Zoukai = go away!


I had a good Mandarin Saturday. My confidence is high. I”m not manic/depressive, I swear.

Our dear friend A is in GZ on business so he’s staying with us for the weekend. What do men want to do when in GZ? Go to the watch market. So that’s what we did. One hour and 10 watches (A was responsible for 8!) we were getting ready to leave. Our “qualified watch supplier” has his sister meet us at the entrance to the market upon arrival and then she walks us back to where we get dropped off. I called Ben to pick us up and told him in Mandarin that we were ready. She was standing in front of me and heard me. She turned around and laughed out loud. She was so funny. She wasn’t laughing because I said it wrong, she was laughing because I surprised her with my Mandarin. She thought it was great. It was cute and only emphasizes how amazingly friendly the people are in GZ.

The best though happened after lunch. We were in a slightly more “earthy” part of town waiting for Ben to pick us up. A beggar approached us and I told him zoukai. I said it nicely but I knew what I was saying. Believe it or not this morning I found the “go away” phrase in a book and asked him Ben if it was OK to use.  I explained that I don’t want to be mean but I don’t want to give money to beggars and I want them to leave when I ask them. We discussed for a while how important it is not to give them money. He also told me that if I said zoukai to a beggar it would work because they would think I had lived in China a while. If they think you’re just a tourist they keep at it which is why I wanted a phrase to send them on their way. Anyway,  after I told the beggar to go away he walked behind me so I didn’t get to see his reaction. Anders and A  said he gave me a thumbs up several times and grinned. He muttered something so I thought he was calling me unflattering things. Anders heard him say hao de (good job). Then he stepped in front of me. He was smiling, chatting away in Mandarin, and it was very clear to me that I had shocked him but he thought it was quite funny. So in the end I sent a beggar away with no money AND a huge grin on his face. Not a bad day’s work!


About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

One response »

  1. Fiona and I looked too much like tourists and had very poor pronunciation! it was difficult to get them to leave you alone.We felt it was bad when we went to the local supermarket and within a week the beggar near the door was trying to attract our attention first in English, then German! As the days went on though he was less wholehearted about it! His reward was an empty bottle which he was delighted with as they are paid to recycle them!

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