I lived in Asia for almost ten years. Eventually I learned to read both Japanese and Korean but sometimes, especially when in the grocery store, it was easier to look at pictures or shapes than to try to sound out the word. “Sh…..am….. puh…..ooooooooo. Sham…..puh….oooooo. Oh! Shampoo!” I felt like one of the monsters on Sesame Street.
Even when products had English names, they were often inexplicable and unrelated to the contents. Why was the fabric softener called Pigeon? And was the person in the picture flying, or overcome by the unbelievable softness of her clothes?
Eventually I just stopped reading and chose things by picture, colour, shape, or location in the store.
Now that I’ve been back in Canada for almost a year, I find I still shop in much the same way, even though I now have a choice of official languages to read.
A few weeks ago, I bought dish soap. The bottle was the right shape, the stuff inside was blue, there was a picture of a sparkling dish, it was on sale… done. This morning, after weeks of washing dishes and wondering about the hows and the whys, I was utterly relived (and slightly embarrassed) to realize that my dish soap did not in fact, smell like baby ducks.