The largest continent on Earth. Famous for their rich cultural traditions and the first civilizations in history. Also the birth place of the major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, ... Roughly Asia can be divided in three large parts: the Middle East (Arabic countries), South Asia (best known for Hindu countries like India) and the Far East/East Asia. Of course, this is a very narrow summarization. For starters: Russia, which is considered to be a European country, stretches out over most of the northern part of Asia. Despite not being an Asian country it still takes up the biggest chunk of the continent and is in fact even the largest country on Earth. Still, to most people Asia is mostly associated with the Far East.
The Middle East (North Africa excluded)
To most people the Middle East is just one large desert. Not entirely true, as Lebanon, Turkey and Iran have jungles and mountains.
Contrary to what popular culture wants you to believe it's not always sunny in the Middle East: reports of rain and even snow are not uncommon.
All Middle Eastern countries are of course Qurac cities, ruled by sheikhs, sultans, shahs, califs, vizirs or evil wizards. The names of the fictional countries in this region all end in "-stan". Even though all of the real countries with such names are in Central and South Asia. (Stan is an Urdu word, Urdu being an Indo-Aryan language from Pakistan.) It may be mentioned that this Qurac's place is "between Persia and Iran".
Popular Middle Eastern city images are temples, mosques and minarets. No image of the Middle East is complete without a scene where a muezzin is calling/chanting the ritual morning prayer.
Most people know the Middle East as the setting for The Bible, The Talmud and The Qur'an. It was the breeding ground for the founders of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam,..., yet to most people it seems to be just a region full of Muslims.
In Ancient Mesopotamia, Assyria, Persia, Babylon and Phoenicia there were cities, art and a justice system centuries before much of the rest of the world had such luxuries. During the Middle Ages muslim scholars preserved many ancient texts and enhanced them with numerous important discoveries in the fields of math, astronomy and medicine. Various Western words are of Arabic origin and the positional base-10 numeral system had its origins in India but was transmitted to the western world through Muslim travelers and merchants. For this reason it is quite inaccurate and simple minded to describe the Middle East as an inherently primitive and backwards region.
The oldest traditional stereotypes associated with the Middle East are derived from 8th to 18th century history and feature sultans, caliphs, grand viziers, shahs and sheiks dressed in turbans and long robes, typical of these centuries. Most common are images borrowed from Arabian Nights, including a Flying Carpet, dreamy palaces, story telling princesses, waterpipes, harems full of sexy belly dancing women, eunuch guards, thieving gangs with daggers and/or scimitars , people hiding inside giant jars, caves full of treasure, the giant bird Roc, people climbing on an erect rope and djinns fulfilling wishes. (See also Arabian Nights Days).
The films of Rudolph Valentino like The Sheik also provided the image of the young, sexy Arab prince abducting Western women into his tent.
Another popular image is the Bazaar of the Bizarre. An exotic street bazaar and flea market will feature all kinds of strange, forbidden Black Market or fantastic items. A typical Arabic stock character is the cunning merchant who will welcome you in his store, haggle over the prices and afterwards sent you away with more useless junk than you originally intended to buy. If you want to register a complaint the bazaar will have vanished.
Just like Indian or Pakistani people, Arabic people are frequently depicted as being shopkeepers or supermarket managers. In certain parts of the United States, Arabic-speakers are specifically stereotyped as owners of gas stations, with the ethnicity varying based on location. In Michigan, they tend to be Lebanese or Iraqi; in New Jersey, they tend to be Egyptian Copts.
In Venezuela (and some Caribbean countries) there were a lot of street peddlers and shopkeepers of Arabic origin, all under the generic label of "turco" (Turkish) despite most of them being Lebanese or Syrian. There is a phrase, "con el turco atrás" ("with the Turkish man behind") which means that a person is pursued by their creditors, based in the real phenomenon of these sellers literally staking the ones in debt.
Negative stereotypes about Arabs are that they are all supposedly agressive fanatical assassins. A typical image found in old books, films, comics and cartoons is that Arabs out of nowhere will pull out a dagger, sabre or scimitar. When they attack they will ululate, praise Allah or shout gibberish with many "ch"-sounds and heavy emphasis on the letter "r".
The Middle East has become synonymous with bloodshed over the centuries. Especially since the second half of the 20th century Arabs are stereotyped as fanatical Muslims still stuck in religious traditions. They will be slaughtering sheep in the kitchen, beat and force their women into submission, have many children and will have sex with goats or camels on occasion. They are easily agitated and will haggle, shout, demand respect while not showing it to others, fight, kill, call out for jihads, suicide attacks, plane hijackings, terrorist bomb attacks and/or a Middle Eastern Coalition. Specific berserk buttons are infidels, Jews, scantily clad women, Westerners (especially Americans) and blasphemous remarks. When victorious they will ululate, yell "Allah Akbar" ("Allah is great") and shoot in the air. These images are frequently exploited in racist, extreme right wing Western propaganda, as if moderate, calm, religiously tolerant or peaceful Arabs are non-existant.
Positive stereotypes about Arabs are that they produce beautiful carpets, exquisite calligraphy and mysterious mesmerizing music that can last from one to three hours in length. Adding to the Oriental atmosphere are lutes, an oboe, tambourines, rhythmic percussion and sometimes a singer who sounds hypnotized himself.
Another stereotypical image is the rich Arab Oil Sheikh. He will have a huge beard, sunglasses, a turban (often mocked by Western comedians as being a towel or a diaper). Usually he is sitting in a tent and smoking a water pipe. He will take great pride in owning several cars, horses and a harem.
All Arabs will praise or mention Allah in almost every sentence they speak. Other popular stock phrases are: "Salaam", "Peace be upon him", "May Allah be with you, my friend", ...
All Arabs are named Ali, Muhammad (after the Prophet), Mustafa, Ghassim, Jafar, Akbar, Abu, Ottoman, Hakim, Amin, Adel, Sinbad, Hussain, Ahmed, Achmed, Tariq or Murad.
