Friends who know us in person – and that includes my students who stalk this blog – know that my parents are retired Mandarin teachers. Here’s a curious thing. Ever since my Mom got hooked onto Made-in-China TV drama serials a couple of years back, she’s fond of using this new phrase – “没事”, which literal translation into English is ‘no’ ‘problem’.
I didn’t really think much of it, until my own trip to China in June this year. During our daily interactions with our Chinese hosts and at the hosted reception events, whenever we expressed appreciation and gratitude for the great hospitality shown, our hosts’ response was also always “没事没事!”. It took me a while to get adjusted to all that!
Heck. I even learned a couple more language idiosyncracies between spoken Mandarin here and over there. For instance, whenever I’m in a Chinese restaurant and need wait service, my inclination is to say “小姐”, which translates approximately to “little sister”. In my mind that’s a polite and complimentary way of speaking to a female service provider. Unfortunately, this is absolutely a NO-NO-NO in China. I was told that calling a waitress 小姐 in China is akin to saying that the person is er, a woman of the night and of questionable virtues!