There must be no better feeling than calling someone out when they think no one else can understand them.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
"My husband is a born and bred Parisian, and has never lived anywhere else, but is half Norwegian, and looks very Nordic. When he speaks English, he has a flat, Norwegian accent instead of French thanks to his mom. I'm an American.
We were waiting for takeout at a restaurant one night in Paris, and discussing something in English to each other. Apparently, we were in the way of these girls behind us because they started speaking in French about how people come to Paris and just do whatever they want without concern about real Parisians and how we're moron tourists. They were just being total idiots about 'foreigners in their city.' My husband turned around and said in the snootiest Parisian accent he could muster, 'considering your shoddy Marseillais accent, I'd say you're the one that doesn't belong in my city.'
I've never seen someone go white so fast."
"I look super white but I'm half Cuban and speak Spanish. One year, I had some pretty terrible roommates, and I heard them talking smack about me in Spanish while hanging out in our kitchen, saying how they didn't like me and other general insults. I was studying in our living room, and so they were essentially right in front of me for their entire conversation. I said the feeling was mutual and went back to working on my school work while they stared at me with a mixture of horror and embarrassment."
"I was traveling in Austria, getting on a shuttle to go from Innsbruck to a small little town higher in the mountains. I was chatting and laughing with a few friends as I got on, my American accent on full display. There were two older women who gave us weird looks as we boarded, and we sat down across the aisle and just behind them. Almost as soon as we sat down, one turned to the other and said in German, 'Stupid American tourists are always so loud.' I was sitting nearest to them on the aisle, so I leaned forward and said in my far less perfect (but still understandable) German, 'and you're not as quiet as you think.'
It was a LONG ride of pleasant silence up through the mountains."
"I know a decent amount of American Sign Language and was in my second college course learning ASL when the following happened.
My younger sister's friend was going to buy a puppy and wanted me to go so she wasn't meeting strangers alone. The group of people we were meeting got out of the car and I realized they were deaf.
The girl selling the puppy to my sister's friend started talking to her and I was just chilling off to the side.
Another girl and a guy were off to the side. The girl was signing mad smack about my sister's friend and me being 'hearing' and just rude stuff in general. I don't remember much, but the guy noticed I was watching the conversation. He told the trash talker to quit because he thought I could understand what she was saying. She blew him off and continued.
Eventually, my sister's friend bought the puppy, and as we were saying 'goodbyes,' I signed, 'Thanks for meeting us. Have a great day, and have a safe drive home.' I swear to God, the guy that was telling the trash talker to be quiet earlier about peed his pants laughing at her. It made my day."
"I went to get my hair done at a Hispanic salon. When I walked in, I was greeted in English, so I responded in English and kept speaking English during my time in there. The woman doing my hair started talking to another stylist in Spanish. She was talking smack about me and who do I think I am coming to a Spanish salon because apparently in their twisted view, white people should only go to white salons.
Well, I'm Mexican, just light skinned.
I let her finish while she'd jump back and forth in conversations in English with me and in Spanish with the other stylist. I just let her keep talking smack. Once she was done, I got up, and in fluent Spanish, thanked her and told her I'd be sure to never come back. I walked out without paying. No one came after me."
"I'm Puerto Rican, but I tend to look Indian whenever I let my hair grow out and let my facial hair become rather unkempt.
I used to work at Target years ago, and I remember a time where I heard an older mom start complaining to her son that I was putting too many items in her bags and that I was not double-bagging them. She then muttered in Spanish:
'Stay in school, so you don't end up like this guy.'
Now, I had only filled three bags. She probably had another 20 to 25 items to go. I slowed my pace down and gently began to insert one item into two bags. Every. Single. Item.
She started complaining that I was too slow and that she had places to be, so I slowed down even more. I gently checked for the barcode and made sure that her bags were inserted perfectly into her cart.
Finally, she insisted that I scan all the items then bag them. I told her, no, I want to do this right. In Spanish.
She paused and her son just stared at her while she comprehended what was happening. From there, she just nodded her head as I scanned back to normal. She became deathly silent for the rest of the transaction. Cash or credit? No response. Did she want a red card? No response.
Have a good day? I got a 'Listen...I'm...' She didn't even finish, she just paused and walked away while her poor son didn't know what to do."
"I'm white but reasonably fluent in Korean. When I went to an orthopedist in Korea for elbow pain a translator was provided by the hospital, and I figured I might as well talk through him in case there was any specific medical terminology I didn't know. After describing my symptoms and a brief physical exam where I was visibly in pain, the translator told the doctor that he thought I was only pretending.
