Some Things I Don’t Understand About Asian Culture.

Here are three, out of several things, that I just never understood about Asian cultures. As a WF coming from an Americanized family, I found that many of these types of things never made sense to me, and were in fact the opposite of the things I had or enjoyed.

Asian Promotional Calendars

Ya know the ones I mean, the ones with women smiling shyly while wearing some traditional clothing’s. Maybe they are standing in front of a sports car, or holding some ridiculous product that you would never actually by. For some reason Asian people can’t get enough of free calendars. Older Asians can often be cheap, true, and it’s only human nature to not pass up something free but I don’t see the appeal of them. I see two or three at least in the Asian homes I have been in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a calendar from a little-known bank or Asian restaurant; they hang them up in the kitchen, living room, and anyplace I would never think of hanging a calendar. Sometimes it’s out of reach of normal viewing, almost like it’s a rare painting that’s on display. So you can look at it, in all its Asian advertising glory, but can’t use it.  No matter how many I have seen over the years, I still don’t get it.

Taking Pictures and Posing

When I originally thought about taking pictures, I thought about artistic expression and visually capturing something beautiful for others to enjoy. As I got to know more about Asian people and culture, I realized that the way I view taking photos, especially of others is completely different. Why does the average Asian invest so much money on SLRs, point and shoot types of digital cameras, or webcams? Asians like taking family photos, or doing that crazy peace sign in every photo (which really was a V for Victory), sure I get that, but why are they often retaking photos of the same people over and over? How many pictures do you need of you and your family at a cousin’s birthday or relatives wedding? My answer is that not many. Apparently I am wrong because that’s exactly what happens.  Even every day events become photo shoots where, especially the women try to look their best and pose for every single photo. I have concluded that Asians just really like posing in photos. I don’t get it.

Not Having Pets

Wait you say, I had fish when I was a kid. Stop right there, a fish is not a pet. No, just because your dad bought a huge fish tank filled with exotic fish and sat every night for hours watching them. That does not mean you had a pet. So why don’t most Asian households have real pets, like a dog or cat? When I ask why I get this answer “Pets are dirty and don’t belong in the home”. Dirty? Well I guess some dogs and cats take more work than others to keep them clean, but what about man’s best friend? Asians don’t have a best friend? .. I just don’t get it.

5 Responses to Some Things I Don’t Understand About Asian Culture.

  1. Long Nguyen says:

    Ok, here is the response to the ‘Not having pet’ argument above, because I haven’t yet got the thinking of the other 2 then I will leave them for later (also because i dont get either why you would question those).
    As what I know is, the westerner’s culture, the grown-ups dont live with their parents. So most of the time, there are only 1 or 2 persons live in a house, which means you maybe feel lonely therefore pets friend culture here is quite easily understandable. But for the Asians, we usually gather 3 generations to be under same roof, those comprise grandparents, parents and children, sometimes make them very big families. Our houses are full of people, full of relationships and sometimes really busy as well. Then what would we need pet friend culture for?


  2. Zaku says:

    Hello Laura,

    I’ve grown in Hong Kong from late 80’s to early 00’s, perhaps I can shed a some light on things.

    Taking Pictures and Posing
    I think the essence is to capture those once-in-a life time memories or rare moments on to picture.
    Birthdays or weddings are special events and pictures help show how people grow/change over time. These events are probably some of the rare times where multiple generations or relatives come together. Hence cameras are used to capture them for younger generations to look at.

    We often retake photos multiple times because we want good quality, this is probably because of the transition from film to digital where we were in the habit of taking multiple shots in case the first one is awful. I think this is evident in tourist groups where the family pays an expensive trip to Europe and wants to capture it rightly. This can get so ridiculous that we can get the habit of experiencing the holiday through a digital lens (i.e. Blaire Witch or Cloverfield) and never put down the camera and take in the experience.

    I’ve never understood the V sign and get pretty tired of it. I think it’s a way for people to be ‘cute’ or ‘cool’, notice that it’s not the Wiston Churchill V-sign where his arm is confidently out front but rather the V-sign is held close to the face, hand bent in towards the head/chest like Pulp Fiction dance scene.

    That said, I hate photos, one shot is enough for me and my dad drives the family nuts when we end posing for more than 10 seconds. Being the eldest and tallest, I’m always in the back row. Grandparents/younger siblings get to sit and are in front.

    I can’t say for anywhere else apart from Hong Kong but most middle class families live in high density apartments where dogs/cats are forbidden and do not own private vehicles. Most Public transport (trains/buses) forbid dogs/cats and popular parks and beaches forbid animals from entering it because of defecation concerns. If you’ve got a pet, you’re probably high status or have no kids (ala Seattle).

    Don’t know much about calendars, my ma probably wouldn’t like having another woman in the house and I had to hide my Dillon Aero calendars when she visits.


  3. Danny says:

    You don’t have to get it. It’s their culture that’s why and besides your stereotype comments are so ignorant. I have three dogs and hate taking pictures. Don’t generalize us all. When are white people racist and rude to other people. Why do they always suck in math. I dunno.

  4. Brandon says:


    Your observations had me on the floor with laughter. Especially the calender one. Not only do my parents have at least five ‘free’ calenders around the house: they’re not even on the correct years. Every single one of them is from a different year. I am pretty sure that if I ask them why they are up there, they will not know either.

    Pictures. My family never really took a lot of pictures. My dad is as stoic as stoic as can be when it comes to taking pictures. I do not have one picture of him smiling. He didn’t even smile when my oldest sister got married. The majority of the pictures that are taken with me in them are with my friends in various places and situations. They are fun reminders of how stupid and fun loving it was at that time and place. I have NO idea what the whole peace sign thing is about. It is more common with Japanese poses (in my observations) and I’m not Japanese.

    An asian friend who is a professional photographer never takes pictures for casual reasons. Understandably so as he can not help but frame every picture, worry about lighting etc. I hate it when he wants to take a picture of me. Drives me insane.

    As for dslr’s on the necks of asians or asian tourists: I havent seen a lot of dslr’s around their necks. Most asian tourists I see taking pictures still rely on the point and shoots. My camera of choice isnt even a point and shoot. It’s whatever camera is on my phone.

    Pets. I fought long and hard with this one with my dad especially. My first pet was when I was 8 years old, a stray cat that I took in. My dad hated her but i was able to keep her for three years before my dad got totally sick of it and forced me to find a home for it. His reason was that pets are not only messy and dirty but soak up money with no benefit. As you can now tell, my dad was a very practical man. Later in my teens, I got a dog. My dad at this point was indifferent. People do change I guess. I loved my dog. Every guy should own a dog at least once in their life. My middle sister lovingly adopted her after I had to go away to grad school.

    So Laura,

    You have piqued my interest on why these things are the way they are. The next time I see my parents, I am going to try and work in the calender behavior. That is very observant of You.

    And I am going to try and find out why the whole peace sign is so prevalent in pictures for as long as I remember.

    The pet thing. I dont know if that is an asian cultural thing but it definitely normal for traditional asian families to not have traditional north american pets.

    I still love the calender observation. I never noticed it until you brought it to my attention. Still laughing about it!

  5. Yoon Eun Joo says:

    “I don’t get it”, “I don’t get it”. You don’t have to get it. We have our own purposes of living that way. I’m sorry about the fact we’re so confusing in life.

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