Arab women are either overdressed to the point of being nothing more than a burka ((which are Pakistani in origin, not from Afghanistan and certainly not Arab) or will be scantily clad and sexy belly dancers. They carry vases on their heads, wear henna or special piercings. They will be named Aïcha, Farah, Naima, Yasmine or Fatima.
Arabs have their own set of stereotypes about one another:
The new stereotype is of the Bedouins as marginal, uncivilized merchants in guns and drugs (particularly hashish and other forms of cannabis), who are all-too-fond of using their products (both kinds). They are sometimes also seen as traitors for working with Israel in one way or another (most often, dealing in Israeli weed).
In the Arabic countries themselves people from the Gulf States are typically portrayed as being filthy-rich lecherous drunks and drug addicts, who hide behind religion to justify their sinning. The guy from Saudi Arabia or the UAE or Kuwait who goes to Egypt or Morocco to marry another woman on the sly is practically a trope in itself.
In (beat 'em up) videogames, for whatever reason, there are a number of ambiguously Middle Eastern characters. That is, their design evokes the look of the region, and a few cultural clues may be mentioned, but mention of actual nationality is outright avoided. Examples include Zafina, from Tekken, who's background and cut-scenes hint at an Egyptian origin, but who has "unknown" listed against birthplace on her official bio. Word of God states that she is of "Middle Eastern" origin, but no more information has been provided. Algol from the Soul Series is another example - his name is clearly Arabic (literally "the ghoul"), as well as his move-list, and his story is an homage to the Sumerian (modern day Iraq) Gilgamesh epic, but his origin is never confirmed outright. Zasalamel, also from the Soul Series, is similarly ambiguous, with a look that references Egypt (his ibis-head scythe especially) and a movelist named after several Babylonian gods. The incongruently name Sinclair from Art of Fighting has an unmistakably Arabic look, complete with harem-pants, head scarf and a scimitar, although her country of origin remains unknown. Why the country of origin of these "Middle Eastern" characters remains unknown isn't clear, but it could be to avoid Unfortunate Implications in a sensitive global region, or simply to enhance the mystery of certain characters.
Pullum Purna of the Street Fighter series, who hails from Saudi Arabia, is one of the few Middle Eastern characters with an actual nationality, and of course they gave her a stereotypical background (belly dancers and Oil Sheikhs and all of that)...
War, war, and more war. Everyone is either a terrorist, a victim of terrorism, a victim of a foreign army, or an oppressed woman. The Taliban's draconian rules will have been in place for untold centuries, never mind that the Taliban have only existed since the 1990s. Every great empire in history feels the need to invade, only to get burned by Afghanistan's sheer unconquerableness. Invading armies range from Alexander's Greeks, to Mongols, to Victorian Brits, to Russian commies, to the present-day NATO forces.
Back when the country was named Persia it was known for the Shah, Persians with Pistols, Persian cats and Persian carpets.
Iranians are seen by the West as religious fanatics. Ayatollah Khomeini did a lot to create this image. Another stereotype is that Iranians are terrorists who want to do nothing more then blow up America.
Iranians are commonly mistaken for Arabs and receive the same treatment. When someone does bother to note the difference, Persians (the men, anyway) will be stereotyped similarly to the so-called Guidos. Think tacky "club" outfits with lots of gold chains, hair gel, cheap cologne, over-priced designer sunglasses, etc. South Park did a version of this in their 300 spoof. The track-suit "jock" variant of Guidos isn't usually associated with Persians quite as often, however. There's also the over-zealous Shi'a Muslim guy in the street, whipping himself until he draws blood (although it's actually illegal in Iran)" stereotype, but that tends to overlap with Arab stereotypes.
Back when the country was still called Babylon it was mostly known for its Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven World Wonders. Iraqis still feel proud about their ancient history (Iraq being Mesopotamia, i.e. the oldest civilization in the world).
Since 1990 the West knows Iraq primarily for the Gulf Wars and Saddam Hussein.
Within the Arabic countries themselves the Iraqis are seen as thepoorbuggers. Naturally, seen as badass, and a bit tribal, but that's about all that can be said about them. Their dialect is noted for being difficult to understand, but also very cool, or at least intimidating (kind of like a Scottish accent in English).
Most clichés about the country are derived from The Bible or the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even though Israel has a large Christian and Muslim community the Jewish community is always remembered foremostly.
Most locations Israel (and Palestine) are known for are in essence temples or holy sites, like Bethlehem, Mount Zion, Masada, Al-Asqa Mosque, The Lions' Gate, King David's Tomb, the Armenian Quarter, The Wailing Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Damascus Gate, and the Dome of the Rock. Only the West Bank and Gaza Strip are more famous now as conflict zones than for their historical merit.
The one location that exists without a strong holy or violent association attached to it is the Dead Sea, which is actually a lake, by the way. It's famous for its high salt level which makes people able to float on it without being able to sink. And even this location is actually not just Israelian or Palestinian, but also bordering Jordan.
All Israelis are Jewish in ethnicity and religion.
Israeli men are either young and athletic, or old men with long beards.
Israeli women are all deadly beautiful, bisexual, violent, Action Girl. At least until they get married, at which point they mysteriously transform into a haggish Jewish Mother.
Israelis themselves have some stereotypes of Israelis, namely that they are honest—even blunt—to the point of rudeness, loudmouthed, are overly opinionated (to the point where they say "two Israelis, three opinions"), and are quick to argue about anything.
Palestinians are all Muslims who wear Yasser Arafat scarfs.
Within the Arabic countries themselves the Palestinians are seen...well... again as poor buggers. Also known as being crazy-tough and very proud.note Are you noticing a theme? It's common to the Sham or Levant region—Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine—which has plenty of reason to be tough. Also noted for being crazy-smart; Palestinians who were expelled from their land but managed to get out of the country tended to take advantage of educational opportunities to get ahead, leading to a disproportionate number of Palestinian doctors and teachers in much of the Arab world. The similarity to the Jews—who similarly scattered (under duress if not direct threat of force) out of more or less the same territory and took up education as a means to counteract the effects of discrimination in the lands in which they found themselves—has not been lost on Palestinians, who have a particularly strong appreciation for irony.
