Intuitively, one would think that numbers should be easily translated from Chinese to English. However, when it comes to menus in a restaurant this is not the case.

A few months ago I had once again the opportunity to go to Beijing for 9 days for a conference. During that time I could stay with a former schoolmate and friend of mine (Stefan H.), who’s been living in China for about 2-3 years now and who also speaks Chinese.

On one occasion, after visiting a “traditional” tea house, we went to a restaurant in a fairly touristy area. Stefan entered first and was asked, in Chinese, whether we want the menu in English or Chinese. As neither me and another friend who joined us speak/read any Chinese, Stefan asked for both menus. Then the waitress hesitated a bit and said, clearly in distress, that the menus were not the same. Stefan thought she meant that there were some strange dishes on the Chinese menu (read this for more information), which were probably not compatible with the European taste, but he thought “oh well, this just gives us more choice” and insisted on having both menus. Finally, the waitress added “oh, and the prices aren’t the same”.  🙂

Stefan then said, mixed with his so typical laughter, then we’d only take the menu in Chinese.