Knowing a second--or third or fourth--language is like possessing a secret power.
You walk around looking like everybody else, you appear completely unassuming, and yet you have access to entire realms of conversation occurring all around you.
The best part? All the eavesdropping.
When people don't know you can understand them, you're liable to hear all sorts of things--things about you that they'd rather you never heard.
Some Redditors shared their best stories from those moments.
"I'm white. Was in Beijing on a train, and had a little kid (like, 4 or 5) call me a white ghost in Mandarin. I stared him down at which point he asked if I understood him."
"I nodded, and he proceeded to hug his mom terrified. 😂"
"The tube in London"
"Two girls talking very explicit about their sex partners the Night before,in Swedish."
"Me and My mates all telepathically knew to Keep our mouths shut and dont look at them."
"When we got to our stop we loudly spoke Swedish so we knew they would hear :p"
"My cousin and her friend were on a ski lift in the US, and these guys on the lift with them started speaking Chinese."
"The whole ride was like, 'Look at these two American-born Chinese girls. They speak to each other in English. They don't even know Chinese. How pathetic.'"
"They all exit the lift. My cousin and her friend turn to one another and start conversing very loudly (and fluently) in Chinese. Apparently, the looks on the guys' faces were priceless."
"I once went to a party where most of the people where English exchange students and i'm Dutch but fluent in English and there where these 2 girls saying things like 'Omg i know for a fact that Dutch guy doesn't even speak English he looks like such a ret*rd.'"
"And 'He looks like he is having a hard time understanding us.' All i did was look over to them and said 'Well thanks for the compliment but i'm going to look for some nicer company.'"
"Almost seating area erupted in giggles meanwhile i smiled towards the door."
"I speak English and Russian, but this is happen to someone else. In high-school we were leaving school with a whole bunch of us Russian speaking students. Pretty much we all hung out together."
"As were are walking 3 of us there is an Asian guy who is walking about 6 feet behind us. One of my friends turns to us and says in Russian 'why is this Chinese kid walking with us. I noticed him following us since we left the school grounds.'"
"Next thing we know we hear a voice from the back reply in Russian 'I'm not Chinese, I'm Korean.'"
"Portugal has a lot of emigrants in France, and they enjoy vacating in their home country, but when they return, they like playing the fool with their countrymen by speaking in French."
"Well, I'm fluent in 7 languages, including French, and I used to work at a general store to pay for my tuitions, so from time to time, I'd get these a**holes asking me for help while trash talking me in French and I would fake I didn't understand them..."
"...and curse them back in Portuguese to see if they reacted, and if they did, I would trash them in French and would call security on them in case they tried to press a complaint."
"Let's just say I liked my time in the supermarket more than most."
An Interesting Apology
"Half black half Japanese here. When I was in a train at japan there were two women judging me, called me 'black monster' in Japanese, I turned around and asked 'who's a black monster?" in Japanese..."
"...they started bowing their heads really quickly and gave me a bag of marshmallows as a gift of apology, even when I told them it's fine lol"
5 Star Rating Probably Took a Hit
"An Uber saying in Spanish over the phone that had to drive me and I was ugly."
"I didn't talk in all the time I was in the car but when I got out of the car I said to him (in Spanish) 'thanks for your compliment! Have a good day.'"
Not a Baby and Not an Idiot
"I was young, like 9, and I was going on this huge roller coaster. I was kinda shivering (it was really big, ok) and the couple behind me started laughing and talking in Hindi. Saying stuff, look at this little baby and stuff like that."
"So as I got on the ride , I turned back and said in Hindi, I understand Hindi you know, so shut up. I will never forgot the looks on their face as I ascended."
"And the ride was actually really fun, went on it like 5 times."
"My origins trace back to Southern Asia and I was born in Europe. My parents speak their native language and I had picked it up overtime. I once went to a restaurant and ordered some wings and patiently waited."
"The guy at the counter told his employee to pack the remaining food from last night and leave the today's item fresh. I simply said 'Hey, I like the fresh food, Thanks.'"
"He was so shocked and gave me some extra food."