The thing was, he was doing an absolutely terrible job of translating even prior to that, so I quickly responded, 'and you're only pretending to know English' (in Korean). The doctor cracked a smile and the translator spent the rest of my visit sitting in his seat without saying a single word."
"I was doing a year abroad in Australia and went on a vacation with my boyfriend at the time in Melbourne. We were in the tram and he wanted to take a funny photo of something outside for a friend when this French teenager on a class trip started saying in French: 'I thought he was taking a photo of me. Well, that wouldn't surprise me, I'm beautiful and his girlfriend is so ugly. Imagine if they spoke French.' I turned to her and just said, 'Well, yeah, I do.'"
"I'm one of the palest people I know. Add blonde hair and a thick, northern UK accent, and I look like the last person on the planet to speak a Middle Eastern language. But I married into an Egyptian family, and we spend plenty of time there. My Arabic isn't amazing, but I can get by. I live for the horrified look on people's faces when I switch to Arabic.
I used to do debt collection for a utility company and had a gentleman who refused to pay his bill. He called me all kinds of horrific names. I quickly told him, in Arabic, that I absolutely wouldn't tolerate language like that and that I was trying to help him and that he was bringing shame on his family. He stuttered for a good few minutes, apologized and ended up paying. However, I got into trouble at work because all calls are recorded at the call center and management was unable to review my call because they couldn't understand what I was saying. They were worried I could have said something offensive. From then on, we were forced to use professional translation services only on three-way calls, which was an absolute pain."
"I was on vacation in Turkey in 2016. On the first day, I was at the beach like everybody would do. Of course, I didn't know my way around the hotel, so I just left my towel on the beach chair and went to my room to go on the toilet instead of aimlessly looking around the place for one. When I came back to my spot there was an older Russian couple taking the chairs next to me. I laid back in my chair, put my hat on my face, and just tried to snooze for some time in the shade.
A couple minutes later I heard the woman next to me say (in Russian), 'Look at those freaking Germans! Sleeping until noon but always having to reserve the best spots early in the morning! Freaking Nazis!'
Sometime later, I woke up and had to pee again. I put my hat on the table next to me and asked them in Russian, 'Do you understand Russian? Do you know where the nearest toilet is?' The woman was turning so red you could mistake her for a tomato. Her husband told me where to go, and so I went after I said thank you - in Russian again. When I came back they were gone.
I didn't see them again until one week later on the flight back. To Germany. In the seats next to me.
I said I had hoped that they have enjoyed their vacation and asked if they would mind me taking the seat next to the window so they wouldn't have to wake me mid-flight to get up. While I didn't get any sleep on the flight, they also didn't say a single word. It turns out they live just a couple streets away from me since we all took the same subway and tram back home after landing at the airport."
"My mom has an old mindset and can be very prejudice at times. One time we were walking home together and alongside us was a black man walking. In Spanish, she was talking smack about him about how he looked homeless and could rob us any second. He walked closer to us and in Spanish asked my mom how she was doing and to have a nice day. My mom felt extremely bad because he was so kind to her and also because she realized he understood everything she was saying about him. God bless that man. I'm always a fan of people who kill with kindness."
"This happened to my church member many years ago. She had just moved to the States from South Korea. She was out shopping with a friend and started talking in Korean about how ugly the white, bald, American man next to them was. He turned to her and in perfect, fluent Korean said, 'I'm sorry my looks and lack of hair aren't up to your standards. I hope you have a nice day.' She and her friend were mortified."
"I was recently in Malta with a friend. My friend is Bulgarian, and she has friends from all over the place there too, so we all speak English. However, I'm Dutch, and when we were eating at this restaurant, there was this one old Dutch couple, relatively close to our table. The guy kept swearing because he thought we were too loud, but we really weren't, it just seemed they were bitter and sour because they had nothing to say to one another. Swearing in Dutch is a bit special too since compared to most languages, it's incredibly harsh. It's basically wishing diseases like Cancer and Typhus to one another.
At one point, he was just kind of mumbling swear words, one after the other, pretending to look out the window, when even his wife was telling him to stop. So I turned and I asked in Dutch, 'Everything alright? Nice weather out, isn't it?' They replied back in kind, and I didn't hear him swear again for the rest of the evening."
