I will be moving to China with an advantage - I can speak Mandarin though of course it could do with some improvement. Think of how difficult it must be for those who couldn't.
On our way back from Shanghai, we had a little problem at the check-in counter at Pudong Airport. We wanted to sit together (of course) and they separated us because we had passports from different countries and my Singapore passport didn't carry my married name (incidentally that got Hub all upset - now he wants me to register our marriage in Singapore, hmm, to think that I've managed to avoid the issue for more than a decade, I'm incidentally very fond of my own sirname...).
We insisted (in English) so the girl at check-in walkie-talkied her colleague (in Mandarin, of course) :
Girl : I've a couple here who wants to sit together. Can I give them seats 3A and 3B?
Colleague : No, the problem is that 3A is spoilt. The TV doesn't work.
Girl : What if the client doesn't mind?
Me (interrupting in Mandarin) : Of course we mind. Why wouldn't we mind?
Girl was of course shocked and you can see it on her face. Why would she imagine that after paying more than 5000 euros for each ticket we would want to spend 13 hours on the plane without TV? And why would she imagine that I couldn' t speak Mandarin when I have a Chinese signature on my passport? And who did she think she was to make decisions for us without first consulting us?
Welcome to China. And to what awaits you if you do not speak Mandarin.