For a terrible liar like myself, coming up with excuses for missing class was never easy. I always tried to strike a balance between telling the unvarnished truth and not being too evasive, but didn’t always succeed. Going to high school in the States, saying “I had things to do” simply didn’t suffice. Explanations like, “Y’know, I just wasn’t feeling well” or “I lost track of time!” were better but harder to pull off convincingly. It would almost have been better just to tell the truth and hope for the best, even if “I was drinking beer in the parking lot, Mr. Principal” would have raised an eyebrow or two.

I’d like to say that as my 10th high school reunion date approaches, I take a far more mature attitude toward my studies than I did back then. But still, within the confines of a rather lax Chinese language school here in the rather lax city of Kunming, there have been occasions when I haven’t been able to trudge to class. I won’t bore you with reasons why, but suffice to say I probably couldn’t have gotten a doctor’s note for the majority of my absences.

One advantage of the Chinese, though, is the all purpose excuse:“我有事” In Chinese, this typically translates as “I have things to do”. The beauty of this excuse is that I have never met a Chinese teacher who has questioned it. Anytime I’ve been late to class, or missed a lesson, I’ve been able to use 我有事 without fail. Occasionally, if I’ve been particularly bad about going to class, I utter the phrase in a somber tone that would make Christopher Walken proud.

我有事 is great because it can apply to any reason you might have missed class. That 烧烤 you ate last night didn’t sit well in your stomach this morning? 我有事. Had an evening session with a couple of cadres, a deck of cards, and a bottle or two of 白酒? 我有事. Found that reading about the misadventures of Paris and Britney online was a hell of a lot more interesting than studying the 把 structure? You guessed it: 我有事.

If you’re teaching or working in China, 我有事 doesn’t work because your 事 is your boss’ 事. But if you’re in a language school, it sure beats the hell out of the old Jeff Spicoli line “I just couldn’t make it on time, Mr. Hand!”

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About Matt

Matt spent six years in China, mainly based in the beautiful spring city of Kunming. During that time he worked in consulting, journalism as well as English teaching. Matt studied Chinese for 2+ years and loved exploring the mountains of Yunnan by mountain bike). He now lives in New York City where he is pursuing a Masters in International Affairs at Columbia University.

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  1. @Rick: Haha… That’s a universal truth (or, rather, lie!)

    A few years ago I read a funny article in the Guardian newspaper that said the best excuse is a composite of a very brazen mistruth tempered by a very particular detail.

    Thus, for example, if you want to miss a whole morning of work you could call up the office and say that you shat yourself in the taxi-ride to the office, so did a U-turn and went home to shower and change clothes. You’d also then mention that the taxi driver was a 2-metre tall Northerner who said he was an uncle of Yao Ming. That kinda thing!

  2. @Matt: Haha, I used 我有事 a number of times while I was in uni here – well, up until the point when I really had 事(t) to do and stopped going.

    @Rick: 我的狗真可以吃我的作业本。她吃全部的东西。昨天我找到了她吃过石头。石头!

    @Steven: I think you used that a couple weeks back to get out of going to the bar! 😉

  3. chinese got a lot of these kind linguistic shortcuts(and kind of lazy).I guess i could add 不好意思,which i think could have plenty of meanings to just cut the crap and begin to ask what u wanna ask…

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