I have a thing for Chinese food. Not the fancy Chinese restaraunts with the nicely folded napkins and wine glasses. For me, the smaller the restaraunt, the better. You've seen the ones with only one table and a chair inside. Or the ones in the food court with the nice lady handing out sesame chicken samples. That's what I'm talking about.
So a few weeks ago, when we made the short trip over the border to Hungary and went to an American looking shopping mall, I was ecstatic to find a "Chinese Bufe" restaraunt.
And the funny thing is, I half expected them to speak English. 99% of Croatia is made up of Croats, Serbs or Slovenians. They all have generally the same skin color. So when I see anyone from somewhere outside the Balkans my brain immediately reverts back to melting-pot America.
Well these Chinese cooks and food-hander-outers still had their Chinese accents, but here they were accompanied by the Hungarian language of which I know only one word. Thankfully when I got in line I found I was able to point to my chicken of choice and easily accept the rice that was dumped alongside. I asked for a Nestea (which is printed on the bottle) and indicated I wanted the peach flavor (which is also printed on the bottle). After paying 1,200 forints (a bargain) for my meal I sat down and enjoyed my food with Petra and Enoh.
But the whole experience of not knowing how to communicate at all with a stranger, being stared at as I point awkwardly and trying to pay with money I'm not at all familiar with was one I hadn't had in awhile - despite living in a foreign country.
I don't speak fluently yet, but I've been in Croatia long enough to know what the cashier will ask when and exactly how to respond without getting the "you're not from here are you?" look. And isn't that all we want?
It's no fun to be an outsider. Especially when you're hungry in Hungary.