“Avoid Sophistication” and Other Hints on Western Living & Self-Improvement

Western Customs

The things you find rummaging about book sales. This little English/Chinese guidebook by Edna Goo, published by Mei Ya Publications in Taipei @1970, was to introduce western customs to women coming to the U.S.  

Our particular version has a rather poisonous little inscription, to an unfortunate called “Barbara,” which we can safely assume was not her real name. It reads:

March 1975

Dear Barbara,

We thought this little book on adjusting to Western Customs might be helpful for your return to the States. We hope you’ll study it carefully and make every effort to adapt to the cultural differences you’re about to encounter.

The Wednesday Bridge Girls

Western Customs includes many tips for fitting in and being popular, as well as several pages devoted to “self-evaluation and character analysis.”

Some excerpts:

Undesirable Traits

  1. An unfriendly look
  2. A dishonest or shifty look
  3. A serious or solemn look
  4. A flighty or unsteady look
  5. An over-sophisticated or superior look
  6. A tension-filled, nervous, restless look
  7. Having no sense of humor
  8. A squeaky voice and giggly laugh
  9. Untidy appearance
  10. Poor dress taste
  11. A poor sport
  12. Discourteous and disrespectful attitude

Hygeine Habits

“A good healthy, clean look is always attractive to the opposite sex. Who wants to be an old-maid or a wall-flower just because she is not aware of the above faults which can be remedied?”

“Daily regular bowel movements rid the system of all unnecessary poisons and gases.”

Acts of Courtesy and Discourtesy

“You must learn to be prompt at all times. In America, time means money and time lost may also mean money lost!”

On Posture

“Mopping the floor is one way of correcting that hunch-back. Swing the mop vigorously from left to right. Try it.”

Overcome Ugly Mannerisms

“Oriental women are well-known for their lovely serenity, soft-spoken voices and placidity. Preserve these gracious assets always by living-up to them.”

Common Sense

“Don’t dash across the street hoping the cars will stop just for you because you are in a hurry. It may be too late! …Do you realize that common sense is a gift? This is a hidden quality given to you without any charge if you’ll learn to use it at all times of necessity.”

The Indoor and Outdoor Girl

“Most important of all–watch that figure! After strenuous exercise, one builds up an enormous appetite. Eat and exercise sensibly to keep trim.”

She’s a Lady

“The best thing to remember is to be natural at all times and avoid sophistication.”



Over at The China Blog, Los Angeles Review of Books, you can read “What Do Chinese Women Want?” by Lu-Hai Liang.



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