Creative agency Mother London has released a book of Chinese jokes, translated into English from Mandarin and Wu Chinese.
Released for the Chinese New Year, “Made in China” is designed in equal parts as a piece of consumer research and a bit of fun.
It features 50 jokes that demonstrate the commonalities and massive differences between British and Chinese humour.
Mother London said they decided to publish the book of Chinese jokes because they wanted to get to know China better, but in a way that didn’t involve charts or trend reports.
Jokes are a great way of getting under the skin of a culture, especially one that can sometimes feel quite different (if you’re an English speaking Westerner), the agency said, adding that if China is going to rule the world, we want to be laughing with them.
Here’s one of the jokes featured in the book: “A Beijinger is talking to a Shanghainese. The Beijinger says ‘We are the happiest people in China. We can get a free smoke and all we have to do is open the windows.’ The Shanghainese replies ‘That’s nothing. If we want some pork soup, we just turn on the tap.”
“Made in China” joke book is an indispensable guide to modern Chinese foolery. In keeping with the agency’s “Culture Back” approach to consumer understanding (and its love of a good gag), “Made in China” contains 50 jokes about sex, politics, technology, the environment – and even several fat jokes. When read as a whole it offers a keen insight into the overlap with British humour. And in some jokes, the divide couldn’t be greater.
Printed in English, the pack is essential reading for anyone wanting to unravel the nuances of modern Chinese culture. It’s vital for marketers planning their brand’s invasion of China, or a good craic for anyone wanting a new gag for the pub.
While preparing the book, Mother London partnered with friends at Flamingo Shanghai, who recruited joke tellers from all over the city to tell three jokes each.
Explaining how the project came about, Mother’s Chris Vernon, said: “Just over a year ago, I was spending a lot of time in China working on global accounts and it became increasingly important that I understood more about Chinese culture. What I learnt about China from the Western press either revolved around repressive government, mass migration, poor working conditions, an even poorer environment or facts about one dimensional consumer tastes such as ‘the second generation rich consumer likes Louis Vuitton handbags.’
Vernon went on to say: “I suppose when a population seems so culturally distant, it is no surprise that the way we talk about it can be so mechanical, so when it came to further my own understanding, I thought that there might be a more fun way of getting to know Chinese consumers, rather than asking them what’s in their fridge, or reading online trend forecasts. That’s where the joke book came from. An American, German or even French sense of humour is something that we can culturally attempt to place, and draw social conclusions from, but a Chinese sense of humour seemed quite alien to me, so in the end the joke book became a way of trying to understand modern China that felt more personal, more accessible and somehow more telling than a lot of the research I see.”
“Made in China” is available from www.motherlondon.com for 10 Pounds/100 Yuan. All proceeds go to Kids Company.