Team Israel's view: Israel is a plucky little freedom-loving democracy constantly under threat from evil Palestinian terrorists who love throwing rocks and bombs around. If not being threatened from within the country will have to strike back against non-freedom-loving dictatorships ten times its size.
Team Palestine's view: Israel is a Nazi apartheid state where evil, racist imperialists mow down innocent Palestinians who were actually living in this country centuries before the Jewish population got their own state.
Actual Israelis' view: Israel has a lot of problems, of which the Palestinian issue is just one. Heck, a lot of these Palestinians are decent guys, and excellent employees, as long as they stay on their side of the line. Anyone who can keep things stable while we figure out what to do in the future will get our support.
Actual Palestinians' view: Israel is the occupier, yes, and they kill our people, but we're not about to deny we have some bad eggs who go out and kill their innocents. A lot of these Israelis are just ordinary folks, and truth be told they can be pretty nice employers as long as they stay on their side of the line (sure, it'd be nice if it wasn't always them employing us, but one step at a time, guys). Heck, we've even learned to like matzo. We'd just like a little dignity. Can we have a deal now?
Within the Arabic countries themselves they are seen as being tough and resilient, loving life despite the crappy hand they've been dealt. Known as the leaders in the Arab world for good old-fashioned drunken debauchery (without the taint of hypocrisy that goes with Gulf revelers—Lebanon is 1/3-1/2 Christian and many self-identified Muslims are pretty much secular); despite this, also known for Hezbollah, (yes, Beirut is a conflicted city)—whose members are reputed for also being able to have a good time without alcohol (although, as is common in the Arab world, that doesn't include hashish...). Also noted as shrewd traders and businessmen, with contacts everywhere (quite true; there are four times as many Lebanese outside Lebanon than in it). Lebanese women, according to stereotype, are good-looking, uncovered, and kind of loose.
For a while in Australia, Lebanese men (especially Muslim ones) were stereotyped as criminals and gang rapists. This was especially common during the Cronulla riots, though it seems to have died down.
Within the Arabic countries themselves they are seen as the more serious cousins of the Lebanese, sharing the same quasi-Camp accent that belies their inherent Badassery, but without the fondness for just having a good time. They are also known for being intensely proud. Syrian women, according to stereotype, are even better-looking than the Lebanese, but more conservative.
Turkey forms the border between Europe and Asia, symbolized by the Bosporus. To this day there are ongoing discussions whether it should be considered part of Europe or not? The same argument is made about Israel. Both Turkey and Israel compete along with the Eurovision song contest, yet none of them are part of the European Union. Usually Turkey is considered to be part of the European continent, while Israel is already the Middle East.
Turkey is also seen as a Muslim country not too different from other Middle Eastern nations. While most of the population are Muslims the county is in fact a democratic, secular state with no official state religion and even freedom of religion and conscience, specifically stated in their constitution.
The reputation of the Turks is kind of history-dependent.
During most of the Antiquity it was known for Anatolia and its Anatolian civilization.
The Ottoman Empire was the most famous and powerful Turkish empire in history.
People familiar with World War One know Turkey for Gallipoli and the Dardanelles.
Since the 1920s the world knows at least one historically important Turk: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey and also modernizer of its culture and society. He is still seen as a hero by the Turkish population and an someone who should not be criticized at all.
Today Turkey is mostly famous for Istanbul, which used to be called Byzantium first and later Constantinople. The city is well known for the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace (made famous by the film Topkapi) and the Basilica Cisterne, which is a famous underground water reservoir. Foreigners often think it's the capital, which is actually Ankara, the only other well known location in Turkey. Ankara in itself is best known for animals like the Angora cat, Angora rabbit, Angora goat and Anatolian shepherd.
Turkey also has one of the most recognizable flags in the world: a white moon and a small star seen against a red background.
In popular culture Turks are often portrayed wearing a fez. In reality this hatwear has been banned since Ataturk modernized the country in 1924. If they are worn it will be part of a traditional ceremony, not everyday life.
Romanians and other Eastern Europeans tend to see Turks as shrewd merchants, food shop keepers and peddlers of all fakes imaginable in the world. But this is based strictly on Istanbul, Ankara and other few modern Europeanized cities and the migration of Turk businessmen towards Europe after The Eighties.
Turks are often portrayed as being very proud of their country, history and heritage. The negative end of this stereotype caricatures them as people who have a supreme genocidal hatred for Armenians, Greeks and Kurds.
Turkish women tend to be depicted as bellydancers.
Since a "soft-Islamist" government took power in Turkey, the image in the Middle East has been influenced by their primary cultural export: Soap Operas featuring rich settings, convoluted family-related melodrama (just like they like it!), and fanservice beyond imagining (the star of Gümüsh, Kivanc Tatliug is so hot several women in the Arab world were Driven to Suicide when they heard he was getting married). Turkey has since become a soft-power powerhouse in the Arab world.
A very old but very enduring stereotype of Turkey is that of a land of hedonistic pleasures: hookahs, strong coffee, Turkish delights (very sweet and tough to chew candy), veiled belly-dancers and the infamous Turkish baths, where you can take a sauna. In popular culture the Turkish massage will always be given by a huge moustached Turk who beats heavily with his fists on the back of his relaxing customer.
The country is also famous for Sufi whirling, a specific dance style practiced by dervishes of the Sufi Islam. It's typified by men wearing a felt cap a, a sikke and a white dress, the dhikr. While they dance around in circles the dhikr whirls along.
Another typical musical phenomenon are the Ottoman military bands mehterân, whose music has been famous for so many centuries that even Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven have tried to imitate the sounds, especially the Turkish stop, in their own compositions.
Since the film Midnight Express" (1978) Turkish prisons do not have a very good reputation...
Another negative reputation associated with the country are frequent reports of disregard for human rights, with people being arrested, tortured and executed for protesting against the government.