Cussing in a Desperate Moment
"Delivered a patient's baby and while repairing her tear she was uncomfortable and called me a bi*** and a wh*re in Spanish. I responded with 'now that's not very nice to say to someone holding a needle near your bottom.'"
"Everyone in the room just stared as the patient's mouth opened and closed a few times before she apologized and said it hurt."
"One time I traveled to Argentina, and I'm pretty good with Spanish. However, I'm white, blonde, and I have blue eyes."
"Sometimes girls would talk about me in Spanish. I don't know if they thought I would understand them, but their conversations seemed pretty.... personal...."
Too Embarrassed to Tip
"Waited tables on TX-MX border. Couple didn't know I speak Spanish fluently and he called me 'f*ggot' in Spanish multiple times, to the wife's total embarrassment."
"I waited for her to get up to go to the restroom after clearing their dishes and I told him in perfect Spanish, 'When you're ready to pay I'll be your cashier.'"
"His eyes got wide and he asked me if I really spoke Spanish. My response: 'Yes, but I understand more than what I speak.'"
"Got $0 in tips from them but I have a story I like to tell."
Hiding Raunchiness in Plain Sight
"Half of my family is Amish, and speak Pennsylvania Dutch. Little did they know, I'd picked up on quite a few words."
"One day my parents were talking about sex and sh*t in Dutch. (My dad taught my mom Dutch, since he knew it and his half of the family spoke it.) They were making a ton of sex jokes like just plain yelling, "big boobs" or dumb sh*t like that."
"They realized when I started smiling that I knew what they were saying and they instantly shut up."
"Glad I'm older now, and I'm allowed to laugh at the jokes now. Keeping a straight face was f*cking difficult."
"A substitute teacher came in to teach my Music lessons. Two kids who speak Spanish were mocking him (I assume, based on the tone of their voices, they were speaking Spanish and I only speak English) then they started laughing at the teacher."
"Anyway, he goes up to them, looks straight down at them, and breaks into fluent Spanish."
"My ex roommate is bi and overheard a gay couple commenting on how attractive the cashier was when we were having lunch at a Panda Express."
"After my ex roommate got his meal, he slowly passed by the couple and quietly told them that they were absolutely right."
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We often find ourselves having to guess how to make things work and make things fit--in our lives, but also just in our possessions. Will these pants fit me? These shoes?
Will this screw fit my table? Will this charger fit my phone?
If everything was somehow standard, wouldn't it all be so much easier?
Here were some of those answers.
No More Vanity Sizes
Sizes for clothing.
Especially for shoes. How hard would it be to just list the sizes in centimeters (or inches if you're American)?
WHY DO WE USE STANDARD MEASUREMENTS FOR OUR CLOTHES, BUT THEY ARE DIFFERENT SIZES IN DIFFERENT BRANDS???
Calvin Klein's men's slacks: 32'' waist
Bar III men's slacks: 32'' waist
Perry Ellis slacks: 32'' waist
THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT WAIST SIZES. WHYY?!?!?!?!
Ah Yes, Three Chilis
There's a standard for chili heat levels (the Scoville scale), but food manufacturers never use it. Instead, they use a varying number of chili icons which mean nothing at all.
It's always fun going to like a Thai restaurant in Canada and trying to figure out whether the chili icon means Thai spicy or Canadian spicy.
Ah Yes, This Could Kill Me
Household electrical voltages and sockets.
Interestingly enough, there was an attempt: since 1986, there is an international standard socket, IEC 60906-1. However, only South Africa has implemented it so far.
And it is unlikely it will ever be implemented in other countries, as the EU is even advising against it since 2017:
REFIT found that "the harmonisation of plug and socket outlet systems in Europe, by introducing changes in national wiring legislations (would have) important transitional periods (above 75 years)", and that the cost to "replace the old socket-outlets (and the corresponding plugs of the appliances being used)" was estimated at 100 billion Euro, "generating a huge environmental impact, producing some 700 000 tons of electrical waste". REFIT does not recommend harmonising the plugs and socket-outlet systems in Europe.
Can we just get a little consistency here? Please?!
