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Canons of Beauty- How beauty is defined around the world?

We wanted to write this post for a long time. After visiting so many countries around the world and meeting new people everyday, we have noticed that being beautiful means something different in every culture. We all know the Western Standard of Beauty: woman has to be skinny but also curvy. She has to have flat belly, big bottom & breasts, long & shinning hair and white teeth. Even though we are seeing women like this in every magazine or TV channel, it is not how the world REALLY looks. There are so many different canons of beauty on this planet!

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So our question is: why do we believe that we need to be like less than 1% of the people? Take a look around- what you see in the TV is nothing like the real world.

The more we travel, the more we realise that beauty is something elusive. Sometimes it’s in the smile of pale, redhead girl. Sometimes it’s in the eyes of Padaung woman.

The world is diversified and that’s why it’s perfect. Every single person has something interesting to offer, everyone is beautiful in their own way.

In this post we want to show you the canons of beauty from around the world. We really hope that after reading this you will feel good in your body. No matter how you look like: you are beautiful and unique. There is no one like you on this Earth!

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Canons of beauty in Rajasthan by Sid the Wanderer

Located on the western edge of India, Rajasthan is a barren land with little vegetation, and lots of sand. In such an extreme environment, it’s women who are symbols of life itself. Hence the idea of beauty for women is also built around that. Bright, beautiful colors and silver jewellery are an essential part of the beauty of the woman, and so are kohl eyes, long hair and a bindi on the forehead.
However, with time definition of beauty is evolving (the influence of Bollywood is huge) and now fairer skin is also added to the list.
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Canons of beauty in South America by Aiden from Freeborn Aiden

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and with 6 billion sets of eyes in the world I guess it stands to reason that we could well have 6 billion differing ideals of beauty right? Yet strangely we don’t and rather it seems that within societies there is a very distinct cultural consensus as to exactly what beauty is.

Today I will look at what those ideals are in Latin America.

I won’t sugar coat it, many of the reasons I wanted to visit Colombia and Venezuela in 2014 weren’t entirely wholesome and I did find myself at a loss to explain to my poor, worried Grandmother exactly why I was so intent on visiting these “dangerous” countries. One reason, was the advice of a friend who had returned the previous year excitedly assuring me that “they are the most beautiful woman on the world”; I just had to see it for myself.

It certainly seems that my friend was not alone in his thinking and in many ways the whole world seems to agree with him. Venezuela holds the record for the number of Miss World winners and Colombia also generally fares very highly. As coincidence would have it, within a week of been in Colombia it was the “Miss Colombia” pageant in Cartagena where crowds lined the streets and cheered as the contestants paraded past on garish flotillas; it became very apparent that here was a country that was very proud of the aesthetics of its women and such contests were to be taken very seriously.

By the way Miss Barranquilla became Miss Colombia.

So what of these aesthetics? Well firstly, let me tell you that because of its rich mix of cultures, Latin American women range wildly in terms of skin tone, hair type and features. One can easily see elements of the Spanish conquerors, Indigenous peoples, African Slaves and other European influences in the countries men and women. However, one thing that the beauty Queens tended to have in common was that they were all pretty pale and close to even a Caucasian skin tone. It was also quite common for them to have dyed their hair blond (nobody in South America has naturally light hair) in what was a blatant appropriation of the US and European beauty standard.

What else? Well, plastic surgery is very popular in Latin America with breast and butt enlargements commonplace. Forget any kind of natural or understated look here, rather the consensus seemed to be that if you’re going to do it then you may damn well get your monies worth; in short the enhancements were generally, erm, larger than life and left little to the imagination!

A few months after the Miss Colombia pageant I was in Venezuela and stood in a packed out burger joint as the crowd watched Miss Colombia become Miss World. Despite the (sibling-esque) rivalry between these countries, the crowd seemed satisfied that the world had yet again agreed that Latin women are indeed the most beautiful.

For my part, I also agreed that (without the plastic…) Latin women were the best until I got to Israel this summer; I’m sorry but there is just something truly irresistible about a girl with a sub-machine gun.

