Despite the way Westerners portray Asians in stereotypical ways, each Asian country is as distinct from each other as most Western countries are. In fact, Asia, as the Earth’s largest and most populous continent, is considered to be a melting pot of so many different cultures that you’d be hard pressed to find any other place that could equal it.
It is sad to say that a lot of people outside the continent tend to generally classify most people inside it simply as “Asians”, especially if the so-called group possesses the tell-tale slanted eyes. However, most of them would be quick to remind you of their real nationalities and what makes them different from the rest.
But how to tell a Japanese apart from a Chinese or Korean?
Let’s start with the most difficult way to tell the difference: the face.
Yes, admittedly it can be challenging to differentiate the three, even for fellow Asians. Plenty of Westerners are familiar with Chinese features and in fact, often mistake Japanese and Koreans to be Chinese as well. But let’s try to distinguish the three.
Geography comes into play in China since it is such a large area. Chinese from the North generally tend to have paler skin, square-ish faces with small eyes and noses. Chinese in the South, on the other hand, have darker skin, rounder eyes, rounder faces and broader noses.
According to research, most Japanese people have longer or more of an oval facial structure than the other two nationalities. They also have lower cheekbones and if you take a closer look at most Japanese actresses, they have bigger eyes and more pronounced noses.
The easiest to tell apart are probably the Koreans. Even without the plastic surgeries (a popular trend in the country), most Koreans have really light and smooth skin. They also have smaller eyes, small but long noses and they have noticeably higher cheekbones. Their facial structure is also rounder, giving them the “youthful” appearance that their culture desires.
China has one of the world’s oldest cultures. The Chinese are known to have defended their country from so many invaders that this has somewhat divided its people, and the traditions and customs vary depending on the location. One thing they have in common, though, is how much the country’s spiritual history has influenced its traditions. Chinese people value traditions and the duty of each family member to uphold the honor of the family name.
The land of the rising sun and home to the anime gods, Japan has one of the most interesting cultures in Asia. Despite its relatively small size compared to other countries, it is considered as one of the “great powers” and has one of the world’s largest economies. This economy is of course supported by its highly patriotic citizens who are world-renowned for their discipline, efficiency and ability to deliver high-quality products. Japanese people are very hard working and are also very respectful, paying great mind to traditions.
When you think of Korea, you might probably be thinking of the tragic war that divided it into two nations – the North and South. However, let’s focus on the South Koreans as they are more visible to the outside world. South Koreans have successfully turned their war-ravaged country into a highly-developed one in the span of a few decades. This is due to the forward-mindedness of the Koreans and their ability to innovate quickly. South Korea is known to be very competitive in nature and highlights their need for “perfection.” You can even see it in the number of plastic surgeries done in the country in order to achieve the perfect Korean look.
There are so many languages in China coupled with its huge land area that many people in the country have different languages – although Chinese remains to be the term used to classify this group. The Beijing dialect of Mandarin is considered to be the official language of China and Taiwan but Cantonese is also spoken in Hongkong, Macau and other overseas communities.
The language of Japan is Japanese and the use of honorifics is part of their culture. You can’t even say the first name of your co-worker without using the proper honorifics to go along with it, and only the closest people can say the name of a person without any honorific (since it’s considered to be too intimate).
Korean is the official language used in Korea and about 80 million people worldwide speak this language. It is actually used by both the North and South and some of its words are even similar to some Japanese words (leading to speculation that there was heavy “borrowing” over time).
The Chinese – especially the women – tend to interpret style as a way to show off wealth. The importance is not placed on how bold the design is but on how expensive it must have been. Therefore, people wear sparkly things and top it off with some nice jewellery. Western influence is also prevalent in this country.
Japanese style varies between traditional and modern. Some prefer a more neutral palette and go for a simple look while others tend to gravitate to anime-looking clothes. So don’t be surprised to see a girl wearing a sailor moon costume while walking down the road because it’s considered “kawaii” (cute) in that country.
Lastly, we have the Korean style – which is fast becoming a trend as well. Koreans are easily one of the most stylish countries. They love bold designs and are lovers of fashion trends, as well as brand names. Even their Korean dramas showcase their love for unique combinations and bright colors. They also dye their hair with the most unusual colors so it’s not rare to see a Korean sporting grey or green hair.