China Elevator Stories

“Your left breast is smaller than the right one”

I chat with a bathhouse employee in Siping.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


It’s December, 2014. During the colder months of winter in Northeast China, I sometimes take a soak and get a body scrub in one of the many bathhouses across town. Since winter in Northeast China is extremely cold, this usually happens once or twice a month. Our son is still a baby. My mother-in-law takes care of him for an hour so I can get a much needed break.

Visiting a bathhouse is a common activity of locals in Northeast China during winter, and it is very affordable. I always go to the same place (usually with my husband, who goes to the men’s area at the bathhouse).

After finishing a body scrub one time, the employee looks at my breasts and observes: “Your left breast is smaller than the right one”.
I reply: “I know. It’s even more obvious now that I’m breastfeeding.”

She tells me: “My left breast is also smaller than the right one.” She then tells me: “You can let your baby drink more from the left breast. That way it will become bigger.”

This conversation reminds me of another chit-chat about breasts I had with the employee of a massage place in Shenzhen two years earlier.

Talking about breasts is not taboo in China

One of the quirks of living in China is that female employees in bathhouses, massage parlours, underwear shops, or sometimes complete strangers on the street, will not think talking about (and sometimes even touching) your breasts is a taboo.

Have you ever had a similar conversation?

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