It’s my fourth day vacationing in China. Twice so far I got mistaken for being younger than my biological age.
I’m not happy about it even though I know another person in my shoes might take the “Oh you look so young” comment as a compliment rather than something bad. My knee-jerk reaction was to be embarrassed that I don’t look my age.
I felt that emotion even more deeply because I’m currently in a foreign country where I’m noticing the people here are different and I’m a stranger to their cultural rules, so there is that weight of pressure to fit in. But to fit in is impossible since I’m not one of them.
The impression I had was I am obviously a tourist to locals in Beijing. I think my own perception is biased, though, since I keep associating my apparently youthful appearance with how much I stand out as a foreigner. And it really was only two people who mistook me for a younger age, so it’s not like literally every person I interacted with thus far has made the same mistake too. Also, no one actually outright said to me, “You really don’t look your age”, but I automatically assumed that is what people jumped to after realizing I was older than they expected. This one persistant thought made me self-conscious of what their ideal of what they assumed someone of my actual age is “supposed” to look like.
The first situation occurred at a tea shop where one of the sales ladies inquired about how old I was and if I already graduated from college, as I seemed to be “so young” (according to her). I found her remark to be surprising since I had been thinking she didn’t look much older than me either. The second situation was an interaction my mom had with a sales woman who asked her if I was 15 years old. When my mom recounted the story to me, I heard her wrong and thought the sales woman believed I was 25. I was relieved the woman guessed so close to my actual age but then I caught my mistake. 15 years old! Really???
Have you ever been mistaken for a younger age in another country? How did you feel about it?
P.S. – The featured photo is me lol. Personally I think I look like a jetlagged smiling zombie…That was taken hours after I got off the plane. Also my eyes seem strange since I was looking at the actual camera lens and that photographed weird on camera…