I feel pretty

It is actually quite funny how I am basically called out either as ‘hey beauty’ or ‘hey auntie’ on the Chinese streets here.

In the Netherlands, we normally know that we are real adults once strangers start ‘Miss’ing’ you. “Dear Miss, you forgot this.” “Excuse me Miss, do you know the way?” “Miss, can I help you with something?”

Here in China, I had sort of the same feeling when I somewhat transcended seamlessly from ‘sister’ to ‘auntie’. A change that I am still not too happy about. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the ‘hey beauty’ (or ‘hey hunk’ for all those handsome boys out there) that I get called multiple times a day whenever I step a foot outside of my office. This might also tell you something about the office I work at and about my looks, but let us not go there for now.

Of course nobody on the streets means the description literally. It has gone so far that I do not think these terms are used to actually describe a beautiful girl or handsome boy anymore. Having kids and parents call me auntie, actually irritates me in 2 ways.

First, it of course makes me feel older. I already experienced this when my nieces and nephews got kids, most of them being around 5-7 years older than I, and realizing I was suddenly an aunt.

Second, I associate it with a certain familiarity or warmth that I do not possess. I think most aunties in stories are warm and forgiving. They are the surrogate mothers where kids can get candy and have fun and play. I do not have such feelings for random kids. At all.

At the same time, I am wondering where exactly the limit is when I will only get called auntie. Or perhaps there is a specific name they use for gorgeous 50+ year olds that I only know once I enter that club? One more thing to look forward to as  I get older.stock-rose-1525145_1920.jpg

Good looks never go out of style

It is no surprise that both the Netherlands and China have very different opinions on what constitutes good clothing and nice style. You could almost say they are polar opposites, with the Chinese often adhering to more is more and the Dutch to less is more.

But that is of course not the complete picture. Let me paint a short overview of the female looks that can be seen in both countries on the streets:

Standard attire:

Denim Dutchies – The Dutch are not necessarily very pessimistic, but they do seem very blue. Denim, especially skinny jeans, are our informal national attire. It is amazing how there is a basic outfit that everyone wears, from teenager to women in their forties. Pick a random top (often in a subdued color), throw on a pair of skinny jeans and a pair of ankle boots and you are now dressed the same as 85 % of the Dutch female population.

Colorful Chinese – Not to be outdone, the Chinese often also have a basic outfit that everyone wears. It is basically called everything goes. Pair that t-shirt with bad English on a ripped pair of jeans, match it with lacquered shoes with pompons and a hat with ears. And it is funny that even though everyone is wearing very different combinations, it somehow looks similar because it is such an eccentric combination of clothes.

Relaxed attire:

Tricot tricks – Soft, stretchy and with every print imaginable. Tricot is something probably every Dutch woman has hanging in her house. Often with a funky print to give it that hip edge. Oftentimes tricot is very popular for wrap dresses, chique and comfy at the same time. Or so we like to believe.

Sleepwalking – Your pajamas. Or those house suits. Both are fine pieces of outerwear for your average Chinese. Whether you are going for grocery shopping, picking up your kids or going to the theater. Why would you trade in any of your comfort and not match your top and bottom?

Trendy attire:

Basically basic – Most Dutch are more interested in wearability and quality than following the latest trends. Sure, they might take a daring outing to fashionland once in a while and return with a tiger sweater or breathtakingly ugly sneakers. But hey, at least you can wear those and they are somewhat practical.

Impractically Instagram-ready – Korea and Japan dictate many of the fashion trends in China. This means that a lot is copied and a lot is combined differently than originally, since it is available so quickly. It also means that brands take much more risks when putting clothes in stores. I have seen sweaters accessorized with things that resemble cheerleader pompons. The Chinese understand that fashion and practicality are two different things.