Turkey has also gained a reputation for plagiarizing films and comic strips from other countries and putting them into a weird amateurish context. Though sometimes titles like "Turkish Star Wars" or "Turkish Rambo" are just slapped on the movies by Western salesmen, it cannot be denied that the similarities in plot, characters, soundtrack,... are sometimes perplexing. These movies are usually cheap, badly edited and have soundtracks that often jumpcut to another track when a scene abruptly changes. You'll also often notice instrumental music for which no copyright permission was paid. This would probably not be that notable, if it weren't for the fact that the makers often use very famous and recognizable melodies that you can immediately identify.
And, to conclude, in the English language Turkey cannot be mentioned without making an Incredibly Lame Pun about turkey birds.
South Asia and South-East Asia are known for their wildlife: The mountainous areas of Mongolia, Tibet and Southern Russia will be full of yaks. The jungles will be chuck full with macaques, gibbons, lemurs, langurs, proboscis monkeys (famous for their noses), orang-utans, tigers, civet cats, black bears, cranes, salamanders, catfish, komodo dragons, tapirs, gharials (crocodiles with small snouts) and the kantjil (mousedeer or chevrotain). The rest is brimful with archipelagoes, volanoes and bamboo. Cycloons, tornadoes, floods, monsoon rains and earth quakes will frequently ravage the country.
Economically, the area has been known internationally for centuries for the trade of spices like pepper, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Rice, tea and rubber are also prominent export products.
Indians are often confused with Native Americans as a pun.
Both countries are often depicted as if they're more or less the same. With one important stereotypical distinction: All Indians are Hindu, all Pakistanis are Muslim. Sometimes Indian Muslims are acknowledged (although mostly in works dealing specifically about Hindu-Muslim tension), but Sikhs rarely are, despite one of the most stereotypical depictions of Indians (guys with turbans and big beards) being very much based around Sikhs—to say nothing of the Prime Minister being Sikh. Jains, Buddhists, and Christians are almost never mentioned (this despite there actually being more Indian Christians than Sikhs).
India and Pakistan are also known for being horribly poor. People live in slums or rural backwaters, where they farm with oxen. They will all travel by train since they can't afford it any other way. And even then most train passengers will simply climb or hold on to themselves on top or on side of the train. Essentially, it's still The Raj but without so many upper-class British people.
Sim Sim Salabim: The countries also bring up images of very devout gurus, yogis, swamis, fakirs, snake charmers and other people who seem to be a cross between a philosopher, a Messiah, a cult leader, an illusionist or just someone who's difficult to understand from a Western perspective. Usually these people spent their time chanting mantras or spouting off wise aphorisms, in search of enlightment. They will be able to do all sorts of magical tricks like hypnotizing people, fly on a carpet, levitate, meditate, walk barefoot on burning coals, climb on an erect rope (Indian rope trick), stick knives inside their body, make cobras "dance" to the sound of their flutes or go without food for months! Sometimes they bury themselves underground with only their head or hands sticking out- or- in even more bizarre antics: with just their head stuck underground while the rest of their body remains above the ground in a stiff and upright position. They're able to twist their arms and legs in all kinds of seemingly uncomfortable positions. When they sit down or lie down they'll use a bed of nails.
Indian and Pakistani religions and cults are usually hardly distinguished from each other (and often mixed in with New Age stuff). In the end they all worship the most well known Hindu deities in the Western World: Shiva, Brahma, Kali, Vishnu or Ganesha. They all practice yoga and veganism, believe in reincarnation and worship holy cows. They're usually two perspectives in Western popular culture. Either it's treated as being more spiritual and philosophical than other religions, or it's just dismissed as mindless scary brainwashing.
Many images of India are derived from the ancient mysterious exotic days, usually overlapping with Middle Eastern Arabian Nights imagery.
Other stereotypes are derived from 19th and 20th century British colonial times, for example: people going tiger hunting while riding an elephant. Jungle Book also did a lot to create the Western idea about India: jungles, bamboo, tigers, Indian elephants and rhinoceroses, cobras, wolves, feral children,...
Indian or Pakistani men all wear turbans. A long thick beard may be mandatory, but a moustache will do too.
Indian or Pakistani women are all young, slim, long black haired women with a gopi dot on the forehead, dressed in saris. Expect a big deal to be made of their innocent/virginity; if they have a romantic partner, chances are it will be forbidden. And if they marry they will be child brides.
There are also a few very offensive stereotypes of Pakistani men as a whole, particularly in the UK following media coverage of incidents where several large gangs of Pakistani men have groomed and sexually abused young white girls. The high profile nature of these cases, and the fact that the media mentions statistics like "Asian men make up 3% of the British population and 25% of all sex crimes", encourages belief that Pakistani men are all paedophile rapists.
All Indians and Pakistanis eat rice, hot spices and curry which will burn your throat.. No miracle they sometimes go without food for months or simply starve to death.
Modern stereotypical images of Indians and Pakistani depict them as shopkeepers, taxi drivers, workers in the "Indian" food industry (generally but not always Bangladeshi) or supermarket store clerks.
All Indian movies are, of course, Bollywood movies. They will all be made in Bombay and feature a lot of young Indian men and women singing and dancing to a catchy and hypnotizing beat. The stories are usually romances, but the musical numbers are more important. In fact: the couples hardly every kiss each other! Usually the woman will sing in a very high pitched voice. Everything always has a bad acoustic echo to it and seems to be recorded on a scratchy soundtrack.
Apart from Bollywood soundtracks most music in India will be sitar music, usually by Ravi Shankar. It will usually drone on for hours and bring the listener into a spiritual trance.
No visit to India is complete without showing the Taj Mahal!
The Ganges river will also be shown, but only when Hindus are washing themselves in the "holy" river.
The monsoon seasons are also a point of reference, with either not enough rain or too much of it for months!
