We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about the time they caught people gossiping about them in a language they weren't expected to know. Here are some of their responses!
1. This person who just wanted to stay fit:
I was living in the US at the time. Once, in an elevator on my way home from the gym, an elderly couple started talking about my clothes in Finnish. They said how kids nowadays don't know what to wear and wondered how I could possibly be in public looking the way I was. I turned to them in my glorious, sweaty state and told them in Finnish with a smile on my face that I thought they looked lovely as well. They both went red in the face and were silent until we got out. I just laughed.
2. These guy who dug himself a deep hole:
Although I don’t look very Russian, I’ve spoken it since birth with my mom and grandma. I used to work at a grocery store, and a couple of Russian teenagers are checking out at my register.
I kid you not, one of the first things one of them says is, “This bitch had no idea I stole the chocolate.”
First of all RUDE and second of all, what self respecting teenager would think stealing raspberry-chocolate would impress their friends?!
I was like, “I didn’t until you just told me” and it looked like he shit his pants.
3. This person who should think before they speak:
A few years ago, my family and our friends all vacationed in Berlin. My friend and I are both fluent in Russian and English, but we primarily speak English. One day, while we were at a museum, we got bored and decided to go up and down the glass elevator. We kept giggling, making jokes, and it was a great time until some woman with her family got in.
She quickly chose her floor and remarked to her family (in Russian) that we were acting stupid and were ugly. As she got out of the elevator, my friend and I yelled out (also in Russian) "Have a nice day!" and the look on her face is one I will never forget.
4. This very mature comeback:
OK so my parents are both Indian and I look very Indian. There's no indication from my appearance that I would speak French AT ALL. So I got into a lift at my apartment complex and these two men walked into the escalators, speaking in French about VERY RACIST stuff. So when the lift got to their floor, I held the lift door open and gave them a piece of my mind, ending with a polite and charming “bonne journée!” before closing the door of the lift. They literally had their jaws drop to the floor. They were so uncomfortable and I felt very proud of myself that day!
5. This annoyed retail worker:
I work in retail and live in an area with a high density of Filipinos. I was born and raised in the US, but understand and speak the language. Two Filipino ladies came in and started looking around. I greeted them and asked where they were from. Then they asked me where I was from because I look Filipino. But because I’m born in the US, I don’t have the accent. So when I said I was from the US, they said to each other that I was dumb for not knowing the language, that my parents are stupid for not teaching me, and that kids like me make the country look bad.
Then they asked me for a product in a size that we didn’t have. When I went to start her transaction, she started getting angry about how everything was so expensive, that I’m stupid, and how I obviously don’t know what I’m doing. So after I finished her transaction, I told her to have a good day in our language and she looked at her friend, then back at me, and walked away. Her face when I spoke the language to her was definitely worth it.
6. This awkward nail salon experience:
One time, I went to this Vietnamese nail salon and had a pedicure. I walked in and said that I'd like to have a pedicure please. They didn't expect a thing and thought I'm just another mixed Asian kid who doesn't know Vietnamese. The lady that I had was like, "Yeah I'm good, will do". Right away, she started to gossip with the lady next to her about how I have a beard and ugly-ass toes. I immediately told her that I know Vietnamese, in Vietnamese, and the look on her face was hilarious.
7. This satisfying plot twist:
I speak English and Italian fluently so I don’t get many of these experiences living in the US, but it happened one time, when I was at JFK airport in the check-in line on my way to Rome to visit my family. I had standby tickets because my uncle is a flight attendant. I got to the front of the line and a lady calls us to her and while we’re taking out our passports. Soon after, she was saying things like “Why do these stupid people always come to me.” and “Ugh, this bitch can’t even dress. What’s the matter with her husband? What a dumbass.” in Italian. Her supervisor didn’t even respond, probably because he knows better than to do that.
So while she kept talking shit about us, I got a call from my mom, who I only speak Italian to. I smiled and talked in Italian (nice and loud for the lady to hear), “Hi mom! Yeah we’re getting our tickets right now. Tell Nonna I said hi and we’ll see her in the morning. Ok, bye!” I look up at the lady and her eyes were wide open and her mouth just dropped. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so mortified. Her supervisor looked so pissed off at her. He took our tickets and said “Oh cazzo!”, which means "oh shit!”. He then said, “Stefania! That’s Diego’s niece.” To which she looked even worse because my uncle worked for the company for YEARS and is well known and liked.
