Lost In Translation!



Have you ever been to America and asked where the toilets are? In the UK this a perfectly normal question you would ask in a restaurant, not the case over the pond. This is the simple question of where you can go to relieve yourself; as the say in Nigeria. I know! I know! I was shocked the first time I was working a flight to Lagos and a very tall man approached me and asked:
“Excuse me, where can I relieve myself?”
Yet, I did get the gist of what he was asking me even though I had never heard the expression before, so I was able to point him in the right direction. This was not the case when I asked a waitress in New York:
“Excuse me, where is the toilet?”
The reaction I received was a befuddled face staring at me for a prolonged moment, like I had spoken in Double Dutch. After a delayed pause she eventually responded:
“What did you say?”
The question was repeated and received the same response. I tried the question for a third time. Now I started to doubt my own language skills. Am I talking Double Dutch? She then responded:
“I’m sorry ma’am but I do not understand what you are saying.”
Now I had to change my tactic, I am at the stage when I am dancing up and down trying to contain myself. How else can I word this question? Then the penny drops:
“Where is the bathroom?”
“Oh! It’s upstairs”
Phew! I was sorted.
Another entertaining lost in translation phase is a bacon sandwich! This causes my American customers the greatest perplexities. For some reason, some people can just not understand the concept of bacon roll, sarnie, bap, sandwich, cob. Even when the ingredients are broken down and explained they still do not understand! I have even physically brought a bacon sandwich to one of my customers to try for breakfast. It was a very glamorous lady who had been very successful in the world of marketing. I placed it on her table and watch in amazement as she analysed what I had laid in front of her. She then announced:
“I not sure what it is, but I’ll try it”
I have found myself in many situations across the world where I am lost in translation or misunderstandings between cultures occur. They are entertaining and expected, especially when there is a language barrier. Yet I feel a confusion as to why it happens when two countries speak the same language. I understand when there is confusion between myself and my Japanese customers with my pigeon Japanese. Though it seems to occur more between myself and the Americans. The waitress and I both speak English so why the confusion? If she had asked me where the elevator was I would have understood her meaning even though I use the word lift. I would not be offended if I travelled to Spain and a local did not understand my native tongue, so why does it bother me when I travel to the USA? Dialect and cultural differences can be so diverse even when a common language is shared. This even happens closer to home. I have a lots of Irish friends and till this day I still do not understand their meaning of the noun ‘yolk’. I suppose this  makes for a rich and interesting world. I may mock people for their lack of understanding of a bacon roll yet I am sure someone in the Philippines would mock me for my lack of comprehension for eating fish eyes (a delicacies in the Philippines, one I have never been brave enough to try.)
After years of flying to the states I now find myself accommodating to their dialect. I ask where is the bathroom or May I have the check, even when I am in the UK. Something my boyfriend mocks me for. If I ask him if he knows where the bathroom is, the usual rejoinder is:
“Are you going to have a bath here?”



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