I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to people in Chinese and they have responded back to me in English. Or even worse is when I talk to someone in Chinese and they act as if they don’t understand me. Living in China, this can get on your nerves from time to time.
No longer shocked
My Chinese is good, but most people are rarely shocked when they hear me speak Chinese. Since my Chinese sounds somewhat natural, the reactions have gone from surprise to just looking at me more like a person (as opposed to someone incredibly different than them self). That is strange, isn’t it? The better your Chinese is the less of a *wow* reaction you get when you speak it to strangers.
Don’t reply in broken English
How frustrating is it when you speak to someone in Chinese and they respond in English that is much worse than your Chinese? It is very, very frustrating, I can tell you. I don’t know where some people get they idea that they must speak to you in English, just because you are a foreigner. I didn’t come half way across the world just so that people could insist on not speaking their own language to me, when their English is worse than my Chinese.
In America it would be viewed as incredibly racist if someone spoke to me in English, and just because they looked Chinese I responded in Chinese. And then continued to speak Chinese as they continued to speak English to me. And if I were like a small handful of people I meet, I would continue to speak to this person in Chinese even after they had asked me to speak in English. The reverse happens to me in China. A lot.
Doesn’t bother me as much now
This used to bother me greatly, but after a long enough amount of time, I got over it for the most part. It still bothers me, but I really couldn’t care much about those who are so insistent about speaking English with me. It will be the last time they will get that chance, really, and they surely will not become my friend. A bias, yes, but one that is well thought out and backed up by experience. Usually when people are so insistent in speaking English with you, they are using you.
Communicating but not understanding
One time I had a conversation with a lady on a bus for five minutes, at which point she proceeded to tell me (in Chinese as we were only speaking in Chinese) that she didn’t understand English. What she meant by the way she said it is that she didn’t understand what I was saying, even though she did, because she couldn’t speak English, and we had already been talking for five minutes.