Mixed Cultures In South East Asian Countries

by Satomi Tanaka

This spring I traveled around South East Asian countries and I was surprised at a lot of different cultures from Japan. We Japanese judge which person is in a socially high position by their belongings or behavior. The skin color does not matter in Japanese society among Japanese. However, in other countries have each mark to judge class. I’d like to describe about my opinion and experience, and then figure out how culture and common sense are created and changed.

In Cambodia, most of all women are attached to lighter skin. When I went to a village, many Cambodian women envied my skin color and it happened again and again.  At first I was surprised because I don’t mind about getting a tan so my skin color is darker than other Japanese. But my skin color was accepted as light skin by them. I didn’t know why they were stuck to lighter skin. I asked a woman about it through an interpreter. She answered “Because light skinned woman is beautiful.” I thought that they are affected by TV shows. Actresses, singers and models in Cambodia have lighter skin tone and they are known as socially high position people. Their skin color is completely different from women in the villages but they are also Cambodian. Because they use skin lightening products and foundation. In short, lighter skin tone means not only beautiful but also high class in society.

This idea is almost the same in the Philippines. Tanned skin means labor class and light skin means high class. I think this phenomenon is unconsciously related to colonial history and mass media carried the idea from European countries to other region countries. It plays a big role in every country’s standard of beauty or common sense. I guess globalization make the world smaller and more complicated because each culture affects each other and creates new one.

In Vietnam there was an interesting trend among young people that is thickly dressed fashion. The weather in Vietnam is hot and humid throughout the year. Sometimes it is chilly but wearing a short-sleeved shirt is fine. However, a down jacket and a knitted sweater were sold in many shops. I couldn’t understand why it is sold and who wears that one. My friend taught me the reason of it. “The reason why is that wearing a down jacket or a knitted sweater means high class or rich,” she said. Because wearing thickly dressed means you work in an office with an air conditioner, so young people think that being thickly dressed is seen as rich and cool. I thought they are very sensitive to appearance. They want to be treated and accepted as a high positioned people. So not only skin color but also cloths can be a mark in Vietnam.

In conclusion, a lot of countries are affected by European culture but today’s common sense were added each countries’ standard and created new one. That’s why more and more culture or common senses were born and it will be changing in the future.

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