Cross-cultural Miscommunication

Let’s pause and think, shall we?

I have a lovely acquaintance whose brain I totally admire and I am jealous of without feeling bad about it. Their English is enviable too, so is their vocabulary. For the record, we both are non-native English speakers.

There are the occasional mistakes though on both sides that could easily destroy the loveliness of the connection should we allow it to happen.

These linguistic curiosities are not real mistakes but ‘somethings’ that arise from our ways of thinking, that influence the way we speak our second language. There are conversations when I pause and think about what this strange structure is supposed to mean again. Almost always I come to the conclusion that the structure is perfectly alright if I look at it from a different angle.

I also notice when I am misunderstood and analysing the response I can see where my ‘mistake’ was. This analysis happens with the speed of light so it’s not that I have to make a terrible effort to understand and be understood.

I was provided time and opportunity enough to get used to various ways of thinking and approaches to life so I know how important it would be to pause and think every single time we encounter someone from a background different from ours.

Of course it is quite possible that what my acquaintance really said was ‘I killed the cat’ and not what, after pausing and thinking, I assumed they said: ‘I did not kill the cat’. Ouch.

What truly matters here is listening, mutually, and not to defensively react instantly. Whether the cat is still alive, that shall be dealt with later.


Өлзий Хээ (olzii khee): a Buddhist symbol, often referred to as endless knot, symbolizes the infinite love and interdependence of all things. It is a pair of earstuds that I bought in Mongolia in 2012 from a favourite little museum in Ulaanbaatar then I lost half of the pair 10 years later in Morocco, in 2022.

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