People from this part of Asia often suffer from Interchangeable Asian Cultures and Identical-Looking Asians. Non-Asians often refer to all people of South East Asian descent as being "Chinese", even if they weren't born there. The same applies to other Oriental phenomena.
Historically, and especially during the 19th and 20th century, Westerners saw East Asia as the Yellow Peril. A group of people who had strange and frightening traditions and could not be trusted in any way. The Japanese involvement in World War II and China becoming a Communist country in 1949 hardly diminished this fear. The oldest threat however, remains the Japanese and Chinese economic growth. Western colonials surpressed it for most of the centuries, but since the second half of the 20th century it became very current again.
Yellow Face: Racial stereotypes associated with South East Asians are:
Jokes about their typical eye shape. People from a different race will often mock it by stretching their own eyes with both index fingers and take on a goofy, cross-eyed expression, complete with imbecilic grin. Derigatory terms like "slant eyes" and "slitty eyes" are also derived from this.
Another stereotype derived from this is their supposed lack of peripheral vision (which attributes to yet another stereotype: their ''"bad driving"'').
Another racist image is the East Asian with buck teeth, long fingernails and coke bottle glasses. The "very bad teeth" thing is still very much in play. Not only has orthodontics only recently started to catch on, but females with crooked teeth are actually considered kawaii for supposedly having the crooked teeth of a grade school kid. Braces, as a result, are not nearly as prevalent as they are in North America.
Asian Speekee Engrish: They often speak Engrish, replacing the letters "l" and "r" with each other. Or gibberish with many words that rhyme with "-ng"-sounds, like Ching Chong.
Asian Rudeness: To westerners Asians may come across as being impolite, impatient and always talking loudly and sharply to everyone. This is usually stereotyped by having an Asian shout untranslated gibberish while Westerns stand by bewildered. This stereotype is mostly derived from the fact Chinese culture in particular values bluntness and that many Asian languages apply different tone and meter to articulate certain words and sentences.
When they travel it will be by boat, either a sampan, junk, catamaran or a maru. They will be fishing and use the ship as a house too.
Inscrutable Oriental: Asians are often portrayed as mysterious people who don't express their emotions or opinions and just seem to stand by and observe. This causes distress or nervousness with people from other races who are unable to tell what these mysterious people are up to? When they speak, they will always mumble seemingly deep and confusing aphorisms and Ice-cream koans.
A subtrope of this stereotype is the Magical Asian, a doctor or physician who conducts strange rituals and brews weird medicines and poisons.
The most negative subtrope of this stereotype is the Asian executioner, who sadistically torments his victims for hours and days, while remaining unnerved by the pain he causes unto others.
In high contrast with their "emotionless" image Asians are also often seen as a bunch of imbecilic grinning and giggling people. See also Asian Airhead.
All Asians showcase tremendous respect to their ancestors.
All Asians are submissive and bow a lot, especially women and especially Japanese. Unless you insult them, because then they will showcase Asian Rudeness or martial skills.
Also, different martial arts traditions from different Asian countries will often be confused with each other. For the record: Judo, Aikido, Sumo, Jiujitsu, Ninjutsu, Kenpo and Karate are Japanese. Kung fu, Jeet kune do, and Tai chi are Chinese. Taekwondo, Hapkido and Taekkyeon are Korean.
Asian men have their own set of stereotypes:
Asian and Nerdy: Asian men are often stereotyped as small, weak and pathetic nerds. They will usually be math or computer experts. If they are first-generation immigrants, they are also bound to be extremely demanding to their children and having absurdly high expectations, especially regarding education. Found, for example, in Wayne's World and made popular by this meme. They will also be ridiculed for having small genitals.
Whenever a strong and actually sexy Asian man is portrayed he will usually be a martial arts expert.
Old Asian people are usually wise, bearded men who, again speak in aphorisms, teach martial arts and are forever trying to calm down their young, enthusiastic students. They will be a Magical Asian or a medical expert. When they are not teaching they'll be meditating or singing an Asian Rune Chant.
Young East Asian women are usually portrayed as mysterious attractive and exotic dancers, masseuses, manicurists, geishas or prostitutes. They are often depicted as being very submissive, yet delicate flowers. Of course, they will be experts in unusual or exotic sexual techniques.
Dragon Lady: Somewhat a subtrope of the exotic and erotic young Asian female, only this stereotype is not to be trusted at all. She will use her beauty and sexual techniques to exploit or manipulate men.
Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: What makes these submissive Asian female stereotypes especially simplistic is the ignorance of the Westerners who use them. For instance: geishas will be pigeonholed as prostitutes, while their actual activities are far more complex than simply giving men sexual pleasure. Also, they forget that you can't be a proper East Asian womanwithout a spine of your own. It's apparent that people who still use this stereotype today are unaware of 'Raise The Red Lantern'' or any novel written by any female Chinese novelist in the past thirty years.
Still, the "submissive East Asian woman" stereotype is not simply a Western idea. They can also be seen and heard in many East Asian films and animated cartoons, where these girls tend to talk and moan in a very high pitched squeaking voice, always accentuating their own weaknesses and reservations. Especially during erotic scenes.
Asian Airhead: Young Asian girls will be stereotyped as giggling idiots.
Asian cuisine is also subject to stereotypical ideas. Most of the time they will eat nothing but rice, noodles and soja sauce and preferably use sticks instead of knife and fork. Apart from that they will enjoy sea food, such as sushi, fish eggs and whales. Chinese delicacies like thousand-year-old egg and bird nest soup are well-known among Westerners, and Koreans are said to favour kimchi and dog meat.
Dragons Up the Yin Yang is often used to portray an Oriental atmosphere. Some Asian string instruments will do the trick too.
Every cheap and dangerous product will always be made in Eastern Asia, usually by slave laborers, before being sent to the Western World: "Made in Korea", "Made in Hong Kong", "Made in Taiwan",...
