I have mentioned before that my ayi Xiao Wang is from Dongbei (东北, China’s northeast). I like her a lot, and perhaps one of the reasons is her impressive capacity for bluntness.
A while ago I was setting up an electric fan for her so she wouldn’t be so hot when she’s cooking in the kitchen. At first I thought it was broken, because when I pressed any of the buttons from speed 1 to 3, nothing happened. It was definitely plugged in securely in a good socket. What I forgot about was that some of these fans have a “oscillation” dial that controls degree of oscillation, but it can also be set to “off.” This means that there are two places the fan can be set to off, and if either are set to off, the fan stays off.
A little while after I incorrectly concluded the fan was broken, Xiao Wang realized the problem and got the fan working. I asked her what the problem had been. She responded, “You were so stupid! It was turned off on the direction dial.” Ah, thanks Xiao Wang. Always the charmer.
Then when Mark visited recently, she gave him a little taste of her bluntness as well:
> Your Chinese isn’t that good…. I don’t completely understand what you’re trying to say. Can people understand you in Taiwan? [source]
I can attest to the fact that Mark’s Chinese is not bad at all. Likely the main problem was Xiao Wang is not used to a variety of accents (especially foreign ones).
There was one other incident that made me feel really bad. Xiao Wang bought a bag of fresh peaches for us. She bought them on a Thursday and left them on the kitchen counter. She doesn’t come for most of the weekend, and I happened to be super busy that weekend, so I totally forgot about them. When she showed up the next Sunday she discovered most of them had spoiled. She made a big fuss about how I had needlessly let good peaches go to waste, and she had bought them as a gift for us with her own money (this I didn’t realize) for 10 RMB. She made it very clear that she was upset. I apologized profusely and ate some peaches right away from the parts that hadn’t spoiled.
Xiao Wang is a good lady, but she’s blunt to the core. Gotta love her.