Not For All The Tea In China

A blog describing the idiosyncracies of working and teaching in China and life on a day to day basis. With stories of unbelievable stupidity and outright ripping off of foreigners.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Your So Fat

In China appearances are all important, 'face' as it's called is foremost in most Chinese people's mind. As I mentioned in the previous post 'Your Ugly, Let's Get Married', being fat isn't really considered a down side for Chinese men, although unfortunatly it still is for women.

Telling someone 'your fat' doesn't have the weight of an insult in China, in fact it can sometimes even be considered a compliment, if you are fat that means you have enough money to be eating well, and in China their opinion is that if you eat well that means you are healthy. The idea of colesterol control hasn't quite reached China yet.

Having 'good face' relates to many things, but very often that means money or material goods. After the communist revolution in 1949, when religeons were banned, money became 'god'. So if you have expensive clothes, a nice car and a good house then you have 'good face'. Also 'good face' relates to the giving of expensive gifts, this gives you 'good face' and also gives the receiver 'good face' as you must hold them in high esteem.

The annoying thing with this is it usually results in endless rounds of having to buy expensive gifts you would rather not have to. In fact everyone in China feels the same way but still does it as it's polite. Chinese culture by and large is made up of a lot of people having to do a lot of things they don't want to, essentially for 'good face'. As a foreign teacher in China I can sometimes feign ignorance of cultural norms, as after all I'm not Chinese, but the longer you have been in China the less easy this is to do. Frankly it's a pain in the ass. If someone invites you to dinner in China, be careful, as most of the time this means they want you to do something for them, and it's real hard after someone has just paid for your lunch. In the west we would consider this rude, but in China this is the common form. steer clear of dinner if you value your free time, saying 'no' to them only means you want to negotiate more in their mind.


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