by Chris Bodenner
A reader contributes the above photo to the ever-popular thread:
As a blond, fair-skinned child who grew up in Ashiya, Japan in the mid-90s, I can attest to the Asian obsession with blonde, fair-skinned children. Everywhere my mother took me, we were swarmed. Even the construction workers across the street loved me. And everyone was surprised when this little gaijin started speaking Japanese. In fact, they loved me so much that one year they hoisted me off the street during a festival (to my father’s delight and my mother’s horror) and paraded me around on the town’s danjiri. As you can see from the photo, I was not pleased.
Others had more pleasant experiences:
When I traveled through Asia in 2006, I was frequently approached by other tourists interested in snapping a photo with me, and I never did figure it out. I was a tall, skinny white guy traveling on my own – not a hugely common sight in Beijing or Cambodia, but not Bigfoot or anything. At any rate, after the first couple of experiences, I started taking pictures with everyone who requested a picture with me. If they were going to take my picture, I was going to take theirs, dammit! At any rate, I enjoyed turning the tables. I’ve attached a picture with a family at Angkor Wat:
I’m really hoping one of your readers can shine some light on this phenomenon, because it remains a mystery to me to this day.
I love that story about Asians tourists stopping the reader to take pictures of his kid. I lived in Hong Kong for two years, and at that time my little sister was 5 years old and very very blonde. We could never go out without everybody stopping to look at her with fascination. Some would touch her hair without asking, some would ask for pictures. From Hong Kong to Thailand, everywhere in Asia it was the same phenomenon, but in China most heavily.
It’s the novelty I assume. My parents were very nice about it; they would stop each time and indulge. And oh boy did my sister love this. Everywhere you go people stop and worship you. She was a little blond princess and she loved every minute of it.
It was a nice bonding moment with those Chinese families. We couldn’t talk, but the gestures, the smiles … now that I look back I cherish those moments. To think back now and to think about these hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures of my very cute little sister in all these family albums sitting in China and elsewhere is heartwarming.
A parallel but very different experience:
My sister and her husband lived in Nanjing for 2.5 years. When they moved there, my nieces were 3-1/2 and just-turned 1. Blond hair, blue eyes – both of them. And they were MOBBED every time they went out. It actually got scary, as there would be 10-40 (yes) people crowding around my sister and the stroller, taking numerous pictures. My sister would be unable to move, just hemmed in by the crowd. And not one of them ever asked permission to take a photo. My niece got afraid to go out. When they moved back to the States, she seemed a bit surprised that her public appearance didn’t immediately garner crowds of people.
And it’s not just the blondes:
My husband and his two siblings visited China as tourists several years ago. All three of them have red hair – two of them flaming red. With red hair being a real rarity in China, and with red being the color of good fortune, they were consistently stopped to be photographed with strangers in front of landmarks.
And it’s not just hair color:
A friend went to China with a tourist group that included a morbidly obese American woman. People on the street surrounded her and actually poked her belly! I don’t know if they photographed her or not.