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#110 Image Projection

Posted February 22nd, 2009 by Peter · 19 Comments

Toby Says: “I was recently in Vietnam, and I while the majority of the women there dress appropriately, I did notice when I was at the airport that quite a number of Vietnamese women – the young pretty ones (maybe they have more money? i.e. their ability to travel) dress like they are going clubbing when they are flying. Like short skirts and stiletto heels with full on make-up too. This is not the only instance where I have seen this. A friend visiting the Great Wall of China also saw a young woman wearing heels. The vanity!


Maybe someone can do an entry on overdressed asian women. I find women to be the biggest culprit of this. I had never been to Vietnam before and it was a very interesting place. The countryside is very beautiful. Lots of cultural differences. Anyway, I digress.”

Hey Toby, it’s a very valid point you’ve brought up. Asians are very image oriented, and even though they may not be the richest cats on the block, they still like to project an image of wealth (or stardom). Especially in Vietnam is this prevalent. What you saw was the ability of Asian women to pretend that things are going well even though they might not even have enough money to go to school, support their families, or even buy food.

On SAPL, Nancy and the other female staff writers have written a great deal on the topic of female image, so I won’t go much further into the subject (because I know nothing about women =P). If you’d like to give the female perspective, that comment box down there needs some love.


In America, you often see those young Asian guys with Rice Rockets and insanely expensive cars. You know, the cars with cut mufflers and spoilers fit for an actual rocket ship. The fact is that they are most likely leasing, renting3597374394083684 for the occasion, or buying them with every last dime in their pockets. I highly doubt that many of them have the money to purchase those cars. What you don’t see is that many of them live in apartments and their cars are all they have.

Men are usually the SOLE providers for supporting their families in Vietnam. Instead, they go out and frivolously buy cell phones, fiddle with electronics, and drink themselves to sleep to forget that they’re irresponsible (While there certainly are a great deal of hard workers that would die for their families, this is just a small sample in this day and age). The point here is that Asian Vietnamese Men would rather have cell phones and watch soccer on 42 inch plasma televisions than provide for their families.

In fact, when I was on a missionary trip to a Vietnamese village, most the children were wearing brand name clothing, had televisions in their houses, and definitely knew about American culture (due to the influence of Television). Furthermore, they could all use computers better than most the children their age in America (cyber cafes are very cheap), and were sometimes even bratty. (scary, I know… but that’s what this world is becoming.)

Let’s go to other Asian Countries. In Korea, women have their White Bathing. In Japan, the schoolgirl look. In Taiwan, a mix between school girl and American fashion. Granted, image is very important in othervietnamese_women countries as well– but at least their citizens have the wealth to back it up. In South Korea (not north), Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan, we have no reason to doubt cell phone use, gadgets, and fancy cars. Samsung, LG, Toyota, Honda, and Sony come to mind… In Asia, image definitely prevails.

With that said, I thank you Toby for your wonderful suggestion. SAPL addresses not only the humor side of Asian Culture, but also the more serious issues. For those of you that didn’t like the tone of this article, just comment why, and I’ll try to accommodate in my next post. Once again, I’m sorry for the lack of production lately (school’s really being a.. well you know..) Thanks for your continued support for Stuff Asian People Like, and We’ll seeya when We seeya!


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Tags: Culture · Customs · Environment · Habits · Korean · People · Products · Social

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 amyB // Feb 23, 2009 at 12:07 am

    I’m Korean, and I don’t know what White Bathing is??

  • 2 Peter // Feb 23, 2009 at 2:24 am

    sorry, it involves covering up your body and face from uv light so that you don’t tan. There are also creams and lotions that lighten the skin complexion as well.


  • 3 Toby // Feb 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for the post. Interestingly enough, my dad’s cousin asked us to buy him an iPhone. There’s no reason whatsoever for him to have an iPhone. It’s all image – to show off. To pretend to have money.

  • 4 brrandytrann // Feb 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    haha yeah,
    im vietnamese and all that is true haha
    my uncle,still living in Vietnam,is always nagging my parents and my grand parents into sending him electronics,like Televisions,game systems,cell phones,all those things.My grandparents insist that they would much rather send him and his family money but…he would just…complain and make up excuses haha.

  • 5 HipHopSing // Feb 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I think dressing well is part of our best tradition. Who wants to present as a slob? I don’t.

