’s not what it says” and the guy says “what do you mean”. My dad repeats the statement but in Arabic. The guy apparently dropped his jaw and all he could say was “you speak Arabic?”

Needless to say, the Moroccan plant did not get the gig.

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6. One of the cuter stories in this thread

When I was doing my exchange studies in China (native Russian), I was riding a subway in Shanghai. At one of the stops a mother and her daughter sat beside me. The daughter was maybe 4 or 5 and she wouldn't stop looking at me, then without turning her head, she started asking her mom, "Mommy why is mister so strange? Why is his hair strange?" and so on.

I didn't react as if I didn't speak Chinese, and the mother patiently told her daughter, "Mister isn't strange, he's just a foreigner, they look different". I thought it was really sweet so I started talking to both of them in Chinese. They were very nice and I hope they're doing great now.

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5. Being nice to people shouldn't stop just because you don't think you share a common language

My dad is a very white guy with an equally white Irish last name but was born and raised in India. He speaks a variety of languages (Gujarati, Hindi, Konkani, English, Portuguese etc.). He was at an airport and sitting across from two young Indian women. One was saying to the other in Hindi, “Look at that fat old white guy over there”.

My dad got up, walked over to them and greeted them in Hindi, proceeding to make small talk about their flights and days. From his telling, there was a mix of shock and absolute embarrassment coming from them. He smiled and walked back to his baggage.

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4. Be careful what you talk about in public, someone may understand you

I was a high school student in Toronto, but I speak Slovak, which is similar to Czech and polish.

I was going to school on the subway in the morning and two good looking women started to talk in polish right next to me.

I usually like to strike up conversations with fellow central/Eastern Europeans. Unfortunately, they started talking about how one of them has had a burning pee problem.

With nowhere to move on the packed subway and no headphones, it was an awkward thing for a 15-year-old to hear from 2 ladies. It got a little worse later when they started to talk about women problems. Now I have no issues with that convo nowadays of course, but 15 year old virgin me was a bit mortified.

A long 45 minutes.

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3. Señora Dracula

I work as a cashier, and this happens to me all the time. Sometimes we randomly get a big rush, and I have to page other cashiers for help while I'm trying to cash out at least 20 customers, each one with a cart load of crap in them. I'm one of the 3 fastest cashiers they have, so I'm doing my job pretty well. While 2 other cashiers open, my line thins out a little.

Then arrived Señora Dracula herself.

She's speaking in Spanish, which I understand perfectly.

She's seeing the lines and starts cursing and grumbling about "these stupid cashiers can't go any faster than this?" We're doing our best, and as much as I wanted to tell her to shut up, I tried to focus on my work. She goes on and on about the cashiers being too slow, the items in the store being too expensive, the people here being rude, and all sorts of things all in Spanish.

Finally the time comes for her to step up and I notice she's with her daughter, a young woman in her early 20s who is very friendly with me. When I ask them if they found everything they're looking for, if they'd like to purchase a bag and the regular stuff, Señora Dracula explodes. "Tell her of course we want a bag, what are we stupid? Ask her she's going so slow. What in the world is she wearing? She looks terrible!"

I do everything I can to bite my tongue and just keep scanning with a smile on my face. The daughter is clearly embarrassed and she's telling Señora Dracula to shush. Señora Dracula continues with a huff. "Why? She can't understand me!" She turned to me with a smug expression and leaned in. "Isn't that right? You can't understand what I'm saying, you stupid uncultured cow."

Every fibre of my being wanted to tell this woman to shove it, but I needed the job and I kept quiet. After charging them and giving them back their change, the woman glanced around and kept asking her daughter to ask "the stupid cow" (me) where the exit was.

"Pueden salir por alla," I said. (You can exit through there.)

Señora Dracula's jaw dropped. I just pointed politely towards the exit.

Her daughter let out a laugh, and Señora Dracula just huffed and stormed off, screeching that if I knew Spanish I should've just spoken back in Spanish. She does come to the store every now and then, and every time she comes to my line I speak to her in English, even when she tries to get me to respond to her in Spanish. It enrages her and it makes me oh-so-happy.

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2. Not so great Danes

I'm Danish but I grew up in California. When I was fifteen my family went to Six Flags for a day of fun. While we were waiting in line, we heard these guys behind us talking in Danish. They started making lewd comments about my sister and I because we were wearing shorts and tank tops due to the heat.

My sister and I decided to give them a little more rope to hang themselves. Finally, one of them said he wanted to plow my sister like a tent pole. That's when my dad decided to teach them a lesson.

He turned around, leaned over, and told him calmly  that if they tried anything he knew how to break every bone in their bodies. My sister added that he wasn't her type anyway. My mom and I just laughed and told them next time don't assume you're the only ones that speak another language.


1. Chicken and bacon are a classic combo

I live in England but I come from Poland and am fluent in Polish alongside English. A couple of days ago I was ordering at a Subway when two Polish employees started talking.

It went something along the lines of "this fatty wants chicken AND bacon" and they laughed (on a side note I feel like that's not that uncommon of an order, right?). When it got to putting vegetables on the sub, I gave my order fully in Polish with a big smile on my face.

The order cost me £4.80, but the looks on their faces were priceless.

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