Why Some Asians Are Short. Why I Don’t Mind Being Short

We’re all of different heights. Some of us are short. Some of us are tall. In general, many Asians are shorter than people from other cultures.

I’ve been short all my life. At school and university in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, I was the shortest kid in my classes. Today, as a grown Asian adult at 148cm tall (4’10 ft), I see many people taller than me wherever I go.

Look up, be confident and dream. We are always taller than we think we are | Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy.

Look up, be confident and dream. We are always taller than we think we are | Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy.

Reasons Asians Are Short

There isn’t yet a conclusive study done that scientifically explains why many Asians are short compared to other races. So we can only guess why. Maybe some of us Asians are short because it runs in the family, because of genetics. Most of my Chinese-Malaysian relatives are not much taller than 175cm (5’8 ft) and only a handful of them tower vertically above this height.

Maybe some of us Asians are short because of what we tend to eat, or what we don’t always eat. A good number of us are lactose intolerant and find it hard to stomach dairy products – milk and cheese packed in calcium and vitamin D for bone growth. A number of us can’t stand eating dairy. My mum won’t touch cheese with a ten-foot pole and only drinks milk with coffee. Growing up, I detested milk and drank as little of it as possible.

Or perhaps our hectic lifestyles have something to do with our height. Many Asians are fond of sitting indoors and revising non-stop up until exams are over in school; maybe stress and lack of exercise stunted our vertical growth. I was one of these hardworking Asian kids in school. Or maybe we’re short because of a combination of these factors.

It’s common for Asian parents to gush over kids who are tall and have sizeable physiques. Maybe it’s a “face thing”, that raising children tall and physically strong is a sign of good parenting. For five years, my parents brought tins of Appeton Weight Gain home and mixed this powder into my milk every morning. At night, they mixed it with water in a cup and asked me to drink it. No matter how much of this “growing powder” short and skinny me consumed, I never had a noticeable growth spurt in my teens, vertically or horizontally.

Upsides and Downsides of Being Short

Being short can be a nuisance. Time and time again there’ll be someone at least half a head taller in front of me, blocking my view – the screen at the cinema, the path in front of me in the city. Some tall people can’t hear us very well. There have been times when I said something to someone much taller than me and they bent their heads down, asking me to repeat myself. And as I look young for my age, sometimes short me gets mistaken for a twelve year old and doesn’t get taken too seriously.

Being it isn’t all that bad. When we’re vertically challenged, chances are we’re small in stature. Short me has managed to squeeze to the front of standing-room-only concerts. Short me usually comes across as approachable, non-aggressive: random people have come up to me on the streets asking for directions.

Are We Really Short?

If we hang out with people who are around the same height as us, then we might not feel short or tall. It’s only when we compare ourselves to others that we feel short or tall.

For us short folk, whether or not we feel inferior looking up at someone taller than us depends on our confidence. There is more to us than how tall we are, and how we look. Our body language says a thousand more words about ourselves than our height. In fact, the way we carry ourselves can make us stand tall.

When we meet a new person, rarely do we think much about their height. If we do, we don’t dwell on it too long: when we meet a new person, we search for a face and eyes immediately. A few months ago, I was waiting to buy a CD from one of the busking bands in the city. The band had just finished playing a set and there was a gaggle of chatty teenage girls sandwiched between me and them, all the girls taller than me. Stuck at the back with no space to squeeze forwards. Gah.

I craned my neck forwards, bopping my head about. In between a couple of tall heads, I spied the tallest band member looking at me. I widened my eyes. He smiled. Without a word, he slowly bent down, slowly picked up a CD from the ground. Slowly walked around the group of girls, stood beside me. Handing me the CD, Mr Smiley Face smiled even wider. I must have looked like a short, eager fangirl. Mission accomplished.

There is no shame in being a “short” person. We are only as short as we choose to feel.

Do you consider yourself a short – or tall – person? Do you like your height?

