When it comes to talk about bodies, the Chinese play by a totally different set of rules. They are often brutally blunt by Western standards. And North Americans are often way over-sensitive by Chinese standards. Personally, I think they both have a point. But either way, any North American coming to China can expect to eventually be hit with direct comments about their appearance that no one except mean schoolyard bullies would say in their home countries — except usually the Chinese aren’t intending to be mean. We’ve had plenty of our own humourous and tear-producing encounters with this aspect of Chinese culture, and some are listed at the end of this post.
Anyway, an American friend of ours in Tianjin just shared this picture of a pack of men’s underwear over Facebook, which she took in a shopping center near her apartment. Whether this particular example reflects typical Chinese talk about bodies or merely a lack of translation skill, it’s a fine anecdote for illustrating this particular painful (to North Americans) cultural difference:
The Chinese on the package says (mouseover for pronunciation):
Fat guy, pure cotton, soft, snug briefs
Who says there’s no honesty in advertising?*
(*But then why isn’t he wearing the underwear in the picture?)
We’ve both written on this kind of thing before: