Center of Civilization

“The back of your head is so round. Ours aren’t, you know. Ours are usually pretty flat in back. You foreigners have sort of a weird bulge back there.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s where we keep our abilities to form lines, obey traffic rules, and not spit everywhere.”

She promptly socked me.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. ha!

  2. Wah ha ha!

  3. 没明白,脑袋后面圆的突起是中国人的特征?

  4. LCF,



  5. Bravo!

  6. well, you guys spit on the east coast, disobey the traffic rules on the east coast and were created to form the line when the States established.
    I am not joking and not critisizing either but seriously that’s difficult and it takes time to change.

  7. Da Xiangchang Says: May 18, 2006 at 7:02 am

    I know this topic’s facetious, but seriously, I’d think most Chinese skulls are rounder (bulgier?) than Caucasian skulls. Maybe it’s a Polish thing. 😉

  8. @John – Good point. My gf insist on jay-walking at the Hongqiao airport, EVEN THOUGH she’s had her foot run over once…..


  9. Greg Pasden Says: May 18, 2006 at 10:15 am


    Great post! wonderful humor to get my night started.

  10. […] I think that this morning in the Zhongshan Park subway station I finally lost my patience with the people of China. It’s been a long time coming, and has shown itself at times in the past, but this morning I think I stepped across the line between mild annoyance and general contempt. It’s time for me to lose the bulge in the back of my head and stop trying to be a polite and cultured person in a country where such people are a tiny majority of the population. […]

  11. seajuan Says: May 18, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    As I know, Chinese parents like their child have flat back, they consider that ‘s beautful shape. So they let their baby sleep face up.

  12. That was great! I’ll write that down for next time I am told something similar.

  13. I have to admit that it happens in China. I traveled to Paris in this Easter vacation and what made me felt ashamed is some Chinese tourists spit into the Saine River.

  14. I suddenly realized that John is an American, not a Chinese.

    How stupid I am!!!

  15. See? I’ve always said, hurting the feelings of the Chinese people may be wrong, but it’s easy and it feels good.

  16. Some of these comments make me go “ouch.” Maybe you better leave the sarcasm to TTC and stick to safer topics like craisins.

  17. Is there a difference between this post and “black people have round skulls that help them eat fried chicken and steal Honda Accords”??? It maybe comes across a little boorish and I don’t see what else it’s aiming for.

  18. Jeff,

    Apparently I’m racist?


  19. he’s not a racist. he just told the truth to us. the saddest thing is many chinese refuse to admit they don’t behave well sometimes.

  20. Lantian Says: May 19, 2006 at 9:23 am

    Smacking John’s big round head? What’s wrong with that? He has a Chinese gf, this means he must endure being beaten up at her every whim, and carry her bags. That’s the way it is for flat-heads anyway, so I think round-heads must also comply. Hey, maybe instead of ‘laowai’ people should shout out:

    球头 qiu tou (ball-head) *I like this one, it’s easy to shout “qiuuu2 tou2”!.
    圆头 yuan tou (roundy)
    撞击头 zhuangji tou (projection-head)

  21. Justin (Parasite) Says: May 19, 2006 at 11:15 am

    The people who asked if John is racist missed a little something, I guess. Note the “You foreigners have sort of a weird bulge back there” — if that is a direct translation, including the weird part, it is a thinly veiled insult or at the very least very uncomplimentary. AFAIK no matter who where or when this happens it is an absolute invitation to reply with an even less thinly veiled and even MORE ignorant remark. Thus… take note, she ASKED FOR IT.

  22. That was funny. Analysis over.
    @Brendan: Truer words have never been said.

  23. @Justin: You are about the only one who gets the OP. The girlfriend did make a not-so-flatterying observation about white people’s head shapes, and John responded with sarcasm. Too many people have taken this thread too seriously, chiming in with their complaints or implying John is racist or insensitive.

    @Brendan: Your statement is true and one could easily substitute “Chinese” with almost any nationality – Korean, Mexican, Kuwaiti, American. While I was in China, I heard Koreans and Westerners make remarks that would “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” and I heard Chinese people make remarks that would “hurt the feelings of the Korean people.” Because I am a Westerner, my Chinese acquaintances did not make disparaging remarks about Westerners to my face, but they did view me as a sympathetic audience to their gripes about Koreans, and they probably griped to the Koreans about us.

