The face fits
Yesterday I was talking to a former colleague who grew up in the UK speaking Cantonese and English and whose family comes from Hong Kong. He told me that when he meets Mandarin-speaking Chinese people, they tend to assume from his appearance he will understand them when they speak to him in Mandarin. He doesn’t. Sometimes Japanese people assume he’s Japanese as well.
I’ve seen similar situations in Taiwan and China involving Overseas Chinese who don’t speak Mandarin, or only speak it a little bit, being talked at in Mandarin by people who find it hard to accept that people who look Chinese don’t understand or speak Mandarin. At the same time, it can sometimes be difficult for Chinese people to accept that a Westerner such as myself can speak Mandarin.
Have you had experiences like this with Mandarin or other languages?