Sunday, 18 February 2007

Meet The Parent

Well, tonight's the night. It's Chinese New Year, so I'm finally getting the opportunity to meet the boyfriend's (Mr Coffee, for the purposes of the blog) Dad. Errrh-hum.

Several nerves have to be calmed, not least surrounding Mr Coffee's reaction at being given this blogname. I was tempted to name him after the Chinese New Year and call him Mr Piggy, but Mr Coffee seemed safer, even after I'd enumerated the great qualities of pigginess.

Now, first hurdle to be crossed: I don't speak any Chinese. Zilch. Zero. I have been practising diligently saying "Happy Chinese New Year!" in Cantonese for over two weeks now and I think I have said it about four thousand, seven hundred and ninety one times incorrectly, at last count. I tried ringing up the Guiness World Book Of Records to report this, but the line was engaged; I suppose there were a whole lot of other people practising their "Kung Hei Fat Choy's" around the same time and making complete idiots of themselves.

I had a great idea to make a whole heap of placards (with help from Mr Coffee) in Chinese, with some stock phrases on them: "Happy Chinese New Year!" "That's Nice" "Interesting Sir" "Delicious Meal" "May I be Excused To The Ladies'" "Sorry for spilling my beverage down your trousers sir" "Of course the economy is screwed and politicians are a waste of hardworking taxpayer's money" (plus the "I'm a mute and these placards are the only way I can communicate with the outside world" placard).

A mutual friend suggested to me that this was probably not such a great idea as I was likely to get these mixed up in my enthusiasm and I'd probably hold up the "Delicious Meal" placard when I really meant "Sorry for spilling my beverage down your trousers sir" which could convey some rather mixed messages, especially if I held up "That's nice" at the same time.

I decided the best course of action was to sit there and smile inanely and nod - but what if they were talking about granny's almost-fatal heart attack while I was smiling inanely and nodding?

The mutual friend said the formula for meeting with the boyfriend's parent was "Respect and deference ... Laugh at his jokes and wonder at his wisdom."

I'm just hoping I don't mix that up and wonder at his jokes and laugh at his wisdom.



Friendless said...

How did it go?

Maria said...

The one good thing that came out of it is I now have a lot more compassion and empathy. That is, I empathise strongly with Ben Stiller's character, Greg (Gaylord) Focker, from Meet The Parents.

I thought I ought to have, "Kick Me - I'm going to do something dumb AGAIN - beat me to the punch and give me a punch" tattooed on my forehead.

That being said, his Dad was actually quite a nice person.

righteous said...

Why not take Chinese lessons? Would this be well received by Mr Coffee as a gesture of commitment or would you be suspected of being 'tryhard'

righteous said...

Why not take Chinese lessons? Would this be well received by Mr Coffee as a gesture of commitment or would you be suspected of being 'tryhard'

Maria said...

I think I would come across very well as 'not trying hard enough', knowing me, and 'making an idiot out of myself' for another.

But 'tis a valid suggestion, righteous, and one with which I shall toy.

Would I rather be a bigger fool than I seem, or seem a bigger fool than I am? Hmmmmm ....

Also, how many swear words/sexually suggestive words can you accidentally say in Chinese when you're actually trying to say "My condolences on the death of your great-aunt". This is important information, I need to know whether to risk attempting to be suitably sympathetic at funerals and risk getting uhrled into the grave, or to pretend to be a mute. (No, no one's died yet, no one I have to attend a funeral for soon, but it's always best to be prepared.)

Maria said...

Plaintive cry - Why, oh why, couldn't the parent be a bit nervous to meet meeeeeeeee for once!?

Anonymous said...

Cantonese sounds awful! You don't live in HK, so why bother. Learn Mandarin which will probably last longer than Mr Coffee.