Published May 22nd, 2007 by Mliesie

Western advertisements vs. Chinese

Last night I had HM and 3 of her roommates in my house for a fun visit. As I have many Dutch and English magazines in the house and as the girls are always curious, they soon started flipping through the pages. Now and then I heard some giggles and ‘aaahs’ and ‘oohs’ as they saw some funny things or some gorgeous men. Aren’t we all the same? Then one of the girls asked me a question about an ad; the text was ‘hoe pak jij je partner in?’ (’how do you win over your partner?’) and the picture showed several women ‘unwrapping’ their partners. She asked me why they used that picture. Now, here it gets interesting…how to explain this from Dutch to English so it still makes sense!!! In English we don’t say to ‘wrap up’ your partner when we intend to say to ‘win him over’, but then the picture indeed did not make sense. I really tried my best to explain and I think I did a good job, but she stil did not see the context between the photo and the heading. Hmpf….guess I didn’t do as well as I thought.

Then, after a while, again I got a question about an ad. This time the heading said ‘jean crimes and other misdemeanours’ and the photo showed women wearing jeans that made them look aweful and they were all shackled. This should be easy to explain! Crime, misdemeanour and shackles, no problemo……..So I thought! Honestly, I really tried my best to explain the connection between the words in the header and the shackled women. So far she got it, but there was no way she understood why the women wearing those ill-fitted jeans were shackled. Again the context between words and pictures was totally over her head.

Talking about it a little more and looking at various ads we came to the conclusion that the Chinese do not seem to use words and pictures in this way. I don’t know though…… Perhaps it is the language, perhaps it is culture. As long as my understanding of Chinese is as limited as it is now, I’m not sure we can draw a safe conclusion here. It was very interesting though to try and make them understand, and to see that it somehow did not sink in.

Perhaps……to be continued.