Chinese speaking Canadian, near Vancouver, claims discrimination

Here is an interesting opinion piece about a Chinese speaking Canadian, near Vancouver, who claimed discrimination when she was asked to wait for service because the manager at the local McDonalds said she could communicate efficiently only in Mandarin.

During a busy time at the restaurant, she wanted to correct an order, but the manager told her to wait because the line was long and her English was not up to the task.

The lady now has the Chinese Canadian National Council backing her discrimination claims.

The writer brings up the many times he has not been able to get service from a local Chinese grocer as a counterpoint.

Some people have no shame. I will comment more on this after dinner. I may even do a video about it.

Frankly, I disliked that reporter’s tone throughout, and especially when he said, “The bottom line is the manager should probably have been nicer to Sun, but she should also brush up on her English. If she can’t properly order a coffee without it turning into a national scandal, how does she expect to accomplish anything else in society?”

How appalling. The lady got the wrong order, and was entitled to get what she originally wanted just like anybody else, regardless of race etc. The reporter is basically saying she sulked and created a national scandal because she didn’t get the red carpet treatment.

I know I’m not Canadian, etc, but I really think the Macca’s manager should have been more polite and patient with that woman. I wonder how they treat elderly or disabled customers with a communication problem there?

I was thinking, put on more staff, but certainly not Mandarin speaking staff as her son suggested. Yes, the reporter received poor service from local foreigners, and I agree that those persons should lift their game, too. But that lady deserved proper service, irrespective of whether other foreigners gave poor service to English-speakers, local or otherwise. It was unacceptable for the Macca’s manager to refuse to correct her order.

Here is the same story, but this time by a reporter who is not dripping with sarcasm or a chip on his shoulder: Under Construction

@dooo - where does it say the lady was told to wait because the line was long? Apparently she was told to leave, and the manager scolded another employee who asked the woman what was wrong.

One thing I do know for sure is that the manager did not have to be rude about the way she handled it. Not sure how I feel about the rest though.

If I was in a Chinese speaking country and couldn’t make an order because of my badly accented Chinese, I might be upset if I had received bad service but I certainly wouldn’t expect them to accommodate me by rolling in more English speakers.

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I have no sympathy for the lady. We don’t know the details of what took place. We only have her side of the story. Let’s assume that she was treated rudely by the staff because she didn’t speak English very well. We are not protected from rudeness. We cannot claim discrimination every time we are treated rudely. On the other hand, if she has lived in Canada for 10 years and cannot communicate well enough to be served a cup of coffee, she has a serious problem. And the problem is her own fault.

I visited Prague not this last time but once before, before I spoke Czech. I was in the railway station and ask a lady in the information booth where I can find a taxi. She could not speak English. I told her that I could not understand Czech. She got very angry with me and started shouting. That’s life. Rude people are everywhere. If you can’t speak the language of the country, you are more likely to be treated rudely, especially if people are busy and stressed.

There is absolutely no justification for any Chinese organization to mobilize their all too ready grievance machinery on behalf of this lady, in my opinion. This particular branch of McDonald’s was located on number three Road in Richmond. In that location, I would assume that the majority of customers are Chinese. Perhaps McDonald’s should have Mandarin speaking personnel. However, that is their business decision and again not any grounds for grievance mongering.


para 3 “Sun didn’t get what she ordered. She wanted to correct the mistake but says the manager sent her away saying, “You don’t understand English … The line is long. I want to serve other people.””

I interpreted “sent away” as sent away from the line, not the restaurant.

Living here in China I’ve had a few instances where people at a store wouldn’t deal with me leaving me with 2 options to consider what’s going on with the clerk or server: 1) doesn’t understand my Chinese or 2) won’t speak Chinese to the foreigner, probably due to some insecurities of not being able to speak English to the laowai. Almost every foreigner living in China for a long enough time has had the experience of this woman, except reversed – which is, you don’t need to speak English, I’m speaking in Mandarin – deal with me in Mandarin. In rare instances, though, some Chinese people don’t want to do that. They just don’t want to deal with you. At all.

Some foreigners who’ve been here a while, and pride themselves on their Mandarin, will chalk up language barriers to racism or non standard regional interference of the native speaker’s accent. Of course, they believe it has nothing to do with their own tones or pronunciation being off (which is often the case). There are times when I also want to cry foul. However, in the end, it’s my problem and I point the finger only at myself. I don’t beat myself up but I do take note of my errors and try to evaluate how I can handle situations better. I try to learn from every practical situation where I come across difficulties. These problems are mine. Evaluating racist tendencies of Chinese people or trying to figure out their inferiority complex surrounding lack of English skills is not my concern.

In this case, the woman is the foreigner/外国人. Is she going to cry for foreigners living over here who have to deal with similar issues? Or Is she going to make a global cry for foreigners everywhere with language issues, or is she just going to make a stink about foreigners needing “respect” in Canada?