The Chinese have been stereotyped as if they still live in the days of Imperial China. They wear douli on their head, long pigtails and keep their hands hidden in long robes. They enjoy walking in queus behind each other, sometimes dressed up as a Chinese dragon. The men have long beards and moustaches, while the women suffer terrible pain because of the foot binding tradition. A reference to mandarins and their Emperor will be made, despite the fact that The Last Emperor was forced into abdication in 1911. Many of these images are influenced by Dream of the Red Chamber, The Nightingale, Turandot and countless Wuxia movies.
Other stereotypes from this time period are throwing babies in the river, extreme animal abuse, lighting fireworks during Chinese new year, Chinese dragons, Chinese opera, Chinese acrobatics and the games ping pong, go, mah-jong and Chinese chess and checkers.
The Chinese are also pioneers of invention: paper, ink, gun powder, fireworks, the compass, the wheel barrow, the printing press, windmills, paper money,... and were pioneers in clock making, hydraulica, astronomy, shipping, farming, music theory, military science,... Throughout history they were famous for making silk, vases and porcelain.
Chinese philosophy is famous too: Confucianism, Taoism, Feng Shui, Yin and Yang, the I-Ching,... This again leads to the idea that Chinese mainly speak in aphorisms.
The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, the Tian An Men Square and the Shaolin Temple will be shown or visited at one point. And don't try to show Beijing without bringing bicyclists in view. Visiting Shanghai without being shanghaied is less difficult.
A popular stereotype is the insanely intelligent and evil Chinese villain with a beard or long Fu Manchu style moustache. He often practices Ancient Chinese torture methods like slow slicing and the Chinese water torture. (Examples: Fu Manchu, Li Shoon, Dr.No.) The female counterpart is the Dragon Lady, who will always wear a Qipao dress.
More modern stereotypes about China are basically referencing Red China. During the 1960s and 1970s the Chinese were portrayed as sexless, androgynous, personality-free Mao freaks who dress in the same blue uniforms and whose lives are centered on The Little Red Book and overly complicated bureaucracy. They will ban a lot of Western stuff (There's a reason why the TV tropes article about censorship in universal countries is called Banned in China.). Tibet will remain occupied as far as they are concerned.
Another stereotype derived from Red China is the overpopulation. Ever since Mao told all Chinese parents to produce as many children as they could the population quickly rose out of hand. Today a billion (!) people live in China. That's right, one billion of the seven billion people on Earth reside in China. To get things back under control the Chinese government then issued a "one family, one child" policy, which unfortunately lead to parents killing their infant if it was a girl. So, the government tried to campaign daughters in a more positive light since then.
In the rest of the world the Chinese are mainly seen as restaurant owners, cooking several rice products and handing out fortune cookies.
The Chinese also eat a lot more different animals than in other cultures. This has lead to the stereotype that the Chinese will eat anything.
Between the Special Administrative Regions and the Mainland China there is also stereotyping between both sides, Mainland China views the average SAR citizens (Hong Kong for example) as impatient, unpatriotic, classist, brash and complete workaholics, while Mainlanders are seen as moody and spoiled due to several policies in China (namely the one child policy), as well as extremely rude (thanks to a dog-eat-dog culture in certain areas of China stemming from government overhauls)
All cheap products are "made in China."
Animals able to provide a specific Chinese atmosphere are panda bears and cranes. And a Chinese dragon as well, of course.
Chinese music consists mostly of people playing an erhu.
In the years when Hong Kong was a British colony the Kowloon Walled City had an infamous reputation for being an overpopulated den of lawfulness with brothels, opium dens and bad or unlicensed doctors and dentists. The Triads and the Tongs ruled the place up until 1993, when everything was demolished.
Martial Arts Movie: Since the 1960s and 1970s Hong Kong is best known for their large film industry based on martial arts pictures. All these films will have a Bruce Lee Clone fighting off other people in long, intense and sometimes gravity defying choreographed scenes that take up several minutes of screen time. When shown in the USA these pictures will have bad English dubbing (Hong Kong Dub).
Hong Kong is likely to be filled with masseusses who will step on your back and give "happy endings" if you pay them enough.
Lots of dead chickens hanging in the windows and lots of old ladies willing to behead any live chickens they get.
A hot-spot for wealthy business men (both Asian and White) to visit and "relax".
Extremely brash and impatient by Asian standards, filled with shopkeepers and passerby who will kick your ass for trying to ask for help. This is somewhat true, as shopkeepers in China are less picky about their customers than in America.
Japanese people are often represented as extremely polite (Japanese Politeness), intelligent, and obedient but dislike foreigners. They bow extensively and are ruthless, stoic business people wearing glasses and black suits. Their stock expressions are: "hai!", "sayanora!", "banzai!", "honorable", "regrettable", "ooooh so sorry, me so sorry" and "please" (usually spoken in an Engrish or Japanese Ranguage accent).
The Japanese are often seen as extreme workaholics who never take time off and always try to be as good as they possibly can. Either at school, at work or at home. This comes into sharp contrast with their Real Life custom of spending for luxury and Conspicuous Consumption, mostly because unlike NewRussians or Arabs, Japanese don't brag.
The Yakuza is the Japanese equivalent of The Mafia and will thus be seen in many gangster stories.
Japanese also have a reputation for honorable suicides, ranging from hara-kiri, seppuku to kamikaze pilots.
Imperial Japan: Certain Japanese stereotypes are still derived from this time period with the Samurai, Ronin, Geisha and the Ninja as the most iconic examples. Activities like calligraphy, Japanese water painting, origami, flower arranging, haiku writing, tea ceremonies, kabuki plays, playing the gong, gardening... are also associated with this time period, though still in vogue today. The Emperor of Japan is also a stock character here. The image is mostly fed from countless stories and films in these settings, including the films of Akira Kurosawa.
All Japanese houses are either pagodes or shojis with paper thin walls, tatami floor mats and fusuma doors that you can slide open.
Some essential locations to bring in viewpoint when visiting Japan: the Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Gardens, the Itsukushima shrine and the Meiji shrine.
