You know where most of humanity is concentrated? In case you thought it’s either North America or Europe, you’d be sorely wrong. It’s Asia, and recently, Asia is becoming more and more accessible to the world (assuming it’s not the world, cough). And while it has a lot of beauty to show, and a lot of good to teach the rest of the world, Asia can be downright WEIRD.
At least, to us, the Westerners. Part cultural differences, part historical circumstance, the differences between the East and the West are sometimes strange, and sometimes funny, but they’re always amusing and fascinating. And today we’ll be looking at some of the most confusing Asian things to people from the West (courtesy of Providr).
1. Being the first person in an elevator in Japan
Means that you’ll have to press all the buttons – for every person. If you don’t you’re being rude. Oh, you’ll have to open and close the doors too. Because let’s face it, elbowing people in an overcrowded elevator just to hit your button is very bothersome.
2. Tomato juice is served with sugar
Beats me why? I guess it’s a habit. But it doesn’t taste like tomato at all then. Weird.
3. There is a fear of the number 4
Known as ‘tetraphobia’, it’s very common throughout Asia. The reason is, of course, China. Its ancient word for death sounded basically the same with the word for number four, and there you go. The two kinda meant the same in people’s minds. For this reason, a lot of buildings in Asia don’t have fourth floors.
4. In North Korea, Christmas is actually the birthday of the Supreme Leader’s grandma
So they celebrate the granny’s birthday, instead of Christmas. Most people don’t even know what Christmas is! And who needs Christ, when you have the Beloved Leader! *claps hands enthusiastically*
5. Q-tips? Use ear rakes instead
On one side it is shaped like a small spoon (you know, for shoveling all that ear goop), and it has a soft tissue on the other. More practical? Maybe. But I don’t want to shovel away my ear drum by mistake.
6. Valentine’s Day, Shmalentine’s Day… How about Black Day?
South Korea is compassionate, so instead of celebrating Valentine’s day, going full hedonistic and rubbing love in people’s noses, they think of those who are lonely. They celebrate what can be translated as “Black Day”, and they honor people who are single, alone or lonely. Black sauce is poured on noodles, people dress in black and everyone jokes about their loneliness and how they’re “forever alone.” And who knows? It might even help some people find someone.
7. No cats allowed!
It’s mainly a thing with Vietnamese people – they avoid cats due to the “scary” sounds cats make. You know, like MEOWING. And I can understand that, really. Especially when cat mating season comes around. Oh boy. But there’s another reason: meowing, in Vietnamese, sounds similar to the word for poverty. So, imagine a cat constantly yelling “Poor! POOOOORRR!” to you. You wouldn’t like that, would you?! Get lost, kitty! Scram!
8. Japanese couples sleep in separate beds
Usually because of the child. So the mother will sleep with the child until they’re around 10 years old or so.
9. No head touching!
In Thailand, there’s a belief that a person’s head has a special place where a ‘bright light’ lives. It’s basicall the top of the skull, and only priests and monks are allowed to touch it.
10. Chewing gum? Ew!
Especially in Singapore, where it’s a criminal offense to be seen chewing gum. It’s also forbidden to sell it, and the only way to legally procure it is through a pharmacy – AFTER your doctor prescribes it to you. The reason? Singapore is tiny, its streets are walked by too many people. Who, if they chew gums, spit them on the pavements, thereby ruining all the streets. So… The ban solved that little problem.
11. Asian children have unusual games
Like the game called Kancho, where you connect your palms and stick your index fingers forward like you’re holding a gun. And then… you proceed to shove your fingers inside another kid’s butt. Whoever gets most butt pokes, wins!
12. In Vietnam, everyone celebrates their birthday on the same day
And that special day is usually the Vietnamese New Year, which usually falls sometime around February.