Brutal Chinese honesty: “fat guy underwear” edition

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:

6 thoughts on “Brutal Chinese honesty: “fat guy underwear” edition”

  1. I’m not sure the underwear pictured would fit that guy… then again they may have elastic properties of exceptionally flexible proportions (they’d need to).

  2. I’ve always liked “Cleverest Son’s Wife” brand.

    Do you think they photoshopped that guy? Something about him doesn’t look quite right.

    Do you mean “胖太太”? 旁太太 sounds like some kind of 小三, “wife on the side” sort of thing.

  3. Sounds like Lorin just stumbled into a great idea for a retail store, selling the latest fashions for mistresses.

    Personally, I prefer the Chinese bluntness, they have a much healthier view of self image than north americans do, that’s for sure.

  4. Sadly, such a store would probably make a ridiculous amount of money in China. But I bet such marketing already exists.

    I agree that there are ways in which the Chinese bluntness is healthier, but it’s not all good. There can be a mean side to it as well, and in Chinese culture there is also plenty to criticize regarding beauty ideals. First thing that comes to mind is the preference that women have zero visible muscle. My female teachers used to talk about that regularly.

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