Friday, May 7, 2010

The watermelon seed

Chinese people are the best fun.

Last week I was waiting at the Bund, trying to get a taxi. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one with this idea, so as you might be able to imagine, things were not moving fast.

One yellow-dressed, happy looking, middle-aged traffic guard saw my frenetic waving, smiled and waved me over.

-Can you speak Chinese? He asked as I strutted up to him.

-Sure, I said.

-Great! Then we can chat! And I can help you get a taxi.

It took about 15 minutes for us to get me a car, but that wasn’t any biggy because my new traffic guard friend was great fun. Or, OK, he was great fun, until he suddenly said:

-Western women… It’s impossible to tell your age?! How old are you?

I challenged.




-Are you joking?

-No? How old are you? I’m sorry I just cannot tell!

-I’m not even 30!
I cried. I’m 27!!!!!!!

-Are YOU joking?! You cannot be only 27. You look sooooo muuuuuuuuch older!!!

End of fun conversation. Weight is one thing. I have sort of learned not to be offended anymore when Chinese people tell me that I’m not “super fat” but just “fat” but now this?! I look 8 years older than I am? I think I’m just going to pretend he said so because I’m tall (and I was wearing killer heels) and try to forget about it.

Anyway, that was just last week. Last night some old workmates were in town and we popped by a wine bar in the French Concession. I chatted for a bit with the Chinese bar manager (from Anhui) and was greeted with a huge smile when he realized we could speak to each other in Chinese. When my 2 friends went out for a smoke (how LOVELY is this new law that you cannot smoke inside some restaurants/bars?!) my new friend pretty much took a seat next to me to keep me company. 

We went over the usual stuff (how long I’d been to China, where he was from and yadi yadi) and then he asked where I was from.


-Oh! You are very tall, I should have been able to tell. But then you look cute and I think you have the most perfectly shaped face!

-Eh… what?

-Yes… you know what? I have met many Swedish girls and their faces are often too long. Your face is like… a watermelon seed!

Just when he said that my 2 friend walked back inside, and he turned to them:

-Don’t you agree, her face perfect! Just like a watermelon seed!

I could tell my friend looking something between surprised and hysterical. They had only been gone for a minute or 2, and here they come back, being told that I apparently have a face that relates to watermelons. They decided to be polite and nodded and agreed for the moment.

Not until we paid, left and got into a taxi did they burst out laughing. And I’ve officially gotten a new nickname now, at least when I’m around them: The watermelon seed!


Unknown said...

Good morning! You've just shaken the sleepiness off me first thing before b'fast!! Such fun stories! The melon seed tag sounds nice! Do you like it??

Anonymous said...

When I grew up in Hong Kong, I often heard my mother and other people use the term "瓜子口臉" to describe a girl's beautiful face. If a person's face resembles the character 国, he's considered to be
stubborn and difficult to deal with.

Jane said...

haha,,as a chinese girl, I wish someone could tell me i have a watermelon seed face^^ ,,it is really a compliment . A watermelon face (瓜子脸)or a goose egg(鹅蛋脸) are considered perfect face shape in china,,only beauty have it!

pilgrimchick said...

Wow--not quite the compliment I would be expecting, but hey, there are worse ones.

SKY said...

It is a compliment when people said you have a 'watermelon seed' face (in Chinese)..You should be happy then.. BTW , congrate.

Unknown said...

i have to defend the poor guard. My experience tells me that east asians (japanese, koreans and chinese) skin age slower than rest of ethnic groups (maybe except for african descents). Many caucasians do always remarked how young asians look. East asian skin don't get visible wrinkles on their face until 30s whereas caucasian do when they hit early 20s.

Once I have met one 25 year old Swedish woman who commented that a 37 year old chinese mom, who had one 14 year old kid, look younger than her, whereas the swedish did look like a 37 year old from her skin.

However it seems, from my perspective, east asians age catches up with caucasian skin when they hit 50s.

East asian women want white skin as white as caucasians, whereas caucasian women want youthful looking skin. So you want to trade recipes and secrets? :p

About that watermelon seed, that's a very weird blunt comment.

Anonymous said...

Ah Jonna this one is supposed to be a compliment! The guy actually meant you had oval face which in chinese is 瓜子脸, he just translated it literally.

Oval face is the most desired face shape in China/Asia and a lot of women go under the knife to have their facial bones reshaped and get this look!

******************** Shanghai MiFeng said...

Now Jonna ,
the age thing I would have slapped he for . The comment of having a Watermelon Seed Face , now that is Funny ! I think you can hear me laugh all the way from the U.S.A.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Wow!! I had no idea that having a watermelon seed-shaped face was such a great thing?! Hahahah!!! Well, not sure if I really do though... He's the first one to tell me! :) Funny how many compliments can be hidden in culture differences!

Chinese Traveler said...

Yeap! I remember those comments of watermelon seed shaped face. They are a great compliment for a woman who has pretty face. But, LOL, cultural differences can make this comment hysterical.

M J said...

i don't think there's a chinese word for "oval". i'm sorry they have to re sort to using a name of a fruit to describe facial shapes...

but take it as a compliment. Cos it's common to see alot of asian females have large round faces! :-P

flyingfish said...

OK, Jonna, if I didn't know better, I would say you had a lot of nerve, what with being tall, blonde, gorgeous -- also smart and athletic -- and complaining about being told you look a few years older than you actually are. (Hey, a Chinese guy once asked me if I were a boy or a girl. Come on, that has to be worse, right?)

But I do know better. You are not complaining. So, thanks for the entertaining story!

And it's great to hear about the old-fashioned compliment. Next thing you know, they'll be telling you your fingers are like scallions!

Hans Li Engnell said...

Guessing ones age is not that easy (although we Westerners are easly offended when people can't). I still have to show my ID when shopping at the Swedish alcohol monopoly. No one under 20 are allowed to buy alcohol there. I'm 28. I'm still not sure if it's offensive or just a compliment every time... :-/

Anonymous said...

BTW, if he says you have watermelon seed like face that means he thinks you are pretty :)


Anonymous said...

(lol). This is very funny indeed, Chinese guys usually can not tell western women's age, because they rarely seen one.



m--e said...

I'm 30 and I usually get mistaken for about 20. My husband is 31 and has been mistaken for 50!!!!

Don't feel too bad. :-)

Blank-Socrate said...

I have a joke
it is a bout countryman here in egypt
once he was in a plane setting next to Europian man whom flattered the Flight attendant,
and he said I want Mango juice my sweetest mango fruit ;) ,,
then the countryman said I want milk, my sweety cow
it just the culture dear friend
I loved the way you are addressing the new people you know "friend"
sooo Am I a friend :)

Somebluenotes said...

Well, watermelon seed is actually a compliment. It means the same as a heart shaped face, which is the most flattering to Chinese people.

Anonymous said...

I'm Chinese...and when I go to China, people go crazy over my face shape cause I have a perfect "瓜子臉"...They keep telling me to start acting, cause I have a face for the t.v. :-/ lol... but the first thing people in China say about me when they first meet me to my mother is "wow...your daughter has such a beautiful face-shape" I don't know...if it's just rare or something? It's quite amusing, cause here in one really cares about the face shape. haha.