Language…don’t call me sweaty!

I think there’s at least one thing nearly all people in intercultural relationships have in common. That is the magnificent, yet, pain-staking problem of language differences.

When I am with Rabindra and his friends, they generally are happy to speak English with me but then revert to speaking Nepalese between each other.

And of course, if we’re at a gathering and the drinks start flowing, they start to speak at a hundred miles an hour in their native tongue and forget that little old me can’t understand a thing.

Most of the time it doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get really overwhelmed and feel totally excluded.

It’s like standing in the middle of a street with people screaming at each other, hand gestures flying in the air, eyes as stark and alive as ever, but you can’t tell if they are talking about goats or their wives. 

It can be a very unnerving experience and I know that when I am in Nepal with his family, I can’t burst out in frustration and scream “speak English” as I may have done one or two times here in Aus.

At social occasions where I am meeting new people I feel utterly left out because as Rabindra explains, even though many of his friends would love to talk to me, they are shy and not confident in their own ability to speak to a fluent English speaker and therefore think they will embarrass themselves. 

So  I’ve started to learn the language. Progress is slow but I am determined!!

Rabindra is such a great teacher. NOT. Last week I asked him how to say “I feel happy”. He mumbled the sentence and I repeated it, only to find out I was actually saying “My ass is hurting.”

Here’s a few funny stories we’ve had:

–For about two months he called me “sweaty” instead of “sweety”. Yes that went down really well especially when he was trying to impress me! I started wearing heaps more perfume and deodrant during this time. I was paranoid.

–For a few months at the start of our relationship I was interpreting his ‘yes’ and ‘no’ incorrectly. Nepalese people have this style of nodding their head to the side when they are agreeing or saying yes to something. I, of course, did not know this so every time I asked him a question like “would you like me to make you some breakfast?” he would nod his head to the side, so of course I don’t make him breakfast and confusion abounds.

–Recently a Nepalese friend asked me if I had a piece of furniture she could use. I agreed, thinking she was borrowing it and would then return it. After Rabindra finished talking with her, he explained to me that we had got our wires crossed and she thought I was actually giving her the furniture!! Uh-oh. Anyway I am too embarrassed to ask for it back so I just went and bought a new one!

–He jokingly calls me alot of the rude words in Nepali and I have no idea what he is calling me. Sometime he will just rattle off a sentence and I can feel my left eyebrow rising wondering what the hell he is on about now. I know many of the naughty Nepali words and I have taught him plenty of Australian slang.

–I still get a laugh out of him every time I ask him to say “how are you going mate?”. I don’t think he will ever master that one.

Looking back, some of it is really quite hilarious and I think when we are old, we will still laugh about the problems we had understanding each other when we first met!

Even now we still get confused about certain things and I  think it will always be that way.

If you have any funny language stories, please share them here!

This entry was posted in Differences, Funny, Intercultural Relationship, Language, Nepalese language, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Language…don’t call me sweaty!

  1. Slamdunk says:

    Funny stuff. I bet being called sweaty was a laugher–at least at first.

  2. Gori Girl says:

    Aditya has developed a pretty standard American English accent and vocabulary – plus he was an English lit major in college – so we don’t get too many wires crossed when it comes to words themselves. But the deeper communication things – like your furniture mishap – are still occurring after being together for 7+ years.

    I do not envy you trying to learn Nepalese – from what I’ve heard, it’s not a particularly easy language, and the resources available to learn it are spread thin, especially compared to Hindi.

  3. Chanacoffee says:


    I am also having similar problems…mostly its the pronunciation of the words that is the problem, cuz in American english and British english there are differences. LOL

    Yeah, and the language learning, I am currently in the process of learning bengali (bangla)…its hard! and my husband mutters all sort of stupid crap to me in bangla some of it I get but sometimes not…you’ll get there, just keep practicing. I’m much better at understanding rather than speaking.

    I also get the friends self-conciousness about speaking english to a native english speaker. I feel that way with bangla, I’m comfortable speaking it at home because I know they’ll just nicely correct me, but outside its different. I’m gonna post about that later 🙂


  4. honeybeeluvsjackfruit says:

    My Jf still confuses all sorts of pastas… like calling ravioli as tortellini. Oh and for a while he called spearmint as seppermint… like peppermint and seppermint. Sometimes its super-cute. Sometimes annoying. But that’s what relationships are like, right? haha

  5. ~rangi-changi~ says:

    My husband used to always call a wallet a ‘purse’ and chap-stick ‘lipstick’ – luckily I think I am the only one who has ever heard him say ‘where is my purse? where is my lipstick?’ – lol.

    • Haha that’s so funny. Rabindra also calls his wallet a purse!!

      • kassiekarki says:

        LOL so does my husband! I worked with him on it though, to spare him the embarassment of telling his American friends he forgot his purse. He also refers to all clothes as dress. Like I need to pick out my dress instead of outfit. My favorite things he says are stuffs and cereals. He can never remember to drop the s and its cute anyway.
        Learning Nepali is hard. It’s been two years that we’ve been together and I just started getting serious about learning. Every time we hang out with his freinds or just any Nepalis anywhere, the same thing happens that you mentioned easrlier. They start out trying to include me but I slowly fade into the background somehow. I always feel totally left out. PK does his best always though. He speaks in English while everyone speaks in Nepali so that I can understand somethings. But the best solution is for me to just learn the language.

  6. Padmini says:

    I’ve been doing well learning Nepali over the past year but not so much luck with Newari, since my bf’s family are all Newars. I once tried to say “you are wonderful” in Newari and my bf became shocked and jumped back about 5 ft. He looked horrified and somewhat shouted, “Wha? Why? Where did you learn that?” I said, “did I not say it right?” very innocently and he said, “I guess you didn’t, you aren’t mad at me?” Me- “No, not at all, I said “you are so wonderful.” He said, “No you told me to go F*&K myself.” Me, now blushing and nearly falling apart from laughing, “I’m sorry.” It was at that point we switched a strictly Nepali rule. I guess in America the F word is bad enough but he told me that in Newari you’d only hear it from someone who was never really going to speak to you ever again.

  7. Prakriti says:

    🙂 I’ve been learning nepali myself and my Bhudo is also no help at all. He has agreed to spend 10min a day with me several times but the life of a grad student is busy and he doesnt have the time. Or so he says. I think its funny to hear about the confusion of the head wobble. No is side to side and yes up and down. but the back and forth for yes/ok/i understand seems to confuse people. It never did for me but I still laugh a little when I catch myself doing it. – If he called me sweaty. Id probably have corrected him right away telling him. I was not. :p I’ve actually never asked anyone to speak english for me. Many of the other women don’t know any english and I like listening to the conversation hoping the more I am exposed to it the more I will pick up. So far thats not much. Just now for example our neighbor was here and had maybe a 10minute conversation with my Bhudo. I understood maybe 1/8 of what was said. But in my defence they also where talking about their major, so even if it had been in english I may not have compreheanded anything anyway.

  8. Michelle Gurung says:

    I just found your blog. Love it. I have been trying to learn Nepali and it is slow and difficult. My husband frequently also uses the word stuff as a generic catchall when it would be better to be specific. He also adds the word “it” to many sentances where the word is not needed. I can only hope one day to Nepali well enough to have quirks.

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