Recently, getting my visa renewed, I had a woman answer my questions in Mandarin by pointing and when I asked her a question which didn’t involve any direction, she said “sorry” and waved me off. That’s how it is then. Naturally, it irritated me, but I got over it.

@all - fair enough. All I know is, (and I can’t speak for every Macca’s), but if that happened in my local Macca’s the other customers would have told the manager off for being rude, and insisted she hear the “poor lady” out.

What should have happened (and possibly might have, because we don’t know all the facts), is that the manager should have kindly asked that customer if she wouldn’t mind waiting to the side, whilst they tried to get someone else to assist her.

@Steve: “…I have no sympathy for the lady. […] Let’s assume that she was treated rudely by the staff because she didn’t speak English very well. We are not protected from rudeness. We cannot claim discrimination every time we are treated rudely…”

While I am personally not somebody who would tend to treat any lady in a rude way, I have to agree with Steve’s principle here. Rudeness towards an individual doesn’t automatically equate to racial discrimination. And any longterm resident in a foreign country should certainly have enough respect for the local culture to learn the language, IMO.

Nevertheless it is probably not great for business to treat customers in a sh***y way…

If it had happened to a Chinese tourist, I would have understood the reactions. I do understand why people get rude and impatient in certain circumstances but I’m always a bit suspicious when people totally overreact like the Chinese woman did. I might have been angry but I would have felt too ashamed for my poor English to even consider claiming racial discrimination. On the other hand, I’ve worked in a psychiatric clinic for several years and have met people with personality disorders who simply lacked the feeling for adequate behaviour and reasonableness, so that may be the woman’s main problem.

As for sending people away because they don’t speak the language, we did the same at work some time ago. A Serbian Roma family wanted us to treat her mother who didn’t speak any German. We called a Serbian nurse from another ward to serve as an interpreter for a first conversation but it turned out that the woman spoke a dialect which even my Serbian colleague could hardly understand. Apart from that she was illiterate, so our doctors finally decided not to admit her. They tried to show other possibilities to the family but they got very upset and started to threaten us with legal charges and so on. If the woman had broken a bone, it would have been different but in a psychiatric setting, communication is essential.

@ J

“And any longterm resident in a foreign country should certainly have enough respect for the local culture to learn the language, IMO.”

I have met many people in the German speaking world who have lived here for years and not learned German at all. I don’t think it has anything to do with their lack of respect for the local culture. I certainly am not learning German out of respect. I don’t know anything about this woman in Canada, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with her not knowing English to a high level if she does not need it. We know, from the link Julz611 gave, that she knows some English.


Personally I do think people who live abroad should try to learn the local language to the level of functional fluency. If they feel this isn’t necessary, that’s not something I’m going to get upset about - but in this case I also don’t think they can very well complain if they have problems with communication.

(But I should say again: I am not myself a person who would ever tend to be rude to foreigners - especially those of the better sex.)

I guess if you have lived in a country for 10 years and can’t even order food in a restaurant, it is somewhat disrespectful, and of course you only have yourself to blame if you have problems with communication. I don’t know how you define functional fluency. What kind of situation do you need to be able to function in for you to be functionally fluent? Does this mean being able to order food in a restaurant and buy a train ticket, or does this mean being able to buy a house using just the language?

I would say one has to be able to function in all typical day-to-day situations. It’s possible one might need help (from a lawyer, etc) if doing business or buying real estate. But generally one should be able to manage normal daily life without help, IMO.

@Jay, Colin

I agree with each of you, differently. I wouldent say learning the language is essential for respecting the culture, but I do see it as a necessary part of being respectful to everyone with whom you interact in your day to day life. If you are not respectful to them, don’t expect respect back.

I’ve worked fast food. US lunch breaks are 30 minutes, and it’s not fun for anyone on the restaurant side, or for those in line, to be held up by someone who feels they need to be served on a silver platter. Its mcdo, they treat us English speakers like crap too.

Edit: Now that I think about it, this example of how Americans interact with eachother is an example of culture. Yeah, I guess it comes down to respect of culture.

Some people are born victims.

“Some people are born victims.”

I usually equate this cliché to any other that evaluates people based on their birth.

“Some people are born victims.”

I usually equate this cliché to any other that evaluates people based on their birth.

As do I. Not meant to be taken all that seriously.
If it makes it easier, I’ll adapt it; “Some people are born into families which tend to play the victim at each opportunity. Then, due to the persons closed mindedness or lack of exploration or curiousity they remain in their established framework absorbed in the self and are unable to see things differently, subsequently becoming just a product of their birth and upbringing.”

But then, that’s not as catchy is it?



Good, you see the endless cycle. How do we get people out of it?


Oh man, I don’t know. Unfortunately sometimes only real tragedy will wake someone up enough to know that they had it good and shouldn’t have complained about spilt milk (or a lost McDonalds order).

Of course, we don’t know the situation but from the details given I’d say discrimination is way over the top (as many have said already).

I also take Steves’ point (Though he’s probably biased, but no less correct :wink: ) that a person living in a country for 10 years should get into difficulty ordering a fast food meal is…uninspiring.