So the other Saturday I went to my first Chinese wedding since 2008. This time round it was a much classier affair than the whirlwind of Bai Jiu* and drunken teaching that I recalled from last time, but good fun nonetheless.
At said wedding I was once again introduced to the brutal realities of Chinese honesty – a concept which I personally find to be most strange. In a country where people will bend the truth to avoid “losing face”, there seems to be no problem in remarking upon less than favourable changes in a person’s physical appearance.
As the winter months approach, I’ve been porking up, readying my hibernation pouch, piling on the pounds, struggling to see my toes (you get the picture). The kind of thing that back home would elicit a frozen smile and awkward whispers once I’d waddled off to gobble down some more artery clogging treats seems to be a topic that is utterly broach-able in China, and it’s actually kind of refreshing (so long as you’ve got a sense of humour).
The level of brutal honesty seemed to build up from relatively sober beginnings. First off somebody just said “You’ve gained a little bit of weight I see.” during some polite conversation. This was followed by the next level of blunt honesty, coming in the form of “You’ve put on some weight.” after a brief chat. But as the drinks came out and the wedding wore on, somebody who I barely even recall ever meeting tapped me on the shoulder, and as I turned to look at him he said “You’re fat” and then wandered on, clearly immersed in his goal to destroy the self esteem of each wedding guest who got in his path.
I have to say, I found it quite funny, but that’s the kind of comment that would send many people I know into a weepy, Ben & Jerry’s fuelled rampage.
Oh well, “When in Rome”, as they say. Watch out, my chubby Chinese friends, you are in for an unpleasant truth! I just doubt I’ll be the first one to tell you…
*Bai Jiu is a 52%-56% rice wine drunk by most Chinese men over 30. Its uses include stripping paint and making fully grown men weep upon consumption.