After working in a grocery store, can diameters should only come in a maybe 4 sizes. And they should all stack.
But they don't. They never do.
I feel your pain. I hate those narrow jars and cans that are slightly narrower than 3 wires of the shelf so they tip over if you don't place them perfectly.
A Computer Mouse, Not A Little Baby Mouse
Modern rechargable batteries.
We spent years with standard size batteries. We are now stuck with proprietary batteries which aren't designed to be user replaceable and often dictate the life of the device.
Yes absolutely. I found this fact especially annoying when looking for a mouse. Most of the more expensive mice come with rechargeable batteries, and it seems that modern tech reviewers are claiming this is better than some standard double A.
All Standard, Yet None Standard
I worked in a hardware store long enough to learn that apparently everything is standardized.
"I need window screens."
Okay, what are your dimensions?
"It's a standard size window."
"I'm looking for a replacement ceiling fan."
Okay, do you want small blades, large blades? A modest 30" span or a robust 56"?
"Just standard size."
"Do you think this large, bulky, cumbersome commodity will fit in my vehicle?"
I don't know. How big your truck?
"It's a standard one."
protip: it's a sedan. it's always a sedan.
Welp, Here's Your Problem
Based on years of helping my Dad in his shop, doing bodywork on vehicles - fastenings. Bolts, screws. rivets, clips... the sheer amount of specialized fastenings and required tools is insane. Even the variety of types in single vehicles is excessive.
Not to mention many of them are so cheaply made that there is no reusing them.
So Many Sign Languages
Not necessarily something that should be standardised because it would affect many cultures negatively, but I've always wondered what it would be like if every country just spoke one language. Sign language should probably be standardised, but re-learning sign language for people who use it may be difficult and time-consuming
Perhaps We Need To Rethink Policing
Police responses to missing persons across the nation, and the information requirements for police reports to be filled out with specific and complete information at the first point of contact by the person reporting the missing person, regardless of the age, status, or suspected reason for disappearing.
Police should NEVER be allowed to decide a case isn't valid at the first point of contact.
A Recipe For A Lint Fire
The laundry exhaust receptacle in homes should be centered exactly eighteen inches (45.7cm) from the floor with eighteen inches (or 45.7 cm) of clearance on both sides.
The exhaust duct of a clothes dryer should be in the middle of the back of the machine, and centered eighteen inches/45.7 cm from the floor. The dryer should have adjustable feet to allow for slight errors in measurement.
Once this is done, a laundry dryer can be pushed into the wall and we won't need to craft a length of ducting to connect the two.
Just a little bit of sameness and consistency could really go a long way here.
Some things ought not be tried again.
Sure, they made sense the first time. It may have held charm, at least some sense of purpose on the second go around. But eventually, surely, an essential truth became clear: never again.
Reddit is apparently crawling with people carrying around that permanent grudge towards some thing they've done in the past.
Lucky for us, we can learn from their mistakes.
senorllama57 asked, "What is something you will never do again?"
There were, of course, plenty of people who discussed horrible jobs they've held in the past. They may have had little choice at the time, but now that it's all in the past they feel free to share how they really felt.
The Customer Always Seems To Be Wrong
"Work retail. I think every kid fresh out of high school should work a retail job for a year. It builds character." -- ProfessionalTheme415
"How did you get out!?! Lol. It's like a black hole where I work. Everyone that tries to leave comes back." -- threebillion6
A Lot Going On
"Work in a nursing home. The sights, screams and pleas Will haunt me forever." -- M_Lamora
"Honestly working in a nursing home was one of the most weird jobs I ever had. I've never been threatened so many times in my life. I once had a memory care resident ask me if I would help her jump a caregiver."
One After Another
"Work in a call center." -- Evilsmurfkiller
"Sucked the soul right out of me within a year." -- Bandana-mal
"I was at one for 2 and half years and it was not until I left I realized I had work-related depression. I was overeating, not eating, sleep deprived, slept all the time, I had such rage that would come out at times...
