I love living in China, but I swear to goodness, it’s not doing a thing for my ego. Apparently, I’m fat, I have a large nose, and I’m too old to learn to learn the language. The latest? My eyesight is going downhill fast.
Some cultural differences I just get used to over time, and others simply throw me for a loop. So at a recent book fair I bought the book, “101 Stories for Foreigners to Understand Chinese People” by Yi S. Ellis with Bryan D. Ellis (she was born in Shanghai and raised in the U.S.; he is American). Each brief chapter shines some light on Chinese cultural differences, some of which relate to my precious ego.
Returning from a home visit last summer, my ayi greeted me by saying I was hen pang. Granted, I did fill up (literally, apparently) on some favorite foods back home, but geez! Little did I know, according to the Ellis’, the Chinese often tell you that you’re fat to show their affection and familiarity with you, as in they notice enough to care. Should I wish she cared less?
An adorable older Chinese woman touched my daughter’s nose and said it was so big. Forget my ego; you want to know about an 8-year-old’s?! She looked at me wanting to know how to respond, and I had no clue. I’ve since learned that large noses are auspicious, that they indicate happy childhoods and successful futures.
Taking Chinese lessons, I often hear how “younger” students are able to absorb the language more easily. They simply aren’t afraid of making mistakes like adults are. And because adults multi-task more than younger students, their ability to retain the intricacies of the language is apparently harder. Do I believe this? I don’t know; all I hear is that I’m too old to learn it.
But my latest gripe is small print. When I reached a certain age, I was admittedly kind of proud that I hadn’t yet needed reading glasses. I felt like I somewhat outlasted the majority — of my friends, anyway. However, with my new, stronger far-sighted contact lens prescription this summer, I realized that “cheaters” were no longer avoidable. I stocked up on several pair of the lowest prescription and came back to China. To tiny, tiny print. Seriously, are printing costs cheaper if you use tiny print? Must we condense all the information onto one page? Reading glasses aren’t an option anymore, and I sometimes need an actual magnifying glass to boot.
I love living here, but forever when I read a menu in a restaurant, I’ll hold it a foot away and growl at China for taking me down a notch yet again. So much for egos.