We All Look The Same To Them

Considering "How To Spot A Jap" is my second most popular post with 1056 views as of this writing (snuggly between "Who Wants The Display Model" and "Chairman Mee-ow!"), it should come as no surprise to me that the whole nationality-blurring aspect goes both ways. I always thought it was an insult to Asian people when ignorant friends of mine would boldly state "meh, the all look the same to me." Of course, that was all well before I became privy to the knowledge that Chinese are top contenders for the "most racist people on the planet" title. Now I'm a little less PC and a whole lot more 'liberal' on the issue (Canadians, see what I did there?).

An odd side-effect – in that I didn't see it coming, not in that it doesn't make complete stupid sense – of living in China is that the subtle differences between Chinese people become more and more obvious to the point where you begin to recognize certain traits in others and you begin asking founded question like, "don't I know you – you look just like this girl I taught six months ago in [insert rather direct and utilitarian sounding university name here]." Whereas when I lived in Canada it went more like "don't I know you, you look just like this Japanese person I met once. Oh, you're Chinese? Close enough."

In all of this I didn't really consider that to Chinese people, Western features are a bit hard to differentiate. Sure, I had heard it. I'd even gotten into some goofy, expat bar conversations about it, but I had never really experienced it, until today.

As I'm a lazy mofo, I have been reluctantly only scraping off random bits of my facial hair for months now. Basically, I have grown what I like to call "The Functional". It's a beard with no pesky mustache, and it's alright. Maggie doesn't complain about the whiskery kisses, I'm not fearful of having to blow my nose, and I get to pose thoughtful by stroking my chin hair in moments where I'm trying desperately to remember what the other person is talking about.

However, it was just getting too long, so yesterday I took a razor to it. Through the course of the last 24 hours I've been in contact with no less than 10 Chinese adults and not a single one of them was able to place in the first, second (and most not even in the third) guesses what I had changed. Top two? 1) Hair cut (to be clear, they all indicated the top of my head), 2) new clothes. New feckin' clothes?!?

Anyway, maybe it's just that I look remarkably the same with a beard and without – judge for yourself, I've nothing left to ponder with.

ryanbeard.jpg ryannobeard.jpg

15 Responses

  1. Haha, I used to get told daily how much I look like David Beckham. Mostly, it was my 'yellow' hair (my hair is pretty much the same colour as yours). Anyway, I'd stick with the beardless look, it made you look kinda like a pro wrestler (no offense!)

  2. This is my second attempt at posting a comment. Some how clicking on the spell check button crashed Firefox.  If I was ever a witness to a horrendous crime I'd be the worst person to ask for a description of the people involved. I can never seem to remember what people really look like and if they have facial hair or not. It's a very weird feeling.  I do agree with you statement about Chinese people being racist. Just about all Chinese people I know are okay with white people, but look down on black people. It's like a whole country full of southerners.

  3. Hehehe mayby it's just that i've knowen you so long now but I don't think i could have told you that you shaved…..hum…..maybe that's just the results of what we've done in the past 😉 lol

  4. @Dan: Yeah… I get the Beckham thing too. WTF? As for the pro-wrestler… I was keeping it under my hat (in my tights?), but I’ve picked up some extra work.. hehe. The big beard is too much, that’s why I shaved it off. But a bit of facial hair makes me look more my age… and I love telling taxi drivers when they ask (and they ALWAYS ask) that it only took me two days to grow it that long. They, with much melancholy in their eyes, touch their three long chin hairs and sigh.

    @Shaun: Sorry about that. We’re back to the old way of posting comments in an effort to see if that stops them from all showing up in my damn Akismet. I added that WYSIWYG editor function to the comments, and though it’s cool… me having to scroll through the mass amounts of spam collected by my spam protector just to make sure people’s comments aren’t being eaten, isn’t cool.

    @Chris: Umm… you just keep ‘what we’ve done in the past’ in the past ‘friend’. Haha, that sounds so gay. Meh, we’re a gay friendly site.

  5. @Ryan
    I have a few rules in life that have held me in good stead… One of them is “Never ever trust a man with a full beard but no moustache”.

    You should have kept the lip-tickler for Movember though.


  6. Ryan,

    Hell, I think some of the expats I see are friends from back home sometimes — been in China too long, and have started to see things when I look at foreigners, at least at first glance.

    If all you see are Chinese people day in and day out, it’s pretty understandable that they have a hard time differentiating us. Sort of. No, not really.

  7. @Mom: Hey! I get it from your damn side of the family 🙂

    Figures, she doesn’t comment for … hmmm… I’m just not sure when… and this is what I get. The love I tell ya, the love. 😉

  8. Dude! Maggie let you grow that beard? And she never once tried to take a razor to your face while you were sleeping? That’s a good woman you’ve got there.

  9. @T: Let me grow it? Hell, she nearly cried when I shaved it off. Though, I think this has more to do with her adversion to change.

    @Crystal: Actually, I hadn’t considered using a beard to mess with the Chinese. I should don a Uygur cap and grab myself a chuar cart. Ah, naw, I’d probably be arrested as a dissident or something.

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