The other day, I decided to be social and went to a “Chinese Corner”, a meet-up for locals and foreigners to meet and engage in conversations. It was really fun! There were lots of people there and we got divided into beginners, intermediate and advanced according to our Chinese language skills. I ended up in advanced which made me very proud! There were lots of great people there and as usual, more foreign men than women; just me and another girl (I didn’t actually talk to her since she was at the beginners table) were the only foreign ladies. As you can imagine, this attracted the usual attention and both Chinese guys and girls started talking to me and shower me with the craziest “compliments”.

“Your Skin Is So White”

you can buy these flower hair thingies for 5 RMB!
The whiter your skin, the prettier in Asia

This one is the most classic “compliments” foreigners receive anywhere in Asia. One time I visited an ancient town with my friend and we both got really amused by all the people exclaiming “好白!” when I was walking buy.

It would have been a great drinking game now that I think about it…

Even though Western media projects the “beauty standard” with white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes all over the world, it seems like there are some key differences in beauty ideals between East and West.

I am actually pretty white, even in Germany, and I remember my grandma usually being worried I might be sick because my skin is so white. In the West, being really white is considered rather “unhealthy” whereas in the East, it’s extremely attractive. Either way, it’s just my skin…

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There even are certain “white skin” jobs that people can only, or much easier, get if they are white in Asia. These can include teaching and definitely anything that has to do with promotion for bars, clubs or modeling.

“I Love Your Long Nose!”

OK, now, I get really sensitive about this one since I really dislike this feature of my face. I have a slight hook on my nose and then the tip goes upward. I actually considered getting some kind of “surgery” in Korea but Jeongsu would kill me 😀

In China, foreigners are actually also called “long noses” 长鼻子 since Asian noses tend to be rather small compared to Western ones. I have seen lots of pictures of Kpop stars and other Asian celebrities who got a nose job but the nose simply didn’t suit them because it’s a “Western style nose”.

Some nose jobs just go wrong….

As you can see in the photo above, the second lady from the left and the lady on the far right have distinct “Western noses”. In my opinion, it doesn’t match with the rest of the face and their entire ethnicity. It’s just wrong.

“Your Face Is So Small!”

One of the weirdest things I have ever heard is that I have a “small face”.

What does that even mean?

I never looked at someone and thought about the size of their face. The only thing I am familiar with in that sense is the size of a head. There certainly are small and big heads. But faces? I don’t know… I guess… I’ve just never given it much thought.

After that, I actually asked my boyfriend about it and he agreed: I do have a small face and yes, it is considered a beautiful feature in Asia.

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There are even plastic surgery procedures to get a “small face”.

“Small face” surgery

“Your Eyes Are Really Big!”

That Asians dislike their almond-shaped eyes is widely known. To me, it’s a feature what makes them who they are and shows their ethnicity. Jeongsu has almond eyes and I love them. They are attractive to me.

Eyelid surgery is one of the most popular procedures around Asia and Asians overseas. 

Korea is leading plastic surgery market

What compliment do you get most often?

  • nothing can beat ‘wow, you’re not hairy’ hahaha

  • I hear the nose comment the most in Vietnam (though it’s called a ‘high’ or ‘tall’ nose here). But like you I find it hard to take it as a ‘compliment’ as there’s nothing really good or special about it. Each to their own!

  • I love to watch Asian TV shows were the most actresses had so much surgery and whatnot that they have zero facial expression. Only their eyes and mouths are moving and that’s it 🙂

    Back when I was a child my parents were also worried that I might be ill as I was very pale…

  • You know how they say the grass is greener on the other side, or in Chinese’s case, 月亮还是外国的比较圆? Some of us think white people are prettier for the same reasons (but opposite nature) that some white people think we are prettier 😀

  • I hear that my skin is pretty like “mud.” They say it’s a double compliment because my face is clean and clear, smooth and has an even complexion. Haha but… Mud!!! Muddy Black girl…

    • interesting! never heard about that before 😀

  • People always ask if my hair is dyed or my real color. They say they’d love to have my hair color. In Austria, it’s not special at all.

  • I’ve had all those! But I got “tall nose”, not long. Also, people ask me if I permed my hair (when the weather is humid it gets curled).

    The other day I was trying to explain to my bf the exact same thing you said about the small face. I have the concept of big head, but I had never considered if someone’s face was big or small…

  • I’ve got blue eyes and am forever being praised on how blue they are! People tell me to stop moving and look at them so they can stare at my blue eyes! I’ve also heard the nose comment many times before, and even had people (friends/students etc, not randoms) want to touch it.

  • I got the comment, “Your face is so small.” not just in Asia but in the States, as well. I was in cosmetology when one of classmates was doing my make-up, she said, ‘Wow, your face is so small.” Maybe because I am sooo short and my face is really, indeed, small. Small nose, small eyes, small lips, etc. I do have a babyface, as well.

    I was never commented on my nose. My nose is high but very smooth – no bumps whatsoever. Nobody mentioned my skin, either. Haha. I had somebody say that my green eyes are beautiful, but that’s it.

  • Ninja

    One that was not listed here, by my ex bf:

    “Your hair is so thin!”

    Had to explain to him that if you say it like that, it really doesn’t sound like a compliment (tho that’s what it was meant to be). He simply meant my hair is very soft compared to his asian – more coarse – hair type.

    I never got comments about my nose (I guess its too stubby, lol) nor “small face”.
    But white skin – yes, many times, strangers would come up to me and compare their arms next to mine.

    Blue round eyes – yes. My bf back then had never seen a blue eyed person so up close before, and was kind of shocked after he realized he could see my pupils change size in dark/light. Apparently he had never thought about such thing, as everyone around him had so dark eyes you can’t tell the iris and pupil apart.

  • I get the small face one a lot too. I also get “You’re American?? You look like you`re from Europe” which is considered a compliment because all Americans are tall and huge (“fat”), apparently.

  • I get the small face one a lot too. I also get “You’re American? You look Russian and/or European!” Which is apparently considered a compliment since many people still believe all Americans posess certain physical traits which aren’t very complimentary to say the least.

  • Kim

    The one I get most is about skin whiteness, though because I am heavy I get “你胖啊” and I try to not take it as an insult since it clearly isnt meant to be one.

  • Yxng

    Beauty standards in China are strange. People hate it when you point this out but the reason why foreigners get a lot of the same compliments as in this post is because Europeans tend to fit Chinese beauty ideals better.

    Of course, there are plenty of Chinese girls with naturally big eyes, small faces or fair skin who I’ve seen get compliments but many more girls do not look like this. I’ve only been to South China but an average girl there has tanned skin, a round, flat nose but the eyes varied from small to big, pretty much the opposite of what’s described here.

    • so true! It’s funny because before living in Asia and traveling around in the area, I never heard of this concept of “small faces” before!