“Why are you speaking in Chinese?”

This happened in June 2009. I had to renew my passport and get a new Chinese visa. We had finished our exams and we didn’t have class, so my friend Rhomel came with me to run my errands. Rhomel is from the Philippines and we were classmates in Beijing Foreign Studies University. Since we met in class, and in class we had to speak in Chinese (speaking other languages was punished by singing a song in front of everybody), we got used to talk in Chinese even when we were outside and the teacher couldn’t hear us.

Rhomel and me in July 2010

Rhomel and me in July 2010

So that day, after finishing what I had to do, we looked for a place to have lunch. We ended up in a McDonald’s inside a mall in Xizhimen. Rhomel and I were very close friends and we were laughing and talking the whole time while munching on our burgers. Then a Chinese woman came and asked out of the blue:

“Why are you two speaking in Chinese?”

She seemed genuinely intrigued. A white girl and a brownish guy, talking in Chinese? How could that be?

We looked at each other and laughed. In fact it was kind of weird that we talked in Chinese all the time, since we both could speak English. But we explained her that we were studying Chinese and got used to communicate in this language when we were outside of the class. She seemed satisfied and told us she had never seen two foreigners talking in Chinese with each other.