One of the most interesting things about living here in Seychelles is meeting expatriates from all over the world and understanding other views of this country from their perspective. It really is an amazing experience, especially if you’ve been to their countries and have experienced life as an expatriate yourself. All of a sudden you feel like the tables have turned, and instead of you trying to adapt to their culture and environment it’s the other way round.
So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Ant introduced me to a Chinese expatriate living here in Seychelles. His only friends are his work colleagues and he doesn’t have local friends due to the language barrier. He even told me that he really hates living here because of the language barrier and when he was in middle school learning English, never in a million years did he imagine he’d actually need it this much in the future.
Seychelles is a wonderful place. It can also be a crappy place. But the only way to truly learn the ins and outs of a place is to understand the language enough to watch the news, read the newspaper, understand the swear words, meet people and get into all the gossip. When you can do all that, only THEN can you fairly judge the country.
My experience in China was slightly different. I spent one year specifically to learn the language (mainly written). As an international student, I was exposed mainly to other foreigners from all walks of life also learning the language. So I didn’t feel entirely alone. I could communicate with people. It became a lot easier though, when I reached that level of being able to communicate with the locals in their own language.
If you ever have the chance to learn a foreign language abroad – DO IT. It will be one of the best experiences in your life, I promise you.
Anyway, I met up with my new language partner whose name is Gang. He really is the friendliest person I’ve met this year and possibly the jolliest. Santa’s got some competition.
He’s from Shandong province. His accent is a bit different from what I’m used to – his ‘er hua yin’ is very strong, which is a northern thing but then he tends to say ‘zi’ when the word is spelt ‘zhi’ which is southern.
I placed myself in a very awkward situation when I asked him if he was Buddhist and he said “are you asking me that because I shaved my head?” on which I had to quickly reply, “no I don’t find a relation with the length of someone’s hair and their spiritual beliefs!”
Gang asked me why I wanted to practice speaking Chinese and if I feel I need it here in Seychelles. I told him that at the moment I don’t need it but that doesn’t mean it’s something I will never need in the future; be it in Seychelles or somewhere else.
Mandarin is a business language. The Chinese strongly believe in “guanxi” or business relationships rather. If you’re in business – and in a way most of us are – I think it’s an important language to learn.
Guanxi is exactly the same meaning and usage as “connections” especially here in Seychelles. If you have great connections, it goes a long way.
Here’s a humourous example of “guanxi”:
Here are the two books that I will be using to refresh my vocabulary:
…and here are two very useful links if you are learning or if you would like to start learning Mandarin: