The Trials of Being Fat in China

The Trials of Being Fat in China
Mar 20, 2018 By Degen Hill ,

As a foreigner in a country where 90 percent of people are of a different race to you, you're going to standout, especially if your body is a different shape than most of the locals. Being fat in China can be hard work for a number of reasons, but understanding Chinese people's attitudes and beliefs about weight can be helpful in discerning between insults and observation. So what do Chinese people think about fat people, what will they say, and should you be offended?

It's not just you
Sure, foreigners tend to be bigger than the average Chinese person, but we've all seen a fair number of fat Chinese people, especially in the summer at chuanr restaurants when they let it all hang out. It's possible foreigners receive more comments about being fat because Chinese people don't imagine people from Western countries to be fat. Okay, maybe they think Americans are fat because it's a hilarious stereotype, but for a lot of Chinese people, the only foreigners they've seen are in movies and on television shows, which tend to cast a specific (skinny) look. So, when Chinese people see a fat foreigner, it doesn't fit with their expectations of what a foreigner should look like, which in turn causes them to say something.

However, from what I've observed, chubby Chinese people also get plenty of comments about their weight. They will also happily refer to it themselves, which illustrates the lack of stigma attached to being fat in China. In a country where most people are slim, a bigger person stands out. However, you might not really be fat at all. Or perhaps you've just put on a few pounds after your holiday. Either way, you may sill get called fat. The word just doesn't carry the same weight (pun intended) in China. 

Main offenders
If you're fat in China, someone, somewhere, is going to say something. There are definitely different types of fat, ranging from an overweight dad-bod to completely obese, but if it's noticeable, expect it to be pointed out. The worst offenders are usually Chinese children, who, typical of kids everywhere, tend not to have a filter. They'll quietly tug at their mother's jacket, point at you and say something along the lines of, “Look at that fat foreigner.”

The next group of people who might mention your weight are young Chinese women, usually between the ages of 18 and 25. We've all been that age when we're still figuring out who we are. It's no different here in China. Insecurities, a judgmental attitude and a lack of empathy for other people lead this group to giggle and make comments upon seeing someone different. The last group is old people who, much like children, have no filter. Chinese people who see you regulary, like your language teacher or your colleagues, may also mention minor fluctuations in your weight, whether they be up or down.

What to make of this?
For many Chinese people who talk about or point out fat people, it's simply an observation, like someone being tall. As an American, I think the biggest difference between Chinese and American attitudes towards fat people is that in America we're more judgemental. We judge a bigger person's lifestyle and, somehow if we're not fat, we have an air of superiority towards them.

However, in China it seems they simply observe that a person is fat and don't see anything wrong with mentioning it. Especially for old people or children, seeing a fat person is more of a spectacle, something they don't see every day. It's just like if they saw Superman flying in the sky, they'd point it out to those around them.

Brush it off
So, you're a bit chubby. Who cares? It's your life and if you're happy. That's all that matters. No country in the world is going to be fully sensitive to every issue, so while in China, expect that people will mention your weight from time to time. But just like any insult, if you own it, you control the situation. If someone makes a comment and you laugh along and acknowledge that, yes, indeed you're fat, what more could they possibly say to offend you?

If you follow all the above advice and still get offended, however, there's only one thing to do - lose that weight. Start going to the gym and instead of people commenting on your plumpness, they'll start talking about your muscles, which, rest assured they will do.

Warning:The use of any news and articles published on without written permission from constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.

Keywords: fat man being fat in china


All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.



In each culture, there are rules about what constitutes as rude and what constitutes as natural tactlessness LOL. Anyway, I am a bit non-PC. In the West, the PC culture has made it almost impossible to be honest about one's observations that the issue of obesity has become political. Yes, it might be rude to say that someone is fat, but sometimes people need to know that they have become too fat that it affects their health as well as their appearance. So instead of facing the problem of overeating and eating the wrong kind of food, obese people tend to make excuses and force people to "understand" their situation as obese people.

Mar 21, 2018 09:08 Report Abuse



..."sometimes people need to know that they have become too fat..." I'm sure this doesn't need to be pointed out to the majority of obese people. They know very well they are overweight. BTW what does "too fat' mean? Isn't that a completely arbitrary observation? What you might find "too fat" might well be another person's "chubby" or "carrying a few extra pounds"

Apr 10, 2018 13:00 Report Abuse



You can't point out someone is fat right in front of his/her face. It is just rude manners. Lack of good family education. Even the Chinese culture doesn't encourage that. But however people forget the managers.

Mar 20, 2018 22:21 Report Abuse



One of my female students is about 6'3-6'4 and she wouldn't call it 'observations'. Chinese are just in your face rude, her words (she's Chinese).

Mar 20, 2018 16:35 Report Abuse