On your next overland trek to Tibet through China's Yunnan province, if you're surprised to hear the locals calling young girls "old lady," don't be! Unlike anywhere else in China, Yunnan is known for the unique custom of calling young girls old ladies, which is just one of the province's "18 Oddities"!
China's Dai people, one of the country's 55 ethnic minorities, mainly dwell near China's border with Laos in the southern part of Yunnan province and are often called "Lao Tai" in the local Yunnan dialect. In Mandarin Chinese, however, Lao Tai means "old lady," so many visitors are confused into thinking that young girls are called "old lady."
However, this linguistic mix-up isn't far from the truth in the northern areas of Yunnan, around the charming alpine town of Lijiang, where adolescent and unmarried girls are playfully refered to as "old lady" to convey wishes for a long and prosperous life!
And so it is, no matter where you are in your travels through beautiful Yunnan province, expect the locals to be calling out "old maid" when they should be saying "young lady"!