  • 6 Anonymous // Feb 25, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Though I think you highlight some obvious stereotypes, I think you and this website should take an active in ensuring that you yourself are not perpetuating stereotypes that are untrue. Though I do not doubt that many people of Asian descent go out of their way to buy expensive things, I do not think that this is an Asian problem as much as it is a problem of capitalism and the fact that your worth is measured by your possessions. Take for example the fact that many women in Africa, South American, and Asia who choose to buy formula instead of breastfeeding their children.

    I think it is pretty irresponsible of you and this website to make blanket statements. The fact that this post took this particular tone no longer makes it funny. As an Asian American, I am disappointed.

  • 7 Casey // Mar 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    (Korean, mid-Atlantic)

    My mom always told me the easiest way to spot whether a Korean woman was freshly-arrived in the States was by how overly made-up and dressed they would get to go out to public places (grocery store, post office, vet’s office)

    The women that have been here the longest eventually cave in to wearing jeans/sweats/tracksuits, because nothing beats comfort, physical and mentally. Because if you want to go to a BMW dealership in your PJs, you CAN, and you will not be ignored, damn it (usually), because this is America!

    To Anonymous:

    Since when do bloggers and off-the-cuff writers have the social responsibility to tiptoe around stereotypes and avoid offending you with “blanket statements”?
    I’m sorry that you’re “disappointed” by the deliberate tongue-in-cheekness and dark humor of this blog, but If you and your buddies are the kind of people who 1) would take all of the messages on this blog seriously and proceed to cite it as a source in your research paper, or 2) get really offended by all of the stereotypes and “blanket statements” by a bunch of laid back bloggers who KNOW they are not peer-reviewed and scholarly (but instead would rather write entertaining social commentary about Asian life and culture in America), then you are probably 1) not too bright, and 2) really boring to hang out with because you seem kind of oversensitive and hormonal.

    But in case I am all wrong, the greatest way to overcome discrimination and hateful attitudes that result from the prevalence of stereotypes, is to realize that they themselves result from our (Asian Americans’) fear and sensitivity to them. Yeah, sometimes they can get kind of rauchy and even heartless, but if you can’t stop focusing on them with such negativity, they will never disappear and there will never be growth and progress towards being smarter, and stronger, not only as an ethnic community, but more importantly as individuals.

  • 8 MSo // Mar 2, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    ?? Girls in Korea wear a lot of clothes that show skin…ie short shorts, tight t-shirts, etc. during the summer, whiler 40 plussers are generally pretty covered up. Also never heard of “White Bathing”, though I have seen those whitening creams. But then, also seen them in Shanghai, HK, Taiwan and Japan too…

    Not really been around Asia it seems?

  • 9 Toby // Mar 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Hey, Anonymous. We are just having a little fun at this site poking fun at ourselves. Don’t be so serious. We are not making “blanket statements” but observations on behaviours and quirks, that are common to Asians. And yes, these same quirks and behavious can encompass all classes, ethnicities and races as well. But, again, we are just poking a little fun of ourselves.

    We mean no offence, other than funny observations. C’mon, don’t you think it’s hilarious that someone gets dressed up with full on make-up to go the the supermarket or Disneyland? If not, then perhaps you are a bigger person than I am.

    Have you never watched any stand-up comedy? Russell Peters is especially good at this without sounding like a racist biggot.

    Also, are you against capitalism? Are you a communist? A socialist? Not that it matters, only that your point is out of place. Not sure if you really understand the concept of capitalism.

    While I agree that it’s troublesome to measure one’s worth by their possessions, I don’t think it’s the problem of capitalism. I think you use this concept of incorrectly. Perhaps the blame can be placed more on society and the media who create these unrealistic expectations.

  • 10 AllStarsStripPoker // Mar 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I have seen that also a lot!

  • 11 jenn // Mar 21, 2009 at 9:43 am

    We all know that this site is not for those who are easily offended or over analyze and misinterpret posts as a series of constant cruel stereotypes (even though that’s exactly what it is.) And I do think that Anonymous has his/her point because who are we to say “The point here is that Asian Vietnamese Men would rather have cell phones and watch soccer on 42 inch plasma televisions than provide for their families.” when some of our fathers work 14 hours a day to support us? It is offensive. And he/she took a stand to say what he/she thinkgs in response. YOU, as a blog poster, could not.. or rather.. SHOULD not be a dick about it and flower your language with rhetorical questions or sarcastic yet totally and OBVIOUSLY f-ing rude comments to retaliate. As you may agree, the internet is network in which people have the liberty to say whatever they want, but why is it okay to call Asians superficial, fake, insensitive, ignorant, selfish, etc, just because you are Asian? What makes you so privileged enough to say that ALL Asian women dress like skanks even though they don’t have enough money to feed themselves because they care too much about how people think of them? Are you an Asian woman? No, but I am. And I take serious offense to that. Not that it should make you want to change your article or censor your work because I’m sure you don’t care, but while we’re all being honest I thought I can be as insulting as possible too.