"I did not care what happened to me, I left because they were gonna fire me over something dumb because they just fire people for being there long. I left over a year ago, and I have not been this happy to wake up every day in years, my life is so much better now." -- UnusualLight0
Others discussed past struggles they've encountered within the romantic realm. Unfortunately, these lessons came with plenty of emotional struggle.
"Get married. It'll be 19 years this August and my marriage is my marriage. I reserve the right to have a girlfriend at some point if she passes away before I do, but she's the one and only wife, end of story."
"Ignore red flags when talking to someone I want to date. I've done it twice now, and both times sucked" -- YareYareYandere
"Listen to your gut. If something feels off, you're probably not imagining it." -- SurealGod
Don't Forget About You
"Okay first off I'm sorry if this might sound cringe :D . . . That would be hmm become too attached/codependent on a person. Whether it may be of a lover, friend, or just acquaintance."
"Idk if it's coincidence but they either end up gone one day or become total di**s when you least expect it and I'm forced to cut ties."
And some people chose to recall the things they were so certain would be fun and enjoyable, but turned out to be so not.
A Bad Ratio
"I made a super elaborate meal once. It was ... okay. Certainly not worth the effort involved." -- Astramancer_
"Take an hour to make something, only takes 15 minutes to eat. It's bullsh**." -- SurealGod
Hours and Hours
"Times Square on New Years' Eve. It was fun once, never need to do it again." -- AnswerGuy301
"I was going to answer the same thing. It seemed like it would be so much fun but now that I know what it entails — never again" -- hi_its_me
"I have never been and never understood the attraction of waiting for hours and hours in the shivering weather." -- amrodd
Think of Grease Splatters
"Prepare steaks when drunk" -- Kiaulunne
"Not for your reason, but same here. Cooked one at 2am after half a bottle of rum. Quickly ate and passed out after. Woke up around 8am dying for water and realised I left the gas stove on... So glad nothing burned down..." -- schofield101
"I will never get drunk again. Tipsy, buzzed, sure. Thats fine."
"But when I was in front of that toilet for an hour, being so weak I couldn't even sit up, having people constantly come in to check on me, worrying that I might have alcohol poisoning, that is exactly not a fun time"
So take some notes! Or maybe there were some true horrors you went through that this list seems to be lacking.
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You know what they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions". Because the people who have our best interests in mind typically have good intentions when they give us advice, but there's a chance that that advice can go horribly wrong.
Try not to follow the bad advice given here, because you don't want to get the results that these guys did.
The workplace can bring a cornucopia of terrible advice. Don’t follow these unless you want to get fired.
Bad jobs are usually not worth it.
Stick with a job no matter how bad it is. I stayed with a terrible job working retail, dealing with horrible customers and sexual harassment. I was told I wouldn't find anything better.
"No, no, you misunderstand. I said you wouldn't find anything better at making you feel like complete garbage."
This gets really creepy really fast.frustrated workplace GIFGiphy
"After you put in a job application, you need to call them at least once a day every day until they hire you."
Note: this did not get me hired. It got me called out by the HR person I was calling and forbidden to ever contact their facility again.
I work for a law firm that employees over 1500 people in the home office alone. Once I received a call from the building security saying, "Insert Name is here to speak with the owner." Well we are run by a committee so that's odd. Found out they just applied for a job and wanted to talk directly to the person that would potentially hire them. Told him the firm will contact them to schedule an interview. They refused to leave without "talking to the owner." Had security escort them out of the building.
This is absolutely not true.
"Sleep is for people who do not want success" great words from my uncle, it almost killed me.
Now I may be oversleeping.
Interpersonal relationships are also a big breeding ground for terrible advice. Don’t listen to any of these.
My father always tought me and my brother that "having friends is bad and in the end they will never be there for you" so everytime I told my father about my friends he would get kinda mad and give me the advice to stop talking to them.
Now I am afraid of people and have several trust issues, thanks dad.
This won’t end well.A Christmas Story GIF by filmeditorGiphy
In the fifth grade my teacher was talking about bullying, then she said "if anyone tries to bully you just agree with them." So the next time I got bullied I agreed with the bully and they bullied me more.
