VietnamCulture and HistoryWhy Vietnamese Love White Skin

Why Vietnamese Love White Skin

This obsession is similar to the tanned skin craze in the West, only a bit more extreme. Spend a day on the streets in almost any city, you will find women covered from head to toe to not be exposed to sunlight (the “street ninja”). If you see any cosmetics ads while strolling, most likely, it’s about skin-bleaching products. This “white culture” can be traced back to the following reasons:

why vietnamese love white skin ninja
Street ninja, iconic fashion in our motorbike culture

Social Class Associations

Vietnam is a country built on paddy fields. Just about a century ago, the majority of the commoners were farmers—the poor. While farmers labored under the sun for long hours, the rich possessed the luxury of staying indoors all day, every day. When farmers became factory workers, this notion still didn’t change.

Therefore, pale skin is affiliated with wealth, and dark skin is a sign of poverty. Naturally, that’s the sole reason why Vietnamese love white skin.

We Are Told to Worship White Since Pre-school!

Apart from money, white is also associated with physical attraction. From Western fairy tales to our own folklore, the female protagonist is always a legendary beauty with skin white as snow. The most famous story, Tam Cam, has a scene where a character dies trying to achieve white skin by bathing in boiling water. Kids memorize this story since they learn how to speak and it is formally taught in our 10th-grade literature textbooks.

Foreign Influences at Play

In our colony days, this influence came from the West. Nowadays, Korean and Japanese culture waves are partly why Vietnamese love white skin. Vietnamese women love their dramas and music, so they sought after their favorite celebrities’ white-washed images, and the majority haven’t been able to stop.

why vietnamese love white skin ads
The usual concept of a whitening commercial

But Doesn’t That Lead to Racism in Vietnam?

There may or may not be discrimination against dark-skinned people, but nobody actually shows direct aggressive behavior towards anybody who is not light. We don’t really have any problem with skin tone associated with races, we just prefer white because of its supposed aesthetics.

Final Thoughts on Why Vietnamese Love White Skin

Unlike in the Western world, “white” in Vietnam does not represent ethnicity, it represents beauty and social standards, rooted in our culture and is not going away anytime soon. If you still have frustrations about our obsession with white skin, let us know in the comments. If not, learn to prevent culture shock when visiting our country!

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