Living in China

Why The Shop Assistant Keeps Telling Me The Dress Is Too Small?

It’s personal. But still they talk about your weight, salary and eating habits. I just ran into an old post in China Hope Live and it explains very well what is this guanxin talk:

“–, 关心 talk, which is intended to express care, concern, or interest on the part of the speaker; it’s a relational gesture. However, many Chinese typically express care, concern, and interest by asking about or publically commenting on things that North Americans consider private, personal, and none-of-your-business”

I have had my part on this guanxin too. One early morning I received a text message from my Chinese friend. He wrote that it is cold outside so I should put on warm clothes. That would have been perfectly fine advice, but he wasn’t my mother or my boyfriend. An other friend likes to remind me when to open my umbrella. I like to remind him that I am not a child anymore.

But this scene in KFC have been ultimately the best one so far. I was meeting with my tutor who used to help me with my Chinese studies. I was little bit hungry so I bought french fries and chicken wings. After I started eating my tutor said that I shouldn’t eat that kind of food because it is not good for me. I took a deep breath and told him that he wasn’t my mother. I also added that as a grown up I can eat what I want, even unhealthy stuff.

All these three times they have been right. It’s good to wear more clothes, use the umbrella and eat healtier. So what is the matter? I am not, as most other Westerners too, used to hearing these things from people that aren’t part of my family. I feel that those things are private and I felt little bit insulted at the KFC.

I try to remind my self that this is the way they do in China and it isn’t meant to be rude. They just want to show their care. But I also think that Chinese people should be aware that when dealing with foreigners some things are better not to be said. Some people might not be as understanding as I am.

But even I try to be as judicious as possible I still almost pushed my boyfriend down the stairs when he was kind enough to inform me that I have a big bottom. Luckily I managed to count to ten.

Photo by Luke Wisley


  • Justin

    “But even I try to be as judicious as possible I still almost pushed my boyfriend down the stairs when he was kind enough to inform me that I have a big bottom. Luckily I managed to count to ten.”

    hahaha that’s hilarious. What was he thinking?


  • Sara

    I think that is part of the whole stating the obvious thing. Look it’s raining, look there’s a laowai, look your bottom is so big! Afterwards I told him that in Finland (and the whole Western world) we don’t say aloud everything we think.


  • Anon

    I enjoy reading your blog, for as a native Chinese not born in the mainland I always like to find out how foreigners view us. However, this is a way of the Chinese people. I don’t mean to be rude but it’s really true. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is their turf, you can’t help it if they say something you find offensive. 再加上,他们只是在关心你。这是他们关心别人的方式,所以别再抱怨了吧!have a good day (:


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi, so nice to get your comment. I know it’s called 关心话 for a reason, but still it’s something that is hard to get used to. I’ve been getting better at hearing it during the years though :)


    CPFC Reply:

    I don’t believe you are Chinese.

    Anyway, I agree with what Sara says, it is annoying and stupid… so what I do is be the ‘uber’ Chinese and as soon as it gets cold mass weixin my friends to wear more. I also live in Guangdong, when we had a Typhoon here, I told them all to stay in doors and look after themselves haha


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