Dude one time I saw an anti bullying video that told the victims to just BE NICE TO THE BULLY. Like the bully was hurling insults and the victim was smiling and complimenting him. My first thought was about how much I hated the mere thought that this would work. My second thought was of how the people who came up with that method had clearly never been bullied.
When I met my now wife at the age of 19, one of my coworkers said that it's very important to start at the bottom with presents and work your way up, she still has the socks I gave her on our first anniversary on the wall over our bed as a reminder...
I'm still trying to teach my boyfriend about good presents and bad presents. Biscuits from the supermarket = bad present. Cheap unbranded laptop battery from China as my only present = bad present (and only lasted 2 months). Anything off my 7-page wishlist = good present. It's literally a list of things I want to receive as presents.
Can tell you from experience that this is a bad idea.
Had a falling out with some friends. My husband recommended I reach out to an old friend who ghosted me suddenly in a manner that induced some pretty severe abandonment trauma. Went for it anyways because "it's been so long, surely they changed". Am now experiencing the same things as last time.
When you follow bad advice, it can lead to mistakes that you just can’t come back from.
Buying a house is tricky.for sale dancing GIF by Lisa VertudachesGiphy
"Buy a home now before the prices go up!" -my FIL in 2006.
We bought in 2007 and paid $259,500 for our 1,300 sq ft house (we really couldn't afford it and had an 80/20 so we had 8% interest for one loan and 6% on the other) and in 2008 it was worth $97,000 so refinancing wasn't even an option. We watched all of our neighbors walk away or get foreclosed on but we kept paying our bills and as of this very moment our house is worth $462,000. I'm so happy we stuck it out, we both worked our @sses off and the house will be paid off in 2 years.
It worked out for us, it's a horrible idea. Especially since 1300 sq ft houses are $460+k
My heartbreaks for future generations, I honestly don't know how people are going to afford housing in the future.
It’s there for a reason.
"Never apply for any government assistance."
Cue years of suffering trying to work full-time with a painful disability. Quit a particularly terrible job, and wanted to apply for food aid until I could find another gig; a friend with lots of DHS experience recommended I apply for Social Security "just to get in the system." Turns out my disability was bad enough to get accepted the first time, which I wasn't expecting. Really could've used that support, oh, the 30+ previous years of my life.
Credit is important to have.
I was told to not get a credit card until after college. I was super fortunate to have my college paid for so I had no loans, car paid in cash, no credit card or anything to start building credit. Found myself out in the world at 22 years old with a credit score of 0.
So while a lot of this bad advice came from trusted people, oftentimes they were too misinformed to give that advice in the first place. Don't trust the word of one person--do your research, and make decisions for yourself.
It'll be way better in the long run
Every once in awhile, somebody comes along, enters your life, and catapults themselves to that awful, unique position at the top of your list of the worst people you have ever met.
Sometimes, the person's blindingly terrible behavior and overall essence is actually impressive. We ask ourselves, "how could a person like this actually exist on purpose?"
Alas, they do. And you have to deal with them. Or, if your lucky, you can carve out some distance.
Redditors shared descriptions of the worst people they've ever had the misfortune to meet. Some have escaped the relationship. Some are are still stuck in the clutches.
LoneStar202 asked, "Who is the worst person you have ever met?"
Some chose to talk about the acquaintances they simply couldn't help but encounter. External circumstances beyond their control made the stars align in the worst way possible.
Keeping the Peace
"There was this guy who used to come into the McDonald's where I did security overnight (yes, that's a job), and he was the biggest ahole I've ever met in my life."
"Ginger, 5'6 or so, named Colby, had a perpetual scowl on his face, looked for any reason to start a fight with anyone. He and his friend would come in when it's super busy, not order, and then yell at the staff that he paid and wasn't given a receipt in the hopes that they'd give him free food rather than deal with him."
"I kicked him out for six months on two separate occasions for coming in drunk and throwing things, drinking beer in the restaurant, starting fights, you name it. Only got in my face once and I never had to fight him, but I'm much bigger than him and the law is on my side."
"Not that I would necessarily have won. I'm big and strong, but I have no idea how to fight and he did. I called his bluffs because I was pretty sure he wouldn't attack me and he didn't."
