Africa

7 unique standards of beauty around the world

By  | 
Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe known for wearing neck rings, brass coils to extend the neck

Anna Jedynak / Shutterstock.com

If you frequently watch Hollywood movies and commercials it’s easy to forget that standards of beauty differ by culture and evolve over time. Today, the Western world is dominated by impossible standards of beauty with pre-pubescent girls serving as the face of high-fashion campaigns targeting adult women. Take a look at beauty around the world and you’ll find that characteristics defining beauty are often in direct opposition to Hollywood’s ideal woman.

Indonesia: Large Feet

While wearing upwards of a size seven may mean you have a harder time finding cute shoes, you’ll have no problem finding a date on the island of Sumatra. When asked why he was attracted to a woman with larger feet, one man remarked that a woman with small feet wouldn’t be able to contribute her fair share in the rice field.

Thailand: Long Necks

From the tender young age of five, girls wear brass necklaces to elongate their neck. The brass necklaces are a sign of elegance and social status. Adult women wear more than a dozen pounds of brass ring jewelry and fear removing them would deplete their level of attractiveness or standing in society.

Iran: Surgical Bandages

Among the wealthiest in Iran, the ability to have plastic surgery is seen as a status symbol. The most common surgery? Rhinoplasty (A.K.A. a nose job). Local women and men wear their surgical bandages with pride long after doctor’s orders have expired. Can’t afford the surgery? No problem! Many choose to wear the bandages though they’ve never had surgery.

Ethiopia: Scarring & Stretched Lips

One tribe in Ethiopia goes to extreme lengths and pain to meet the local standard of beauty. The act of self-scarring involves burning the chest and torso in unique patterns. The marks, some of which closely resemble stretch marks, are viewed as a sensual and courageous addition to the female body.

In other parts of Ethiopia, women stretch their lips with large discs the size of small dinner plates. This beauty ritual is considered to make women appear more mature and sexually appealing. The hole in the bottom lip is made and gradually stretched over time with clay plates that the women make for themselves.

Mauritania: Weight & Stretch Marks

Adolescent girls are sent to “fat camps,” not to lose weight, but to gain it. These girls are forced to eat more than 10,000 calories a day in preparation for marriage in a society that values big women. Large women are seen as a status symbol for their husbands. The idea stems from the ancient belief that appearing well-fed is a sign of wealth. Since rapid weight gain is often associated with stretch marks, the marks are equally desirable for young women.

New Zealand: Face Tattoos

While a face tattoo might hinder your job opportunities in some countries, it’ll help you find a potential suitor among the Maori people of New Zealand. Face tattoos, specifically on the chin and lips are considered particularly attractive for women. The more tattoos the better! It is interesting to note, that the Maori are related to Polynesians, from whose language the word tattoo (Polynesian ta-tu) is derived.

Kenya: Stretched Earlobes

Long before the “bro” craze popularized stretched earlobes in the early 00s, the women of the Masai tribe of Kenya stretched their earlobes with large pebbles and elephant tusks. Both designs are worn in the U.S. by both men and women, leaving one to wonder if this isn’t a standard of beauty in good ole’ ‘Merica as well?

Regardless of what you may consider less than desirable features—a scar, stretch marks, a few extra pounds—it’s likely considered a source of sensuality and beauty around the world somewhere.