I Think I Know But I Don’t

floating river market Image by rajukale119 from Pixabay

Years ago, I was a saleswoman for company X for a short period of time. Since it is a big company in New York and the surrounding area, I don’t want to name the name–I guess it will not really look good for the company. Our targets are the Asians living in this area. And I have to tell you I had no idea what the company’s products were really about. I just memorized the descriptions, attended the company trainings. Off I went, armed with the company brochures and business cards, talking to whoever would listen to me.

I was very nervous and diffident, but our training had taught us to be confident, smiling. Also we were taught several strategies to deal with questions we didn’t know how to answer. Fortunately nobody really asked difficult questions, and as far as I could observe, people believed what I was talking about even though I didn’t know what I was talking about. Or probably people were just too polite to point out that I was an imposter.

I felt quite guilty about this, but now looking back, I think it is not too bad that I was aware that I was an imposter. I mean it would be worse if I didn’t know I was an imposter, which means I think I know but in reality I don’t. And of course that happens not so infrequently. And I can recall many instances:


As a non-native speaker, I started to learn English when I was six or seven. By the time I went to college, I was confident that I knew English just because I aced all my English tests and my teachers adored me. In college, we had a teacher from America, whose first name is Katherine. I understood everything she said, which made me even more confident about my abilities. Then one day as I came to the classroom, Katherine was standing in the hallway talking to one of her colleagues, who’s also teaching English in our college, who’s most likely from an English speaking country in Europe or North America. I deliberately slowed my steps so that I could “eavesdrop” on what they were talking about. Alas! I didn’t understand a thing. I couldn’t even make out one word. And I was really shocked.

During the class, I couldn’t concentrate. So Katherine really slowed down for us and simplified everything she said so that we could understand, while the real conversation is as incomprehensible as a language I had never learned. In those days, there were no youtube videos for one to listen and learn by oneself. We had language labs which we could go to listen to audios, but those audios were really easy, bearing no resemblance to real conversations. My estimates were all based on resources I had access to, and they gave me a false reality.


We think we know food, but when we go to a different country, we find that we actually don’t know the food we think we know. Those obviously different food items are obviously different. The problem is those same food items are not the same anymore. For example, if you want to make dumpling here, you have to process the ground pork in a different way in order for it to produce similar flavor to that of back home. Chicken too. One cannot do steamed chicken or quick boiled chicken as one did back home, since it will produce something uneatable. And even yeasts are different.

I heard of one man who wanted to produce the same flavor so much that he wanted to grow his own food in his backyard. His mother mailed seeds to him from overseas. Just as he was happily growing his own food in his vegetable garden–he lives in Texas–the township came and gave him a ticket. It turned out the bamboo he was planting was forbidden in Texas and somehow the root of his bamboo had expanded and grown into his neighbor’s yard. By the way, bamboo shoots are considered food in Asia and they are delicious.


And I think I know my family and it turns out that I don’t. For example, I had been admiring my grandmother for decades, who raised 9 children, cooking and washing and stitching and scrubbing all day long. Only recently when I started to watch videos on narcissism, I began to really examine her life and my perception. I remembered all those incidents when she unleashed her dissatisfaction about her children–she criticized everybody and gave nobody love, affection, or regards; my uncles and aunts all behaved like depressed school children during holiday meals; she never laughed; she never had a normal conversation with anybody–either she yelled an order, released a complaint, or tried to make a point. And for such a hardworking and morally pure woman of the highest esteem, I turned a blind eye to her narcissistic traits for years and years. I knew something was wrong about my family and my extended family, but I didn’t know what the matter really was. And just considering how much psychological and emotional damage her narcissism had done to her nine children… I am scared to think it further.


I know N who likes to go to see her doctors. She trusts her doctors and would follow her doctors’ advice to the smallest details. And her doctors do everything by the book. However, I am always a little more doubtful than she is. The doctors think they know but probably they don’t. For example, she thinks she can just take the cholesterol reducing pill Lipitor and start to eat steak and fried food like when she’s in her twenties and thirties. That’s what her doctors are telling her, but I am not really considering it a good idea.

21 thoughts on “I Think I Know But I Don’t

  1. My middle son “learned” Spanish because that is the first (and sometimes exclusive) language of his wife’s family. I was impressed how he could communicate with his wife and children in Spanish. But he explained how they slow it down for him. He can’t follow real conversations or news shows. Also, I am thinking N’s doctors are not necessarily telling her what she is hearing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s quite an achievement for your son. I mean the native Spanish speakers speak soooooo fast and jump from one syllable to several syllables down the line. I meet Spanish speaking shoppers and cashiers every week when shopping and I haven’t understood one word they say–I’ve been learning Spanish for 14 months now. LOL. Not even one word. I said to myself, “why can’t they say ‘gusta’ which is a word I can understand'”, but of course they don’t.


  2. I love bamboo shoots, they are delicious. I can definitely relate to what you talked about especially about food tasting different in different places. Even if you use the same recipe it will taste different due to the taste of the ingredients.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. Bamboo shoots are my favorites, but it’s more than $10 a pound now in the grocery stores here. Can you believe that? Yes, the food taste different, I mean the same food, in different places. I ruined so many dishes by following the old recipe. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I used to love fermented bamboo shoots. Wow, that’s just too expensive. I can’t believe how high the prices have become.
        Lol I have made that mistake too. Now I cook things differently depending on where I am.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I remembered long time ago when we went out for a spring trip in the subtropical region and we came to a bamboo mountain basically. We were all drooling for some bamboo shoots… However bamboo is considered an invasive species here and cannot be really cultivated as back home… Oh.. The inflation is making it out of reach for many…


        2. Oh wow, we have an area here in Kenya with lots of bamboo but it’s not often used for cooking since it’s not native to the region and people don’t know how to use it properly. I usually have to go out of my way to find bamboo shoots here.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Hahaha, I somehow think you can export the bamboo shoots to America and fetch a great price. I mean the bamboo shoot is going through the roof here, reach $10 a pound. It comes down a little yesterday when I went to the market, but still it is almost $8 for a pound for frozen bamboo shoot and no fresh bamboo shoot at all.

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  3. I have a theory that you are fluent in a language if you can start a sentence without worrying about how you are going to finish it. The problem with German is that if you start a sentence in the wrong way you can easily find it impossible to finish. It feels like a kind of trap!

    Yes definitely – in terms of grammar – German > Spanish > English > Asian languages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, that’s very interesting. You have to think of the whole sentence before you start. Fortunately English doesn’t have this problem. Thank goodness. Just think of all those vowels and spelling in English that have been plaguing me forever…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I participate in a Zoom German discussion group every other week, so I can relate to your experience learning English. By chance I will sometimes speak a couple of sentences quite fluently and then get a bit cocky, thinking I can say anything. The next time I speak I dry up in mid-sentence – usually because German and English have a completely different sentence structure or else there’s a crucial word I don’t know. The old saying: “Pride comes before a fall” springs to mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, hear, hear. That’s me too. I have this pride and fall combination regularly, and will continue to suffer from it. LOL. I heard that German is very complicated with even more grammar rules than Spanish… As most Asian languages don’t have conjugations or other complications (just customs rather than grammar rules), I have been long baffled as to the native speakers’ ability in remembering all the grammar rules without making an effort to remember it. LOL.

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