"Funny, I just realized I've finally forgotten his last name. Not that I'd mention it. He might be less of a @ss now and he's no longer my business."
You Know 'Em
"I work with a real life, archetypal, Karen. She's two-faced, mean, anti-vax, and just generally the whole nine. The first interaction I ever had with her she had to make fun of me behind my back for being a dude with earrings."
"Recently kicked up a stink by making an 'anonymous' email address and emailing our HR department saying people were discriminating against folks not getting the covid vaccine.
"Luckily she's burned too many bridges for anyone to really take her crazy anymore but man is she frustrating to deal with."
Others discussed the family members that, for obvious reasons, they were forced to put up with for years and years. But even family isn't enough to keep a person like that around.
Marrying Into It
"It sounds cliche, but my ex-MIL. What made her the worst is that she was a covert POS."
"We always lived about 1k miles from them, so I didn't pick up on it for far, far too long, but goddamn, I've never met anyone with as much unacknowledged hate and cruelty in their heart."
A Thing of the Past
"My father. Cheater, never paid child support, verbally abusive to my mother, sister and I. Just all around bad dude."
"Haven't talked to him in about 15 years and am 100% ok with that."
So Many Problems
"My brother. He's like a cross between Kramer (Seinfeld, 'my newest thing' and mannerisms) and Frank from Its Always Sunny (illegal activity and completely illogical 'logic')."
"He's ripped me off for thousands of dollars (getting close to 5 figures). Constantly stealing anything he can, but claims 'borrowed' if caught with it. Been to jail 3 times and is currently on house arrest after over a year of probation violations. "
"The epitome of 'easier to say sorry than ask permission' (but the apologies are hollow) and 'what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine.' No consideration for anyone or anything. Manages to break virtually anything he touches. Hasn't had a job in over 1.5 years, but has been trying to fraudulently collect unemployment."
"Constantly thinks everyone is out to get him and people are stalking the camper he lives in (has security cameras that he watches frequently and often 'patrols' the area). Tries to break into locked doors and safe, and pulls the 'why don't you believe/trust me' line."
"I'm just scratching the surface here. He'd use your clippers/razor to shave his family jewels and not clean up the mess (something he's done multiple times)."
Finally, there were the stories of classmates. Whether it was high school, college, or even graduate school, there were enough people there all in one place that one or two rotten people were never far away.
"Guy from my high school was a wannabe thug. He ended up going to juvi junior year. After a year of juvi. He became a true criminal. Broke into people's homes. Stole from stores and got heavy into drugs."
"Then he eventually died after robbing the wrong store at gunpoint. The owner came out the back and shot him with a shotgun."
Wait for the Twist
"My gf's college classmate. Narcistic. Thought of himself as very important so he came into the church where we were graduating, on his HORSE. He damaged a 1000 or something-year-old church floor in Leiden. He thinks he didn't do anything wrong."
"And the weird thing is, we were graduating LAW SCHOOL"
Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder
"I had a classmate who wanted to become a stock broker and a millionaire. He said more than once, with absolute pride, 'When I'm rich I wont donate a single penny to the poor!' I asked him why and he said 'I have my own problems, and the poor being poor is not one of them.' "
"He opened his own business when he was 23 and was pretty successful, but suddenly a fire burned the place down while he was in it and he suffered from third degree burns all over his body."
"He later confessed setting the fire himself and was found guilty on insurance fraud. He's only 24 now and his professional life is basically over."
A Sudden Shift
"A teacher I once had. Didn't know me. Never spoke to me much."
"One day just randomly snapped at me. Yelling at me telling me that I had no future, that all the awards I got were to go to waste, that I the article I published which I spent hours working on and submitted didn't matter. That even though I was 14 and had many great achievements, I would end up just like that said teacher."
"Worst person I have ever encountered. Did collateral damage to my life as now I am a high school student with no more ambition. Wanna be a journalist? Wanna be a writer? A lawyer? Not anymore buddy."
Hopefully, you don't have too many of these people in your own life. But, let's face it, there's one or two people on your mind right now.
Here's hoping you managed to let go and get away.
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