"First time I visited Montreal was on a school trip. I'm from Alberta, and our hotel receptionist knew this. I guess she had assumed we couldn't speak French, which, looking back, was pretty stupid of her. What kind of school would send non-French speaking kids to the only French province? Anyway. One of my friends was having an asthma attack, and the receptionist muttered under her breath, 'étouffé, s'il te plaît.' (suffocate, please) To which I responded, 'Madame, parlez-vous à tous vos clients de cette manière?' (Madam, do you speak to all of your customers this way?) Not super clever on my part, but it shut her up."
"I was riding the LA Metro when I heard two women speaking Spanish. They had pale skin, so I assumed they were Europeans, that and I also couldn't recognize the accent as Mexican. I realized they were talking about me and referred to me as 'el mono' or a monkey, because of the color of my skin. They were discussing which part of South America I was from (my heritage is actually Filipino). When it was my stop, I just walked by them and as they stared at me, I said, 'Excuse me, the monkey is leaving'"
"I am 100% Mexican, but I don't look it, and even though Spanish is my native language, I speak English without an accent.
I remember back in college when I started this job as a delivery driver/cashier at this Japanese restaurant. My first day there, I was being trained by someone who was around my age. Most of the kitchen was Mexican or from somewhere in South/Central America where they spoke Spanish. As she was training me on the processes and teaching about the orders, I could hear comments from the back that were in the line of, 'Oh, I bet they're gonna bang' and 'They want each other.' It was funny to me because it was a bunch of grown men gossiping like they were in high school. I didn't really get a chance to talk to them because I was so busy learning the ropes, so I stayed quiet about that.
At the end of the day, the owner asked me if I could drive the cooks back home since it was on my way. I agreed and we all got in my car and I asked them in Spanish how to get to their place. They were silent for a second before they all started laughing and saying, 'You speak Spanish! Well, shoot, why the heck didn't you say so?'
It was a lighthearted car ride, and I enjoyed it and their company. We all became friends during my time working there, and I would often drive them home because I enjoyed talking with them outside of work."
"I went on a vacation to the Florida Keys a year ago, and I walked into the bathroom at my hotel. As I was going to go into the stall, this Cuban janitor lady saw me and told me in broken English that I couldn't come in.
I said okay, and as I was leaving she said, 'Tiene espejuelos por gusto, No ve ni pinga.'
She was pretty much saying I had glasses for no reason and that I could see just fine.
I'm a 6'1 white-skinned man with light brown hair and green eyes. Far from a typical Cuban.
I walked back into the bathroom when I heard her say that and told her, 'Miss, I'm Cuban too, I heard what you said.'
She got red like a tomato and denied ever saying anything."
"I was living in New Jersey and got into a taxi. The driver was on the phone and started talking in Spanish to the other end about me; how he just picked up some white girl and then must've answered their question of 'What does she look like?' as he was saying I was cute for a white girl. I'm very light-skinned because I take after my dad, who's Cuban. My mom, who is Puerto Rican, has very dark olive skin.
Once he got off the phone, I said to him in Spanish that he shouldn't always assume someone is a 'gringa' just because he thinks they look it. His eyes about bugged out of his head. He started apologizing and told him it was ok because he didn't say anything too bad."
"I was on a train in the UK recently, and it was pretty full. There was a French couple near me who ended up trash talking the people around them. As soon as they got to me, I interrupted and said, 'Stop. I understand you.' They eyed each other and shut up.
Another time, a former colleague's friend was on a train in France, hammered and trash talking (in English) one particular woman sitting a couple of seats behind. The woman didn't interrupt and sat there listening to it all. When it was time for her to get off, she walked by the friend and said, 'I understood every word you said.' The friend almost died of embarrassment and shut up for the rest of the journey."
"I was flying out of Poland to go see my boyfriend in the UK. I'm brown and very obviously not Eastern European (my third-world passport is also a big sign that I'm not European).
So, the people at the gates double-checked my passport and asked me if I didn't need a visa to enter the UK. And I was like, 'No, no, I know the countries that require me to have a visa, and I know the UK isn't one of them.'
Some Polish girls were behind me, discussing my immigration status. One said I was probably not legal. Now, I'm not fluent in Polish, but I know enough to have gotten a grasp of what they were saying. I just turned around and said, 'rozumiem,' which was basically saying, 'I understand what you're saying,' in very shoddy basic Polish.
They just froze. I went onto the plane and didn't really see what they did afterward."