Being bi-lingual is such a blessing. From birth I have had two languages: Cantonese and English.

Living in the UK has allowed me to learn English all throughout play-school, primary school, middle school, and high school. I grew up speaking English to my friends and Cantonese to my older relatives. My parents speak fluent English and Cantonese thus I am able to converse in both languages to them.

While I learnt Cantonese from young, this was mostly at a speak-only level. I heard phrases and picked them up, and also learned to understand and speak it myself. The short period of time that I did attend Cantonese classes, I found it difficult to memorise the characters. Reading it was a nightmare, and writing it was basically all copy work. Where I blossomed in my English classes; I fell short in my Cantonese ones.

In present day I get by speaking my little and broken Cantonese to my relatives, and I can understand more than people give me credit for. Recently I have been trying to converse with my aunt more in Cantonese as she speaks it 98% of the time. I take my time thinking through each sentence in my head so my pronunciation and tone comes out correctly.

While English is my main language I am always thankful to have this mother tongue. Sometimes Cantonese phrases will slip out in English conversations with my friends and I apologise because they do not understand. Now I may think twice about apologising, for this language is a part of who I am.


Working in a takeaway has taught me many things; one of which is tolerance.

The saying, ‘The customer is always right’ is only sometimes correct in the food industry. People feel entitled to free food, people can be rude and demanding, and people can complain like there is no tomorrow.

At the end of the day the business I work in consists of 3 people: my uncle, my aunty and I. I take the orders (either over the phone or in person), give these to my aunt and uncle in the kitchen, and they cook the food. I receive money from the customers, then help pack the food up in the kitchen, and bring the food to the customer. When there are delivery orders my aunty drives there herself leaving only my uncle and I in the shop. It is a small business and is family run. When I am not available to help them out; my cousin works. The business is lacking in staff but we get by.

Thus I find it frustrating when people do not seem to appreciate the hard work that is put into providing (what seems to them to be a simple) service.

Of course I cannot express my annoyance or frustrations at the customers but need to internalise these thoughts. I have learnt to tolerate people who may act rudely and not let others’ misdemeanours affect my service. Luckily there are more pleasant customers than unpleasant, who appreciate the time and efforts put into preparing and making their food. As with any job there comes a learning process, and learning to tolerate customers is a valuable skill which will benefit me in the future.


First, a little background: I work one day a week at my uncle’s Chinese takeaway where we sell various dishes of Chinese cuisine. We get walk-in customers, telephone orders to collect and telephone orders to deliver. Occasionally we get the odd difficult customer and sometimes we get the band of students who insist on making our lives difficult. Tonight was one of those nights.

A few thoughts on working on such a night and things students should take note (N.B. basically a mini rant).

  1. Pollock Halls is literally 2 minutes down the road, get up and walk down to the takeaway, save yourselves some money! Stop wasting our time with deliveries down the road when we could easily be using that time to be doing other things.
  2. Never have we said that we’re fast food: deliveries take 20 minutes minimum (when there’s no other orders and depending on location) regardless of the propinquity of where you live.
  3. Delivery has a charge even if you live next door, so don’t complain about that. If you don’t want to pay it, come in and collect instead.
  4. Please know what you want to order before you phone up, at the very least have a vague idea. Do not ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ over the menu for 5+ minutes while you decide and I have to listen to you, whilst also being backed up with customers in the shop.
  5. Be decisive. Order the soup, don’t order the soup, order the soup, change the soup, don’t order the soup, cancel the whole flipping order.. Don’t waste my time changing things around.
  6. One phonecall is enough. Leave me alone, I really can’t be dealing with you 3 times just because you’re indecisive and don’t know the prices of anything. Other customers try phoning in many times before being able to get through because you were wasting my time.
  7. Be patient! No you most certainly did not wait half an hour for your meal, the phone log says you called 15 minutes ago. Don’t tut or sound so exasperated on the phone to me, you are not the only order that we have to fulfil. Don’t phone up chasing your order, I have better things to do when it’s busy than listening to you complain about the reasonable time I said your order would get to you by.
  8. Know your address. I know that this sounds so basic that it shouldn’t even deserve a mention, but the number of students who don’t know their address is shocking. Also while I’m at it, know your phone number, know your postcode, know which buzzer on the door your flat is. This is not just restricted to students, I had a grown man give me the wrong address today (he said flat 7, 8 King’s Meadows, his actual address was flat 8, 7 King’s Meadows)… If you don’t know where you live then how do you expect us to deliver to you?
  9. Do not shout your order down the phone to me, do not shout to your friends in the background, do not shout over the blasting music from your house party, do not shout ‘WHAT?’ when you can’t hear me because you and your friends are being so damn loud.
  10. Mind your manners: don’t be rude. You move away from home to go to university and you think the world revolves around you. Reality check: it doesn’t. Just because you force your opinion it doesn’t mean you’re right. We don’t do free anything and there are no student freebies, if you’re really that lacking in funds just go and hibernate instead of squandering your money.