I'm sitting in the airport right now on my way back to Beijing from Hong Kong. One thing I find to be quite interesting about Hong Kong is that, when I'm here, I can always relate to Mainlanders who come here and can't communicate with people. Today I spoke with two Mainlanders who speak English. We could relate to each other very well as we spoke about how taxi drivers here understand neither English or Mandarin, so we're left writing out characters for them to figure out what we mean.
I'm not often in a place where I'm surrounded by a language I can't understand, but when I am I get an overwhelming urge to learn it. Yesterday I was in Shanghai and got to hear lots of Shanghainese around me, which made me wish I knew more. I can pick out some things in both Cantonese and Shanghainese, but I'm certainly not at a point of having any meaningful communication in either.
But I can say that if somewhere down the line I find myself in either of those cities for a longer stint, which, I would say, is not entirely unlikely, I'm definitely going to squander some of my free time in an effort to learn the local tongue.