Mind your language, ang moh
Younger readers may lose me on this one, but there was a British comedy called Mind Your Language.
The show's most popular character was a Spaniard called Juan. He understood nobody and could only say "por favor" and "it's all right".
I have become Juan from Mind Your Language. If my behaviour continues, I'll grow his afro and handlebar moustache, too.
I'm here in Brazil for the World Cup; to watch the football and be reminded at every opportunity that I am a monolingual moron.
Brazilians speak only Portuguese. A handful might understand Spanish. Even fewer can converse in English.
When I order food in a café, I peruse the menu, point and say: "Por favor… it's all right!"
When I take a taxi, I point to a tourist map and say: "Por favor… it's all right!"
When I asked for a replacement part for my selfie stick, I said, "Por favor… it's all right" - which didn't even make sense.
The Portuguese accent in Brazil is so thick and colloquial that I cannot even ask for directions to the train station. So how do you think I managed to ask for a replacement part for my selfie stick?
For the uninitiated, a selfie stick is a telescopic rod that you attach a camera phone to, before extending it so you can take selfie photos from up to a metre away.
I'd been using this monopod device to make videos for the TNP app. (Not seen them? Go download the app now.)
I needed to make a minor repair, but I couldn't explain a selfie stick in Portuguese. Frankly, I'd struggle even in English.
So I mimed the operation.
This was not a smart move.
Using non-verbal communication to pull out a long, straight object at waist height, repeatedly, whilst saying, "Por favor… it's all right" does not impress hotel staff.
Miming the extending and retracting of a selfie stick faster and more excitedly only made matters worse.
While performing my selfie stick mime routine, I tried to reassure the woman on reception by saying: "I like to take photos. Por favor? It's all right!"
Perverts have been arrested for less.
Eventually, I found a Chinese-Portuguese woman running a camera accessories stall in an IT shopping mall and managed to describe what I needed using simple Mandarin.
We wanted to hug each other, like we'd discovered a long-lost relative. She'd never been to Singapore. I'd never been to China. And yet we bonded over some pretty awful Mandarin and a selfie stick.
At least she was aware of Singapore and its people and customs. Other folks have been less informed.
An England supporter said: "You're from Singapore? You must be a multi-millionaire then. You're all millionaires in Singapore, right?"
Of course we are. My scruffy demeanour and subway rides are just a cunning subterfuge. I'm really in Brazil to do property deals with Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
Not really. He's not daft. He's seen the price of a five-room flat in Toa Payoh.
In Sao Paulo, a journalist from Israel was rather confused that I was a Singapore-based writer, rather than a scribbler from the UK.
"But... you're white," he spluttered.
Nothing got past this guy.
"What's it like being a writer in Singapore? Everyone is quite rich over there, right?"
The stereotype was starting to irritate. So I handed the Ferrari keys to my butler and put the journalist firmly in his place.
But at least we could converse.
In cafes, my slow, deliberate attempt to say "I'm a vegetarian" clearly translates into "give me half a cow on a warm bed of rice and beans, my good man... and please make fun of me."
Through lots of pointing and miming, one waiter suggested that a) real men ate meat; b) I was lanky and lacked sufficient protein and c) England were not a very good football team.
It's hard to be humiliated by a guffawing, portly Brazilian waiter in a hairnet. So I slyly poked him with my selfie stick under the table.
Thanks to an English-speaking hotel receptionist, I now have a handwritten note in Portuguese, explaining my preferred dietary requirements.
A waiter read it and ordered me the perfect meal. Then he reeled off the list of drinks on the menu in Portuguese.
I nodded and replied: "Por favor … It's all right!"