8. This situation with nosey diners:
Since I grew up in America, no one thought I spoke Kannada. Once in India, my grandparents took me and my brother out to eat. We cannot drink tap water so we kept having to order bottled water. I guess the table nearby heard my grandma explain that we were foreign and the woman sitting there said, "What do you think? Are they spoiled brats or too weak to handle the spice?" As I walked out, I made sure to ask my Grandma something in Kannada and glare at the woman.
9. This failed assumption:
While I was born and raised in Malaysia, I prefer speaking English with some of my friends because it's a habit my family instilled into me at a young age. I went on a short vacation in a small state area. I was on the phone with my friend and was waiting in line at a food stall when two young women behind me said some stuff in my mother tongue out loud.
"Do you think she can speak our language? She's gonna' take longer time to order because she doesn't even know what they sell here. These tourists are so annoying!" she said. After getting off the phone, I purposely ordered in Bahasa Malaysia, loud and clear for those women in the back, complete in the state's dialect as well. Needless to say, those women stood as far as possible from me afterwards.
10. This priceless interaction at the zoo:
I was at the zoo with my son when I was 39 weeks pregnant with my second son. Two Spanish speaking teenage girls made fun of how slow I was and said that I walked like a cow. The look on their faces was priceless when they heard me speak to my son in Spanish. I really enjoyed their embarrassment and was sure to flash them the bitchiest smile I could muster.
11. This awkward wait for the flight:
I speak Norwegian, which means I can pretty much understand Swedish and Danish. I had been sitting at the Denver airport waiting for my flight to London when a group of about ten Danes started sitting around me. I had already been sitting there for a good two hours and by the time this family came around, the seats at the gate were all taken. A few of the family members got seats and a few had to sit on the floor. They started making nasty comments about all the people around them and in general calling Americans fat and stupid.
It wasn't long before their comments were pointed in my direction. They were complaining that I was such a bitch because I had not gotten up to let them sit together. I was at the end of a row so it's not like they had to sit on either side of me. Then they started saying that I was only pretending to read the book because "Americans are too stupid to read." The funny thing was, I was reading a Norwegian book. So when I heard this, I adjusted my book so they could see the title. Once they realized I probably understood them, they started trying to pretend they were talking about someone else. I got to board before them, so when I stood up I told them in Norwegian they can have my seat now. They all seemed extremely embarrassed.
12. This person who shut down a whole group of people:
I was in France with on an exchange trip. At school, my partner’s friends were calling me the “dumb American” and saying how I “probably didn’t even know what they were saying", and making fun of my small size. I laughed along, but just quietly added that I could understand them. The look on their faces was priceless. They didn’t make fun of me anymore.
13. This ultimate win:
A few years ago, I was backpacking through Peru with a few friends. From the moment we arrived, we realised that everybody assumed we were American (we are Belgian) and that we did not speak any Spanish (all of us did). So we decided to use those assumptions to our advantage when negotiating on prices and such.
About a week in, we were trying to arrange a hiking trip to the Colca Canyon. We overheard one of the people at the agency tell his co-worker to charge us triple of their normal asking price "because these Americans are filthy rich anyway". Naturally, we immediately switched to Spanish to let them know we heard and understood everything. They were so mortified we only had to pay half of the normal asking price.
14. And finally, this wholesome customer:
I walked into a take-out restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island just minutes before closing time. Immediately the two employees started talking to each other in Spanish, viciously complaining about me walking in and expecting service so late. THEY. WERE. FURIOUS. Foul language and all. Then they proceed to ask me in English what I wanted , so I give them my order in my native language, Spanish.
The poor girls immediately bury their face in their hands, and apologize to me saying they were actually talking about someone else they served before me. One of the girls was so embarrassed she was about to cry. I told them not to worry and that I understood their frustration. They had been working non-stop all day long. I would be tired and pissed too. I left a 20% tip, thanked them for the food and went home.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.