“Please stop knocking on the watermelons; they will not respond to it!!!” – this is the Italian supermarket sign that has recently caused much amused discussion amongst Chinese netizens. Over the past few days, the Italian notice has become the topic of conversation on Chinese social media as it was shared by netizens thousands of times.
The “watermelon knocking” notice can be seen sticking out of a cart of watermelons in what allegedy is an Italian supermarket. The picture has especially created much discussion since multiple Chinese media reported it was a notice specifically aimed at Chinese customers.
Many netizens, however, do not believe it and suggest that “watermelon-knocking” is a global practice.
The picture has been posted on Chinese social media by many different Chinese news media with the additional tag “Italian supermarket’s note to the Chinese”. Chengdu Commercial Paper (@成都商报) and Sina Tianjin (@新浪天津), for example, both posted the following blog:
“Italian supermarkets set up a sign for Chinese customers: “Dear customer, please do not tap the watermelons again. They really will not respond!!!” If you are there, what do you want to say to the Italian supermarket?”
The Chengdu Commercial Newspaper post alone already was shared 7700 times within a day, and the watermelon discussion continues on many different Weibo accounts. Many netizens find the picture amusing and stress the importance of “melon-knocking” to pick a good melon.
“We have been communicating with watermelons for thousands of years. We can hear their life story with a simple knock”, joked one netizen.
“I just want to say hello. If it does want to not respond, it’s their own business. At least I can show my passion”, another netizen remarked.
Some netizens believe that “watermelon-knocking” is an exclusive practice of the Chinese, and find the supermarket advice unreasonable: “Knocking before eating is the basic respect we show watermelons. Respect, do you understand? No, you don’t understand. Only we from the land of politeness can understand”, writes one netizen.
While some netizens seem to have much fun by participating in the “melon communication” discussion, many other netizens simply want to know the truth behind the news reports, asking: “Excuse me, but which word actually means ‘Chinese’?”
A few netizens are angry at the media for spreading rumors. One netizen writes under the Chengdu Commercial News post: “This is mainstream media talking negatively about its fellow countrymen. I suppose you don’t even understand what is written on the board? (..) Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, using such tricks to attract attention?”
There are also people who are angered that Chinese abroad are often associated with negative things: “When people see anything negative in foreign countries, they immediately associate them with things at home. So deplorable!”
In the meantime, there has been some clarification about the picture. Chinese media channel iRead (@壹读) stated that the notice targets customers in general, and provided evidence of how knocking is a global practice of melon testing in the form of an American chef explaining that a good melon should “feel heavier than it looks” and should have a “nice hollow sound when you hit it”.
That watermelon-knocking is a serious issue became clear in 2013, when Chinese students developed a special ‘pick a good watermelon app’. The Chinese app, simply titled ‘Listen to the Watermelon’ (听西瓜), determines whether or not a watermelon is ripe based on its tapping sound (SCMP 2013).
Despite the different online reactions, discussion of the Italian watermelon sign shows that many Chinese are sensitive to how they are perceived abroad. The recent news hoax on Chinese people selling human meat in Africa, or the 2015 news about Switzerland introducing special trains for loud Chinese tourists all became big topics on Chinese social media. Many Chinese netizens have stressed that they are aware of the negative stories surrounding their overseas tourists, and often speak about improving their global image.
In this case, however, Chinese netizens can be rest assured that the watermelon knocking sign is not specifically directed at them. Watermelon knocking is something everybody apparently does – whether or not the melon will respond does not seem to be an issue.
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