Our preoccupation with beauty is an international obsession, but how we define beauty across the globe couldn’t be more different. In an effort to break down beauty barriers, we’re taking a look at what being “beautiful” means at home – and beyond our borders.
Many of the beauty expectations imposed on women around the world can seem unattainable. The thing is, the reasons for their unattainability vary greatly from continent to continent and from country to country.
The specific societal mold about what a culture deems beautiful changes in shape, size and color in different corners of the planet: here is a juxtaposition between the ones that are close and known to us and the ones from around the world that we see as strange, even radical.
The Western bombshell
In Western societies, we are surrounded by images of women with perfect hair, hourglass bodies, and big lips. Although many are currently obsessed with Kim Kardashian’s figure, it is the classic blonde bombshell with blue eyes that is the real American dream.
Au naturel en France
The seemingly effortless “I woke up like this” look is what dominates the streets of Paris. The youthful, minimal-to-no-makeup appearance is highly preferred in the cradle of high fashion.
From Russia With Love
Russian women who are deemed the most beautiful are tall and slim with bright blue or green eyes, high cheekbones, and full, plump lips.
South Korea has the highest rate of cosmetic surgeries per capita in the world as a result of Korean culture’s distinct beauty standards. The ideal Korean woman has a tapered/V-shaped jaw, double eyelids, big round eyes, a small nose, a small mouth, and very fair skin.
Brazil’s booty standards
Brazil is not far behind Korea when it comes to plastic surgery but in the biggest state in Latin America, it’s more about a voluptuous figure than it is about the face. In Brazil — and South America in general — women want thicker, muscular thighs, a toned body, and a large behind.
Similar to Korea, Thai society imposes a lot of pressure on women to meet Western-influenced beauty standards. Beautiful women in Thailand are expected to be petite and have strong features like a big nose, big round eyes, and a strong chin. These standards have also been influenced by the Indian caste system where light skin represents both social status and beauty.
India’s Bollywood beauty
The ideal Indian has almond-shaped eyes, a sharp nose, luscious black hair, dark brows, and fair skin. Bleaching products advertised as a way of achieving a “fair and lovely” skin tone are very popular on the Indian subcontinent.
Dark skin is beautiful
Despite the historical connotations of beauty on the Indian Plate, there are deep skin–toned women who are considered gorgeous in South Asia. One example is the Bangladeshi model Naema Emily Hossain who is absolutely stunning in her own dark skin.
The United Kingdom
Since Cara Delevingne became a fashion and beauty icon, eyebrows have become a new center of attention. The obsession with heavy brows is a global phenomenon, but it’s particularly popular in the United Kingdom where the bold brows indicate innocence and natural beauty.
The Māori women of New Zealand
In some cultures, tattoos are unprofessional — for Māori people, they are a rite of passage. In New Zealand, facial tattoos are a symbol of beauty and the islands’ unique cultural heritage. Māori women use the traditional chin tattoo, the moko kauae, as a stamp of their true identity. The tattoo is viewed as a symbol of empowerment and transition into womanhood.
One of Japan’s quirkier beauty standards is the obsession with “yaeba,” otherwise known as the double tooth. While in the West, women are usually focused on having the perfect, pearly smile, in Japanese culture the crooked look is seen as much more attractive and many women will go through extensive dental procedures to attain it.
In Mauritania, big is beautiful
According to the beauty standards in this West African country, the bigger the woman, the more beautiful she is. Being obese may not be regarded as the same way in other parts of the world, but in Mauritania, it’s considered to be an indication of wealth. Young girls are often sent to so-called “fattening farms” where they are force-fed camel milk, which is rich in fat.
From a Western perspective, the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia has a rather unusual perception of beauty. This entails scarification and lip plates. These plates made of clay mark rites of passage for women, who start wearing them in their early teens.
Neck rings in Southeast Asia
In Burmese and Thai cultures, an elongated neck is regarded as beautiful. This is why women of the Kayan tribe in Myanmar stack brass coils on their necks to give the illusion of having a long neck. This begins at a young age when girls put rings on their neck in order for it to stretch over time.
Tehran, the capital of Iran, has the highest rate of rhinoplasty in the world. Both men and women in Iran are pressured by societal standards to have thin, sloped noses and going through this popular cosmetic procedure might even be viewed as the norm in Iran.
No matter your culture or where you come from, remember that what makes a woman especially beautiful and attractive is her ability to be her unique and special self. No man can resist a woman who is comfortable and confident in her own skin, so embrace who you are, both inside and out, and your place in the world.