Until August of that year I had lived for one year in Finchley Central as an arts student. I sometimes led a monotonous life, for I devoted almost as much as Frankenstein did to my own research. The only difference between me and him, if there had to be any, would be that I stayed at the library while he at the laboratory.
Intolerable to me as a nerd, an Italian friend of mine one day said. “You haven’t talked to anyone for ages. You’d better have a drink and hang out with someone, my amico.” He was medium in height and build, while his aquiline nose always reminded me most starkly of his nationality, save that he spoke English with a rich Italian accent, occasionally adulterated with funny Italian words.
But he was right. I had become a prisoner of books unawares because of my being so introvert. It was time to escape from confinement for a while. So, on one evening, I went to a language meet-up event organized at a traditional British pub near Leicester Square. I was soon dismayed. There were more than a dozen faces with different colours. I had never expected such a diverse number of peoples. At first I thought Japanese and British would have dominated the whole pub. But no. Guests from all around the world had gathered to be a passionate, curious speaker at this English-Japanese exchange meeting.
“Hi. How are you?” A young gentleman, seemingly in his late twenties, greeted me with a big smile.
Both of us then briefly introduced ourselves to each other, after which I knew he was called Dave, a Polish man having been working in London for more than half a decade. He was taking Japanese lessons and would love to get to know more Japanese friends. Soon, more joined our conversation. I was at last in a group of five, chatting also in the meantime with an English and two Japanese.
It was quite relaxing to interact with other peoples while taking slowly a long sip of a glass of wine each time. Born and raised in Hong Kong, I have always been told by my parents that pubs and bars were places where strangers flirted and frolicked with one another. But indeed a nice pub does offer a platform where cross-cultural exchanges become increasingly possible.
It occurred to me that polylingual skills are so important, too. The two Europeans were so enthusiastic about Japanese culture but could speak very little the Asian language. Likewise, Japanese were so keen to understand and explain what they had been asked about. To fumble for a right word or an accurate expression, however, almost cudgelled their brains. Though I was neither a good English nor Japanese speaker, I had tried my very best to be their interpreter. A new, essential task has thus been incumbent on me ever since – I shall continue to work as a bridge to foster transcultural exchange between East and West.