    Toby, you are seriously mistaken to think that you are the next Russell Peters. He says his jokes for one purpose, entertainment. Your objective is to demean others and put yourself in a higher place – ultimately one of the FEW Asians who can insult others for being a certain way therefore you are not. Capitalism? What? Why would you call her a communist? Where does that come from? Because she has some socialist views? Is that wrong? Her point is NOT out of place. Your view and misconstrued perception of Asians and women in particular is based SOLEY on the fact that you saw a group of people act a CERTAIN way. DO NOT flaunt your ignorance.

  • 12 jenn // Mar 21, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Perhaps the blame is on the media or whatever you want to say, but the blame is also on you Toby, who cannot see the difference between humor and mindless drivel.

    Russell Peters is especially good at making racial jokes without sounding like a racist biggot, but you do not.

  • 13 RT // Jun 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I think all of this, overcompensation has a lot to do with Asian (so many cultures lumped together) insecurity. Even before white people came. With the role of “family shame’ and saving face asians have always wanted to look the part.

    We wealth and high class was always desired, and this whole system has come about as a reincarnation of the current round of cultural expectations and general posturing.

    Being a community worker for a drug agency to help asian americans, it is very difficult to get real numbers on drug abuse within our communities because people are afraid of making their families look bad.

    I think the surface things such as fancy electronics and living in poverty while you have a 52″ plasma TV points to a bigger our community faces, the insecurity of the asian community

    Personally i think the biggest obstacle to our own mental freedom, is us, and what we perpetuate. Case and point- the amount of Sh*t asian people say about each other.

  • 14 Lyn not LIN! // Jul 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I was surprised that at an Asian Costco they have plenty of skin whitening cream, and American food that I don’t have in my Costco! It’s so weird.

    To people who don’t want stereotypes mentioned: Stereotypes have to be somewhat true or they couldn’t survive. A website that is obviously for one race must be somewhat politically incorrect. Be realistic and fair.

  • 15 kristin // Dec 18, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    About the comment regarding a young asian woman at the Great Wall of China wearing heels… she was probably a tourist! Not all Asian people live in Asia, and the Wall is a touristy spot so. Plus, why would native Asians be hanging around the Great Wall anyway?

    And about the White Bathing comment… a lot of times koreans wear all white as a sign of respect for the death of somebody in their family.. it is a sacred practice that has nothing to do with keeping light skinned.

  • 16 anonshopped // Apr 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    At my Walmart, a lot of Asians dress up in clothes most Caucasians wouldn’t even dream of wearing unless it was for something formal.

  • 17 minnette // Aug 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I had never heard of white bathing before, but I have noticed the tendency in drama’s and the korean entertainment industry value more white skin vs. a darker skin tone, but I think that’s everywhere, I’m a light skinned mexican american and my family is always bugging me about not going in the sun too long without sunblock, gloves, longsleeves, and using whitening cream, just so that I won’t lose my whiteness. on the other hand my cousins who are korean-mexicans don’t really bother with all that… I think it’s more just on the individuals and how they have been socialized to believe in whiteness being more favourable than being tanned (which is funny considering all the white people I know who try to develop a tan and waste thousands of dollars trying to achieve it)

  • 18 wood pellets // Feb 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    she was probably a tourist! Not all Asian people live in Asia, and the Wall is a touristy spot so.

  • 19 trulyasian // Apr 22, 2011 at 9:53 am

    no no no. Image for asians is important yes, but not on what clothes they have on but HOW they dress. get it? it’s more of conveying your values or culture or else people will look down on you. THEN AGAIN, because of globalization, we get western influences and asians do dress up liberally.

    all women do want to look good right? well, if some westerners like to have their tan, some asians want to be white, while some wants to be taller. Asians relatively have shorter hight than westerners, and donning a pair of high heels make up for this height difference.

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