East vs West
jazz bar guangzhou china

Cultural Differences: How China And The West Appropriate Foreign Fashion

Common Chinese Misconceptions Of A Foreigner’s National Fashion

In China, Guangzhou, in a fancy Western jazz bar, where the patrons seemed to be wealthy, local Chinese, and foreigners alike, I was confronted with a cultural difference not visible on the streets of Sydney, Australia.

To the person beside me, I mentioned, “Most of the people in China dress up with French Beret hats.  They want to be like me.  They want to go to a foreign country and just escape from the normal daily life that is outside these jazz bar doors.”

She said, “I think everyone dresses up.  If you go to France, it is a theme.  You would dress up with French hats.”

I belched back, “No, come on!  If you are in France, no one is going to be dressing up in those stereotypical outfits.  It is like if you come to Australia, you are not going to wear a kangaroo or fighting one!  That is such a stereotype.”

She chuckled out laughing.

The Appropriation Of Foreign Fashion And Culture

I said, “That is just what Chinese think we do, or wear.  I think it is a bit ridiculous that they are dressing up like that without understanding our culture or the reasons we wear that.  They are trying to look sophisticated.”

I then compared it to a friend, saying, “A Chinese friend of mine tries to look cool in front of her friends.  She did not know what to do, so she started to smoke in front of everyone.”

I then turned to two ladies in the bar, and said, “Look at that really sophisticated girl in the black dress over there.”  Both ladies in the western bar had worn Western-style clothes.

I put on a sophisticated, cocky voice, saying, “Hey, I am special.  I am suave, and I am rich.  How do I convey that to everybody?  Let’s get a really thin smoke, and put it on the end of a stick and smoke it.  Now, I am rich.  Now I am sophisticated!”

I was talking like that.

“They can dress up and try to be like me, and feel rich, but maybe they are not.”

I tried to tell my Chinese friend not to appropriate culture, but in the end, smirked, “Whatever makes them feel good, whatever.”

The Appropriation Of Chinese Culture

In Australia, other than fundamental cultural trends such as the Cheongsam (旗袍), Chinese fashion and pop culture is relatively non-existent.

Chinese fashion trends or even technological pop culture – such as the ability to use your mobile phone to scan a QR code and pay for things using WeChat Pay and Alipay – has gained no noticeable traction in a Western country like Australia.

There is virtually no penetration.

The fashion culture in China is also built on “competition” between the one hundred other females vying for attention, rather than the “attraction” model in Australia, designed to promote the individuality of the female who made the fashion decision.

Therefore, virtually no fashion has influenced Western fashion culture, as Western culture also has a narrow view of what “constitutes” iconic Asian fashion.

Wishing For A Fashion Crossover

In China, you could mistake the local mall or any popular attraction for Bondi beach in Australia.  If Chinese girls replaced their designer shoes and wore thongs outdoors, one could then consider it an appropriation of Australian beach fashion.

Because, I have never seen so many legs and so much bare female skin, other than on a Sydney beach.  I could then be rightly mistaken for being on Cronulla, Coogee, or Bondi beaches.

I would love to see a day where Australian females influenced by skimpy Chinese fashion all innocently wear the skimpiest skirts and short shorts to the workplace, oblivious to the affect it has on the men around them.

Alas, that fashion dream may never come true.

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