When You Can’t Understand Someone

Who’s speaking a foreign language, and it’s an inconsequential interaction (like at a street-corner) your first task is to determine whether they uttered a statement or question. If a statement, you can just smile and nod. If a question, you have to come up with a reply!

How Non-Native English Speakers Respond to "Thank You"

They almost never say "You’re welcome."

I usually got:

"Don’t worry"

"It’s ok"

"Oh, thanks"

I suppose "no worries" is the more natural expression for "don’t worry" but still, "you’re welcome" is the best response to "thank you."

What Does it Mean to "Go Shopping" When Traveling?

For the life of me I can’t understand what people mean when they “go shopping” while traveling.

In Beijing I heard a middle-aged American guy talk on the phone to another buddy who was in Beijing: “I did some shopping this afternoon….yeah tomorrow we can review the board presentation and then do some more shopping.”

Guidebooks have recommendations for “shopping” and my hosts often point me to “good shopping areas.”

What on earth are they shopping for? Even though I haven’t bought a single souvenir anywhere, I do understand people like physical keepsakes from countries they visit. Fine. But what else? Clothes? Toys? How do you have room for these new goods? The “best” shopping countries like Japan and Hong Kong are also more expensive than the States, so why mess around in a foreign currency? And in cheap places like India or China, it’s likely a fake.

Anything I would want to buy I could buy from home, either at a store or online.

Maybe it’s supposed to be an “activity” — they don’t really buy anything, but it’s part of the social experience. If this is the case, I can only think back to what George Castanza said to Jerry Seinfeld while lying in the hospital bed, “Kill me Jerry, kill me now.”

Supporting the San Francisco / California Brand Abroad

In Munich there’s the "San Francisco Coffee Company".

In Hong Kong there’s "San Francisco Steakhouse".Img_2060

In Mumbai there’s "San Francisco Jean Company".

Almost everywhere there’s California something — California Fitness, California Style, The California Hotel, whatever.

Let’s face it: San Francisco and California are luxury brands that make millions around the world yearn for The Good Life. Img_2044

WTF is a "Smart Restuarant"?

Since June I’ve been reading way too many guidebooks.

One of the things which always amuses / annoys me is how travel guidebooks need to keep inventing new adjectives. For example, “Nestled behind the Great Gate are a bunch of smart restaurants that make for a good pit stop.”

I have no idea what a smart restaurant is. Well placed? Well lit? English speaking staff?

The quest for meaningful adjectives plagues everyone from Lonely Planet to food describers to the average Joe trying to write a paper. This reminds me of my old post on all the ways a premium cheese company describes cheese (“subtly earthy” or “pungent” or “complex”).

Here’s a writing hack to jump start your descriptions: take an adjective, make it an adverb, and then combine it w/ the target word. “Startlingly cute”, for example.