Asian superpowers

During my time in China I have noticed that most Chinese people have two superpowers that make me very jealous. I wrote Asian instead of Chinese in the post title because Koreans also seem to possess them, or at least the Koreans I met when I was studying in Beijing.

Superpower 1: they can fall asleep anytime, anywhere

For me it is very difficult to fall asleep. Even when I am in a very comfortable bed, with an adequate temperate and darkness and without noises, it takes me like 30 minutes. When someone asks me if I sleep the afternoon siesta I can’t help but laugh.

  • I cannot sleep if there is light – sleeping during the day is pretty much impossible, unless I am seriously sick.
  • I cannot sleep if I am sitting – trying to sleep during flights is a nightmare.
  • I cannot sleep if there are noises – I’m lucky our current apartment is in a quiet street, but for years I slept with earplugs on. I got used to sleeping with earplugs when I was sharing a student dorm room with a woman that snored like a lion.

So you can understand my amazement when I see Asians sleeping everywhere. I have seen people sleeping in benches in a park, or on the ground with a brick for a pillow. In planes and trains, they rest their heads on the seat in front of them and start snoring softly almost immediately; it doesn’t matter if other people are chatting and yelling around. Sleeping in the display beds in Ikea is not a problem either. When I attended class in Beijing we had a 10 minute break; the Koreans would pull their hoods up, bend their backs to rest their heads on the table and fall asleep instantly.

If that is not a superpower then I don’t know what is.

Relaxing nap with a brick for a pillow. This was in Tainan, Taiwan.

Relaxing nap in the park. This was in Nanjing.


Superpower 2: they can eat very hot food

Every time we go out to eat, C. is my official food taster. Every time I suspect something is going to be piping hot, he tries it first. And he’s fine. On the other hand, if I’m not careful I end up scalding my tongue. Last time was on Sunday night, he was having a soup and when I tried it… my poor tongue still hurts. It was BOILING!

Several dishes of Chinese and Korean food are served in stone or iron pots that keep the food hot for a long time. Maybe they are used to eat these and they develop a superhuman resistance to high temperatures in their mouths?

This soup looks dangerous.

But they do have a trick too. I’m sure you’ve heard that “Asian people eat noodles very noisily”. The thing is, the noise is because they are doing their equivalent of blowing. When food is too hot, I blow on it. When Asians eat noodle soup, they blow inwards while slurping. I blow outwards, they blow inwards!

Same thing happens when I am served a hot drink. I have to wait at least 20 minutes and blow until I am a bit dizzy before I can drink it safely… And I’ve had more than one nasty surprise with soup-filled dumplings in which the soup was scorching hot!

Treacherous dumplings with hot soup inside.

Even though I’ve spent many years in China and I’ve eaten a fair share of food in stone or iron pots and had many scalding teas, my tongue is still as sensitive as before. I haven’t learned to sleep faster either. So I guess these superpowers are genetic or something and I will never obtain them…