Xiao long bao

“Liang ge tian doujiang.” (two orders of sweet soy bean milk)

“Yi ge youtiao.” (one order of Chinese doughnut)

“Yi ge xiaolongbao.” (one order of steamed dumpling)

“Yi ge Shianghai chao nian gao.” (one order of Shanghai rice cake)

“Yi ge tangmian.” (one order of noodle soup)

“Yi ge Shianghai xian chao.” (one order of Shanghai stir fry)

I gave my orders to our waiter without glancing at the menus. I sport a habit of ordering the same dishes at all our favorite restaurants, which makes ordering really easy.

“You used “ge” for everything,” Hubby stated to me, as soon as our waiter took off with our order.

“What?” me.

“You used “ge” for everything. You didn’t use the proper counter words for the dishes.” Hubby.

He is such a nerd. I ignored him.

“Sometimes, they correct you when they repeat the orders back to you. But this waiter didn’t bother.” Hubby kept on going with it.

I stared back him, looking unamused.

Then my 12-year-old caught on to this flaw in my Chinese, and chimed in, “Wait! You don’t know the counter words in Chinese EITHER?!”

“I do!!” me.

“So I used improper Chinese. “Ge” kind of works for everything. I was just being lazy.” I shot a look to my husband.

But both kids were looking at me with wicked purpose. I felt the need to defend myself.

“Liang bei tian doujiang.” (two glasses of sweet soy bean milk)

“Yi tiao youtiao.” (one stick of Chinese doughnut)

“Yi long xiaolongbao.” (one basket of steamed dumpling)

“Yi pan Shianghai chao nian gao.” (one plate of Shanghai rice cake)

“Yi wan tangmian.” (one bowl of noodle soup)

“Yi pan Shianghai xian chao.” (one plate of Shanghai stir fry)

I repeated the order back to the kids with proper counter names. Then added with bitter indignity, “did I ever let you starve when we eat at Chinese restaurants?”

My husband didn’t know a single real word of Chinese until he met me, when he troubled himself with a year and half of Chinese lessons.

My good friend had once told me that his taking a year and half of Chinese didn’t do us any good, and she is right! His Chinese is no where good enough to converse with in Chinese, but just good enough that we no longer feel comfortable talking about him in his presence. And every now and then, he catches my improper Chinese and corrects me.

Related previous posts: Cultural Sensitivity – Burrito vs Fried Rice
White Rice Blues
The World’s worst husband-to-wife Christmas gift EVER

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