The sun and heat have brought out a fresh round of umbrellas again this year to protect Chinese women’s curious love for “Snow white” skin. As suddenly as the seasons in China change, umbrellas start to bob around town through the streets held by dainty women in high heels trying to evade the slightest bit of color in their skin. China’s love for white skin is almost to a startling point and at times difficult for us from the West to grasp.
Despite the constant annoyance of having your eye gouged out and your cheeks scratched by a pink Hello Kitty parasol while standing in the queue, the cultural difference is interesting and deserves a ponder.
While in the West we spend our summers lying on the beach in the sun trying to get tan or playing outdoors in order to achieve that “sun-kissed” look, in China, women will attach umbrellas on their bicycles so as to avoid the smallest of sun rays. China’s love of white skin renders Chinese beaches barren until around 5pm. While in the West we have fake tanning creams, here that notion is blatantly absurd. Skin bleaching isn’t just for Michael Jackson-here practically all sunscreens and the vast majority of skin creams and products all contain a whitening agent.
On one occasion, I returned from holiday with what I considered to be a “healthy glow” as opposed to my normal pasty complexion and the girls in my office shrieked in horror, “Ah! So Ugry! Why you do this!? Despite the ego-white-slap bash in the face, it indicates how strongly the Chinese feel about white skin and how little I understood.
Meanwhile, all the girls on the other end of the earth are cooking themselves in the sun and I can’t find normal face cream. Maybe one day it will become clearer to me, but until then I will continue to enjoy the mornings and afternoons at the beach in China when I have acres of empty sand before me until the sun goes down and all the sun-avoiding people come out to play.
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