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Canons of beauty in South East Asia by Claudia from My Adventures Across The World

One of the things that impressed me the most when I visited Siem Reap, in Cambodia, was that women were completely covered even in the most horrible, humid heat. I understood the need to get fully covered in religious places such as the Temples of Angkor Wat, and did the same. But what was the point of suffering tremendously, wearing a sweater, sweatpants or pants, socks, a hat, a mask over the face and at times even gloves, in over 40 degrees Celsius?

I eventually asked a friendly lady, who explained to me that women in Cambodia cover themselves like that because they want to avoid being exposed to the sun, and thus getting darker. The irony of it all is that women in Western countries are obsessed with showing a healthy glow – so much that they expose themselves to the risk of skin cancer by staying too much in the sun, not using enough sun block, or exaggerating on the spray tan or sun beds.
My two cents? A good balance is the key: getting a regular dose of Vitamin D from the sun is key to healthy living, as well as using sun block to minimize the risk of skin cancer. And ultimately, it is important to accept ourselves just the way we are, as long as we are healthy and strong.

More about it in the post: What’s sexy in Asia? Beauty canon in the East

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Canons of beauty in Namibia by Shara from SKJ Travel

Hallmarks of beauty in traditional Himba culture in northern Namibia and southern Angola include the removal of several bottom front teeth; elaborate but impractical hairstyles that can only survive a night’s rest if the person sleeps on an elevated wooden neck rest; and in women, the spreading of silky red clay all over their bodies and hair.
Not only are these considered attractive among members of their tribe, they are the most easily and quickly recognizable banners of their long-held cultural continuity, which the Himba place great importance upon.
My favorite experience in this region is simply grocery shopping… any aisle is a glorious hodge-podge of cultures and perceptions of beauty — people of all tribes who have shed tradition and dress in plain Western clothes like me; Herero women in bright, colorful dresses and enormous hats in the shape of bull horns; and the traditional Himba, whose women are barefoot and bare-chested, wearing only a stiff cowhide skirt and layers upon layers of jewelry.
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Canons of beauty in Mozambique by Natasha from The World Pursuit Travel Website

Traditional African beauty is defined by a curvacious figure. While in countries like the United States we are worried about our calories and staying thing, it is actually seen as a sign of unhappiness in most of Africa.  We recently traveled to Mozambique where women would eat with absolutely no restrictions. This actually makes them more desirable to men as they are seen as more wealthy and healthy.
So in African culture, the bigger and healthier – the better. Men specifically seek out women that are not skin and bones as they are believed to bring more prosperity! When women (or men for that matter) appear too thin it is thought that they may have AIDS or some other ailing disease. In some of the more developed African nations women can be seeing buying appetite stimulants to increase their breast, butt, and leg size and it’s often a compliment to be called “fat” by men in Africa.
mozambique-women

Canons of beauty in Myanmar

Burma has one of the most unique beauty canon in the world. Have you heard of the Long Neck Tribe? The Kayan Padaung women are wearing the brass coils on their necks. There are many theories why they are doing this. Some people say that it’s because they want to protect their tenderest body parts from the attack of wild animals (like tigers).

The Padaung women believe that they are descendants of Mother Dragon and that’s why they are supposed to have long necks. That is the only thing that makes them beautiful.

They are starting wearing the coils when they are about 5 years old. They are usually taking them off once a year, to clean them and to add another one.

The idea is simple: the longer your neck is, the more beautiful you are. We’ve visited Kayan tribe last year in Thailand (they emigrated to this country from Myanmar). If you want to read more about this amazing experience, check out the post: Long Neck Kayan Padaung tribe.

Canons of Beauty

The other fascinating thing about Burmese women is their make up. They are not using mascaras and eye shadows like we do.

The only maquillage they are wearing is thanaka– a yellowish paste made from ground bark. They usually have it on their cheeks but sometimes also on other parts of their bodies.

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What is your canon of beauty? What’s the most beautiful woman you have ever seen? Share your thoughts in comments!

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