Japan's involvement in WorldWarTwo also lead to a number of stereotypes: the stern and merciless Japanese officer, the sadistic soldiers, gruesome medical experiments in death camps, kamikaze pilots flying to their death, ... For many older British and American people this is the cultural referent. Ask a member of the Burma Star Association (war veteran) for his opinion of the Japanese as a people, and the reference points will be savagery, fanaticism, vicious cruelty to prisoners, racial superiority, and so on. Although this wholly negative perception is fading with the generation that fought WW2 or were prisoners in Japanese death camps.
Since Japan was victim of two atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki expect many of their drama stories to be directly or indirectly referencing these tragic events. It remains a heavy subject there.
Japanese popular culture often baffles other countries:
Their anime is often ridiculed. Non-anime fans seem to think Japanese cartoons are still at the quality of Speed Racer and full of giant robots flying around. Characters simply freeze in one position while a vague background goes by. You seldom see a realistic Asian in their cartoons: always white people with very wide eyes. Also, many will simply be thinly veiled toy commercials and have so many flashy scenes that they cause epileptic seizures.
The kaiju films are ridiculed for their bad special effects: men wearing rubber monster suits. The plots are surreal and consist of nothing more than Godzilla fighting other monsters for no particular reason.
Their instruction videos and commercials are equally weird. Many famous Hollywood actors make TV commercials in Japan (Japandering) and these videos have become notorious because they often put celebrities in a weird context that doesn't have anything to do with their public image. For decades these commercials remained mostly unknown to Western audiences, but since the arrival of Internet their notability has increased, often to the shame of the actors themselves.
Japanese people are engineering geniuses, but they use this to create giant robots and very odd inventions, like square melons and toilets that produce fountains and play music.
Japan also managed to provide some universally famous products like Nintendo, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hello Kitty. Expect a Japanese character in popular culture to do a shout out to any of these products at one point.
Specific Japanese dishes that will be referenced are octopus (usually alive), whale meat, sushi, fugu, sukiyaki, saké and wasabi.
A more negative stereotype is the perverted Japanese man who is a Nightmare Fetishist and possible pedophile. And also completely unwilling to reproduce or sexually regressive.
Japanese people add "-u" to the end of every word. (This, of course, comes from katakana.)
Oddly, the Ainu get more press in America than in Japan.
Among the Asians themselves, Japan is often viewed as an Asian version of the Confederate South in the USA. They have a similar "The South Will Rise Again" mentality as the American Southern States, with an unhealthy longing to the good old days of an absolute ruler.
Since Japan has a very recognizable flag expect references to the "Rising Sun" to be made whenever the country is mentioned in fiction.
Marriage culture: You want to marry a S. Korean girl, you have to defeat her father in StarCraft II
Also, dry cleaning. More than a few Korean immigrants have had dry cleaning as their first job in the United States. Several catalogs even have a specialized Korean-language line to dial.
Koreans are not generally seen as distinct from Chinese or Japanese (see Interchangeable Asian Cultures); when they are, they get a similar treatment to the Japanese as stereotypical businessmen who are reserved and extremely polite. Korean women will probably be war brides or prostitutes. Most North Americans know of The Korean War from Mash and may forget that Western involvement ended over half a century ago; especially dumb Americans may confuse it with The Vietnam War and assume it happened in the 1970s or later. Despite its strong economic growth, there is no equivalent to Japan Takes Over the World although certain elements of Korean pop culture (music, soap operas etc.) have become popular overseas. There may be some reference to North Korean belligerence making everyone tense.
Koreans are the only East Asian ethnicity to generally be portrayed as Christian, although other Asian countries (the Philippines, East Timor, Georgia and Armenia) also have people of this religion. Not exactly helped by the fame of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, nor by how South Korea is among the few countries in their geopolitical sphere to have a significant Christian minority (with Presbiterian and Roman Catholic former Presidents, too.)
Korean food consists of rice, dog meat and kimchi. No exceptions.
It's a bit of a stereotype in the Asian-American community that Koreans, especially the women, are really into plastic surgery. This is a stereotype inside the country itself - thanks to the uptick of more and more prosperity, there is a trend of materialism and an obsession with beauty, to the point of makeup being marketed toward men and teenagers getting surgery.
The internet front has Netizen, which are often treated as a South Korean exclusive thing that puts most internet activists to shame in terms of a Internet Counterattack. Think of them as the exact opposite of a Reddit social justice warrior, extremely conservative beliefs as they spend most of their time in internet cafes espousing on their beliefs and vicious use of the upvote/downvote system.
North Koreans with Nodongs: For Hollywood's purposes, North Korea seems to have replaced the Soviet Union as the default enemy country of the U.S. This often involves North Korea being portrayed as vastly more powerful and technologically advanced than it really is, in a manner similar to the Soviet Superscience trope.
South Koreans stereotype North Korean defectors the way many countries stereotype poor unwanted immigrants, i.e. as an uneducated criminal class. Yes, discrimination is a problem. Many North Koreans living in South Korea try to lose their northern accents.
North Korean women are considered to be more submissive and traditional than their South Korean counterparts. Feminism, of course, never made it across the DMZ. Some South Korean men seek out Northern women for this reason, viewing Southern women as too spoiled and judgemental.
The Taiwanese really only have two stereotypes; they are either rage-filled bad drivers who are obsessed with betel nuts or otakus who write way too many doujins.
Also, every Taiwanese person on the internet seems to know every other Taiwanese person. This is somewhat true, as the internet community on Taiwan is somewhat tight-knit, a consequence of being tiny.
Although most Taiwanese are of Han Chinese ethnicity, they are treated as essentially Japanese in culture (probably stemming from being ruled by Japan for about 50 years until the end of World War Two and having the least bad overall attitude about the country in Asia, as well as having taken on some Japanese culture from the occupation).
Taiwan may be confused with Hong Kong; there will be taxis, 24-hour laundries and teahouses where old men sit playing mah jong all day long. Traditional Chinese music will be heard.
And every cheap product is of course "made in Taiwan".
Many Americans don't differentiate Taiwanese people from the Chinese in terms of perception.
