The Way Chinese People Dress

August 2nd, 2008

There comes, for any issue, a point in people’s lives at which their view of something stops changing, despite reality continuing to change.  For each issue, that’s a different time, but it always seems to happen: folks who keep saying “Czechoslovakia”, or “the U.S.S.R” in non-historical contexts.

One of my stuck points, I’ve realised, is about how Chinese people dress.  I’ve lived in Japan for over a decade, and have met lots of folks who claim to be able to tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese folks just by looking.  I could too, until a few years ago.  I think most people who claim to be able to tell the difference between Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese believe that they’re doing so via jaw structure, epicanthic folds, etc., but except for some really edge cases, I think it really comes down to little things like hairstyles, makeup, and clothing.

Which is why China’s continuing economic success is making things so difficult.  It used to be easy: if you see someone who looks like they stepped out of the 80’s, they were Chinese.  If it wasn’t in real life, but on TV, it was either old 80’s Japanese TV footage, or modern China.  Unless they were acting really really creepy, in which case it was North Korea.  But now that China has caught up economically with much of the world, so has their fashion, and now Chinese look pretty much exactly like Japanese.  Except, mentally, I still picture them as looking like Japanese teleported from the past.

Not that this really causes any problems.  “Distinguishing similar Asian nationalities” is neither part of my private nor work life.  It’s just one of the points in my mental history tracking that seems to have gotten stuck.

That and “Czechoslovakia”.

2 Responses to “The Way Chinese People Dress”

  1. peacay Says:

    Bloody Czech bastards! How dare they munge my sentence construction and make me nearly trip over my conversational flow. I’ve been trying to force myself to substitute Czech for ‘the Czech Republic’ but it really clangs. It’s the carryover of pre1989 mentation for sure, but it’s also a short sharp naming word, unlike any other that I can recall off hand (in the national identity sense). I say we force them to change their name to Czechovia or we invade. It’s the only responsible way forward.

    I’ve always enjoyed the ‘sport’ of nationality guessing re: Asian women. I think I would argue that it’s more than just edge cases where facial structure operate as the distinguishing features between J + C women. I would think it’s possible in perhaps a third of cases (but maybe I’ve decided I’m right without having had it verified) to work on faces alone.
    Of course there’s a great section in the middle of the Venn diagram which gets much larger when you add in Korea, Vietnam &c. I’m not up enough to know about the clothes although it’s not hard to guess that the middle/upper middle classes in China have substantially increased in number in recent years so the attendant increase in imports of fashions and hair styles is to be expected.

  2. bugbread Says:

    Personally, I think it would be easiest if they just changed it to “the Mic (mike) Czech Republic”.

Leave a Reply