August 17, 2008

Slitty Eyes

Filed under: culture,east-west — Kim @ 11:46 am

The Spanish men’s basketball team recently provoked a storm in a teapot over an advertising photo showing them pulling the sides of their eyes…because they were off to China! Geddit? Hilarious!

And someone recently dredged up another photo from the Spanish women tennis team’s website showing some of the same high jinks.

spanish eyes

In the fuss that has followed some interesting issues arose. The US media pondered aloud as to what the Spanish team thought they were up to by publicly insulting their hosts. And NBA superstar Jason Kidd opined that had the US team done the same they would have been thrown out of the Olympics and not been allowed back in the NBA. The Spanish retorted by calling it “an affectionate gesture” and pointing out that the Chinese themselves hadn’t seemed to have taken offence at all, insofar as to date there have been no comments by the Chinese media on the incident. Fair point!
But then the US and UK (evil Anglo-Saxons) insisted on placing the “affectionate gesture” in a context of other “Spanish gestures”, including “the monkey chants that greeted England’s black footballers in a friendly game in Spain and the blacking up of some local fans when Lewis Hamilton was competing in the Spanish grand prix.”

My take on it all is that who cares if a bunch of greasy spics take the piss out of the chinks? I’m like so totally, yeah…whatever.

Not really! Just my little joke. Geddit?

Actually, I have a fond memory from about 15 years ago when I was living in Hungary. I was studying in a rather sleepy provincial town called Debrecen and one afternoon I witnessed a visiting schoolboy choir from Korea getting off their bus in front of the concert hall. The local lads had probably never seen real live asians before and so the Koreans created quite a crowd of little gawkers. Then one of the wee rascals thought it would be funny to pull his eyes into slitty position and this soon spread until you had a crowd of laughing Magyar boys pulling slanty eyes and pointing at their Korean guests. Hilarious!

But what made it memorable for me was the Koreans’ response. After about a minute of being taunted like that, they responded by making big round goggly eyes with their fingers and pointing back at the local kids and laughing. I loved them for that. It made me proud to have a Korean name.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the Chinese national basketball had a photo done pulling big goggly eyes next time they go off to play Spain? Not particularly, it would be childish. But that’s kind of what the Spanish athletes are guilty of, being childish…but surely not malicious or racist.


  1. Well written, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Or in this case, childishness.

    Comment by George Ding — August 17, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  2. Hello,
    I just stumbled onto your site through a google image search of Kaplan’s ‘cultural thought patterns’–you have a great blog by the way–and I feel it’s a bit fortuitous that I found your blog. So here I am, a composition instructor in Utah, gearing up for a new semester, reading M. Gladwell’s Tipping Point when he discusses how many connections among people happen not through close aquaintances but rather through loose associations (like blogging), when I find you post about spending time in Debrecen. Although I’m not Hungarian, I lived with family in Debrecen several years ago. I’ve just started researching universities in Hungary because I want to teach EAP at a university like the one you described. I wonder if we can discuss further (via e-mail?) some of your experiences teaching in Hungary and if you still know of people working there, it would be a major help to have a name to contact as my wife and I prepare to move to Hungary in Fall 2009. Let me know and would love to hear from you.

    Comment by Joshua — August 20, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

  3. I thought Kim was a girl’s name, not a Korean name.

    Comment by Spicoli — August 22, 2008 @ 4:41 am

  4. Hi, Give something to help those hungry people from Africa and India,
    I made this blog about that subject:

    Comment by cheritycall — October 27, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

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