And a random photo taken from The Great Wall - to pretty things up a bit
I think one of the many cultural/social differences that is really obvious to me, as an American living here in China, is the Chinese tradition of BEING BLUNT.
In the U.S., its just not socially acceptable to tell someone they are fat or they eat too much or they have a big nose or they look as if they haven't slept in days. Those are things people may think, but for the most part, remain left unsaid. If someone were to point out these less than desirable characteristics, we would think that person was being rude or too judgmental or in some cases, just plain nasty.
In China, pointing out things like this is the norm and for the most part its not intended to be rude. I think to them, its very black and white... its just a fact: the sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun rises in the east, you have a big nose and you need to tone your arms. Fact. And what's the problem with reporting facts?
I was at the gym today, speaking with one of the Chinese trainers I had met the last time I went to the gym. She is thrilled I can speak Chinese and enjoys chatting with me - and I like her, too! But, today, she confessed that last time when I told her I was an American, she was really surprised because according to her, I look French. Yes. Apparently French people have big noses like mine. I smiled and told her no, I am American, but my dad is Italian. That made much more sense to her - apparently Italians tend to have big schnozzes too! I didn't explain to her that if she thinks my nose is big now, she should have seen it before my nose job! (I don't think that would have translated well!) Luckily, I am no longer a 15 year old girl self-conscious about my nose. Besides, supposedly, Chinese people think a big nose (they actually don't use the word for big, they use the word for tall) is attractive. Hmm.
As I continued on with my work out, I saw her walk over to a perfectly fit girl who had a little extra junk in the trunk. She points at her. "You. You use this machine. You need to lose fat here" (points to the girl's bum). I see the girl nod "yes, yes I need to lose weight in this area" (refers to her bum).
Next, she walks over to a plump lady. "You. too much food." The lady, "yes, I know, I bake too much." The trainer "you like to eat cake and sweets. Don't eat so often."
And I'm over in my corner, doing bicep curls (you know, to tone my arms) and smiling, because its so typical and sort of funny and I am really hoping the two ladies who just endured "the truth" understand she isn't trying to be rude.
The moral of this story? Don't ever ask a Chinese person if you look fat unless you want to know if you look fat! And if you plan on coming to China - toughen up a little bit, first!
With all this said - if you are not an American, what is the standard in your country for this sort of thing? Do you tend to blurt out the truth in this blunt fashion? Or is it like in America where we try not to acknowledge these things, unless we are asked (and make sure 500 times that the person really wants to know)?