Chinese see Mongols as poor wretches deserving Chinese annexation.
Russians—and to a lesser extent, other nationalities in the CIS—often see Mongolians as Asian Russians, since some minorities (like the Buryat people) are a Mongol subgroup and share some language and culture.
The Shangri-La to the extremes. Most people are Buddhist monks. Oppressed and spiritual, and peaceful, never mind that the Tibetans had a martial tradition as well. The Himalaya will be seen as well, so mountain climbers will also appear at one point. Also expect the Dalai Lama and/or The Abominable Snowman to make a cameo.
In more politically motivated works, Tibet may be portrayed as a Commie Land. Tibetan Buddhism will be the Good Old Ways, and its suppression under modern communism may be portrayed with a touch of The Magic Goes Away.
In popular culture, Southeast Asia is that place where the Vietnam War happened. It did not exist before then, nor did it have a culture except for mysterious statues of Buddhas and ruined temples half-hidden by jungle overgrowth. Everyone wears those conical hats and is a peasant, drug trafficker or ex-guerrilla. All Western tourists who go there will be caught up in some sort of scam or civil war or be imprisoned on trumped-up charges (usually drug trafficking). See: Holiday in Cambodia.
Since being renamed as Thailand it is predominantly known for the capital city Bangkok, which is universally portrayed as a Wretched Hive full of seedy bars, strip clubs and brothels. There will be some mention of kathoey ("ladyboys"), possibly leading to Viewer Gender Confusion. If some other part of Thailand is shown, it will probably be a rubber plantation with elephants and palm trees everywhere, or a beach where Westerners go to live in wooden houses on stilts and surf. There will still be drugs and prostitutes, though.
Expect Thai massage, Thai dancing and/or Thai boxing (Muay Thai)to be depicted as if they are general activities every Thai does.
If Thai characters do turn up in Fighting Games, then they are almost universally portrayed as boastful, morally dubious (if not downright evil) Muay Thai boxers. Examples include Sagat and Adon, both Street Fighter veterans, Hwa Jai from Fatal Fury (complete with snake oil booze power-up moves) and Shura from World Heroes. This may stem from the fact that Muay Thai is brutal.
When it exists, is identical to Thailand despite being landlocked. The Souphanousinphones from King of the Hill are one of the few realistic portrayals of a Lao family that will be familiar to Western viewers.
Is the place where the Khmer Rouge took over. Virtually everything about Cambodia is known from the film The Killing Fields, which means it is a poor jungle country overrun by Communist guerillas and anti-Western fanatics who force their captives to do hard labour at gunpoint and starve. Phnom Penh is a fairly modern French-style city, but everything else is wilderness.
Best known in popular culture for its capital Manila.
Filipinos tend to be constantly confused with Hispanics, because not all of the population is of Asian race. Filipino women tend to be seen as sluts or mail-order brides. Then there are all the jokes about Filipino foreign workers caricatured as being practically everywhere.
Negative perceptions of Filipinos characterize them as lazy, gluttonous, and heavy drinkers, who has the most number of holidays in the world. They tend to leave their jobs undone ( while uttering "bahala na sa diyos" meaning "leave it all to God") and instead prefer to drink alcohol and eat roasted pig. The positive side of this stereotype portrays them as pleasure lovers with an optimistic outlook on life.
Whenever American media shows a white gay male with a "foreign" lover, it's almost always a Filipino man. Also, like Thailand, many of the prostitutes are thought to be MtF transsexuals.
Either a lot of nurses are Filipino women, or a lot of Filipino women are nurses. Stand up comedian Jo Koy:
Jo koy: how many Filipinos are here?
Jo koy: that's a lot of Filipinos. somewhere in L.A there's an empty hospital.
The Philippines are also known for being more fluent in English than other Asian countries. Probably because of the history of the country being colonized by both Spain and U.S.A. This led to many foreign students from many parts of the world (specifically from Europe and other Asian countries) to study in the Philippines (all just to learn proper English without the Engrish accent).
In (beat 'em up) videogames, Filipino characters are described as above. Example is Talim in Soul Calibur
Also most Filipinos are very, very, very Catholic. But a lot of them are also Muslims.
For Malaysian and Singaporean eyes, Filipinos are nothing more than maids. In many films from Singapore there's a Filipino maid stereotype depicted as young and often uneducated. This hasn't gone without criticism. Just ask Devina Devida.
Stereotyped in the West as fanatical Muslims, even though Indonesian Islam is rather relatively moderate until recently.
If the maids in Hong Kong and Singapore are not Filipinos, then they must be Indonesian.
All Indonesian men wear a songkok hat or a blangkon headgear. The cloth will be batik, ikat or songket.
All houses are built on stilts.
Historically, Indonesia is best remembered for its Dutch colonial history, exemplified in the Dutch literary classic Max Havelaar.
Indonesian culture is famous for its dances and shadow puppet theatre.
The martial art "silat" is also something unique to the country.
Indonesia is also known for its volcanic islands, like the most infamous one: Krakatoa.
The most famous Indonesian isle is Java, best known for the "Java Man", Javan coffee and tea and various unique animal species.
Another famous isle is Bali, best known for its percussion orchestra gamelan music, dances and, recently, as the location for the "love" part of the book Eat, Pray, Love.
Some Komodo dragons and the Javan hawk-eagle will make a cameo too.
In the West, they are a more refined version of the Indonesians, and richer.
Also in works concerning Malaysia, expect the Petronas Towers to crop up.
Basically they are an even more refined version of Malaysian stereotypes.
Being an oil-producing Islamic monarchy, the stereotypes of Gulf Arab states are also put into Brunei.
East Timor's portrayal in fiction is rare and if does crop up, expect poverty, gang violence, and ethnic violence as common cliches.
Stereotypes of Chinese people apply to Singapore, being a majority-Chinese nation.
Singaporeans are stereotyped by other Asians as arrogant know-it-alls and would punish anyone who chews chewing gum or smokes in public.
Singapore is also known for being a pirate's nest.