    When I first went to Korea, my employer gave me a handbook about the company and the country. In the handbook were a list of Korean behaviors that bothered Westerners. Among them were spitting, public drunkenness and urinating, and not standing in line. “Hmmm,” I thought, “if this is all that bothers people, Korea sounds like a nice country.”

  24. i know she was being facetious, but claiming flat-heads “ours” is pretty incorrect. it’s more to do with how parents mold their kids’ skulls than an inborn ‘chinese’ physical characteristic. we all know that Western newborns sleep chest-down, pressing their soft skulls to the sides. not until recently did some chinese parents start doing the same, out of care for their kids’ future appearance whereas previously they were just ignorant of it and/or did not care.

  25. This whole “bump in the back of the head” thing isn’t funny! I have a somewhat larger than average head back home, and here I can’t ever find hats that fit! In fact, I went to every bicycle shop in town today, okay there’s only one and I went to it, and it didn’t have any helmets that fit me. The shopkeepers commented on my “bulge”, too. Worse still, this is in Taiwan and people here are pretty civilized when it comes to making lines and not spitting everywhere, so I didn’t even have a good comeback like John did. I just kind of muttered a question about whether if they could order a foreign brand that made bigger sizes and then quietly shuffled out of the shop.

  26. There has been a campaign over the past however-many years advocating that infants up to six months sleep on their backs, never on the stomach, as apparently there’s less risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). I work in a daycare, which is the only reason I know this.

    Does this mean American children will start having flatter heads? Will they lose the ability to control innate spitting reflexes? 😛

  27. Richard Says: June 4, 2006 at 10:18 am

    What’s with all these weird cultural hangups?

    Spitting isn’t uncivilized, but wearing your shoes indoors certainly is.

  28. Da Xiangchang Says: June 5, 2006 at 1:26 am

    People are funny. Nobody how a baby sleeps, it’s NOT going to affect the shape of his head in any degree whatsoever! And supposing there is a difference between Caucasian and Chinese skulls, it’s probably cuz Chinese skulls are rounder; therefore, the brain has plenty of space to situate itself without bulges. However, Caucasian skulls, being longer, have less space to situate the brain; therefore, evolution made the bulge out the back so the brain has some breathing room.


    Well, spitting spreads diseases like TB. And it’s a filthy habit. Imagine you’re walking in sandals and step on someone’s phlegm. Ahhhhhhhhh!

    And wearing the same shoes inside your house as the ones you walk outside is TOTALLY unsanitary, probably far more so than spitting. Imagine all the crap you step on outside!

  29. Richard Says: June 5, 2006 at 6:44 am

    “Well, spitting spreads diseases like TB. And it’s a filthy habit.”

    So does kissing. Guess that’s filthy as well.

  30. Da Xiangchang Says: June 6, 2006 at 1:07 am


    Kissing and spitting are not the same. People generally kiss one person, and they hopefully should know whether or not that one person has a transmittable disease. Everyone, however, share sidewalks so by spitting, you’re forcing people to be constantly on the lookout for your disease-ridden phlegm. Not the same thing at all.

  31. Black is universal color and essence which all colors come from
    they are the original Asiactic Blackman and they call planet earth Asia trillions years ago (pangea) when the continent was united, even blasted the moon in space 66trillion yrs ago by a black Scientist(God) now u see the moon as a sign ,he wanted a people to speak same dialect got frustrated, scientist today took samples of the moon they are sayings smell like smoke fume. The name africa came from a white conquer this is true.They are 100 or more of pyramids in China, they the blacks originate that and the I ching, kung fu etc.., Jesus said the truth will set u free and even original Buddha himself was Black prophet who taught mediation and (islam) which really mean peace and one God and Unity in his language. Superority is not base on color, but base on righteousness we are not yet perfect we have grow or develop are conscious (soul) first. Jesus said theirs sheep not of this fold and Joseph of many colors will be kingdom of Heaven thats the body of Christ.

  32. […] at Sinosplice brilliantly explains one of the fundamental differences between Chinese and lao wei, and gets himself punched. John first won my love with reasons why life in China is like an […]

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