The Spanish draw smiling inspiration from food, taking the humble potato, the ‘patata’, a staple in Spanish cuisine, in the place of ‘cheese!’. However, it’s an odd choice, since it doesn’t form the mouth into a smiley shape, which is why some locals get creative with funny alternatives – like ‘pis’, with a long ‘i’.
Mandarin Chinese speakers usually get you to say cheese by saying eggplant, ‘qiézi’ (茄子), which sounds very similar to cheese and has the same smiling effect. In Taiwan, the word seven, ‘qī’ (七) is used. However, if you want to see those smiles on camera in Hong Kong, just say one two three, ‘yāt yim sàam’ (一二三).
In South Korea, ‘Kimchi’, a spicy fermented cabbage dish, is not just a culinary staple, but one that is used for making people smile on camera. ‘Kimchi’ has the right vowels to shape the mouth into a toothy grin, making it an ideal Korean alternative to cheese.