If you want to take a photo of a Chinese friend, first ask this question: “Xīgua tián bù tián?” (Is watermelon sweet?). They will always answer with a smile.
Why? Three reasons. First: in order to pronounce “tián” you need to smile, just like saying “yī” (one). Second: everyone loves watermelon. Third: if you don’t look Chinese, people will be surprised that you know this trick.
In the past, the picture taker would be more likely to say 说茄子 “shuō qiézi”, which means “Say eggplant”. Well, eggplant just doesn’t sound nearly as fun as watermelon. So, it’s no wonder they adopted something new.
This also works surprisingly well with strangers also. When I was exploring a Shanghai “watertown” called , I wanted to take photos of the merchants and their colorful wares. I got a lot of nice smiles.
|Xīgua tián bù tián?||西瓜甜不甜？||Is watermelon sweet?|
|shuō qiézi!||说茄子！||Say “eggplant”|
|Zhūjiājiǎo zhèn||朱家角镇||Zhujiajiao town|