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206 thoughts on “Why Some Asians Are Short. Why I Don’t Mind Being Short

  1. As you know, I’m only a little taller than you, but I’m always among the short people at uni, and in public.

    I like where you mentioned eating that weight/height gain powder. I have always been short and skinny as well and my parents always gave me stuff like that, and chewable children’s vitamins. It was only until much later in life that I discovered I have coeliac disease and that my growth was stunted as a result and no magical growth powder would have fixed that, a reason why perhaps your mother’s lacrosse intolerance may have made you both short as you mentioned.

    Finally, I think being short is an advantage most of the time. The world isn’t built for towering tall people, you’d bump your head walking into doors if you were a giant. But also, oftentimes if you’re short (and someone is kind enough) they’ll let you stand in the front so you can see.

    Even though we darted to the front to see Lindsey up close, Id like to hope someone would let us through if we were too small to see 🙂

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    • I’m surprised you didn’t say you feel tall beside me 😉 Sometimes being short doesn’t mean you’re small in size physically…but usually short and small go hand in hand. Throw in skinny and that person will look tiny compared to average height people around them.

      Oh dear, you have coelic disease, but luckily that can be controlled. Apart from weight gain powder, my parents also considered giving me hormone injections to make me grow taller, bigger and fatter. Luckily they didn’t.

      People who are short and small tend to do better at sprints (heard that somewhere). It was good racing you to the front of the stage to see Lindsey 🙂 I do think people in this world mean well, so if we do get stuck behind at a concert again, hopefully they’ll be nice and make way for us.

      Like

    • You are not short, being 4’10 is short (psychically, not trying to be rude or anything). You know men work out just to be 6 feet or over, 5’9″ is like the bam. Being short and really skinned, (like my aunt), she’s really sexy and pretty too. I’m not shorter than 4’20, l’m like 5’1 and l basically stopped growing… *sniff sniff* I hate genetics, why made ur parents decide ur life already when u haven’t even been born yet. Eating rice can also be a factor in this, full blown meat eaters tend be larger (horizontally and vertically).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My second oldest daughter is 18. She was adopted from China. And she is the same height as you. We don’t expect that she will get any taller. She understands everything you have written about here! She has done a good job of adjusting to the things you mentioned here, just as you have! Great write up!

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    • Thanks, Dennis. No shame in being short at all, and so glad that your daughter understands that. We are as tall as who we think we are. The less we think about our height, the more we can focus on developing our abilities and be the person whom we want to be.

      Like

  3. I really liked reading this. I can relate to this a lot. I didn’t feel short growing up until I was about 12 years old.. because everyone else was starting to get noticeably taller than me. I’m about 5’4, 105 lbs, 24yr old white female. 5’4 doesn’t seem very short to me, but most people I meet are taller than me lol and I’m skinny so I’m just a lot smaller than most. When I was younger my dad also tried giving me weight gain drinks and things like that to make me bigger, bleh! It never worked though. I was usually happy to be short and small though because it has it’s advantages!

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  4. I love reading your posts. Your entire blog but this post in particular has given me an idea as to how to go about talking about stereotypes and -isms in my neck of the woods in a potential photo essay.

    Like

    • Thanks, Alan. Very kind of you to say that. I find there’s always two sides of the coin when talking about stereotypes and anything race-related. The next two posts on my blog are along these lines as well.

      I’m looking forward to your photo essay, your photography, as always.

      Like

  5. I’m also short and never had big issues with it. at the plane when I can curle up in my seat without any knots in my legs, tall people around me always envy me. I love your sentence ” the way we carry ourselves can make us stand tall”

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  6. I am 5’2″ african american. I consider myself short. I love it. I have enjoyed being short all my 41 years. Though I was adverage in the early education years. I love how my skirts can easily be ankle length. I loved when I was dating I always felt petite even with guys considered short. Even the down sides of being short wouldn’t deter me. I have my cute responses to the short jokes said to me. “Just like dynamite, great things come in small packages “.

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    • Glad to hear you’ve always loved your height! I love that response at the end, it really is very cute. Roll with the punches, and make the most of our height. Truth be told, there is so much more to us than our height and I’m glad you know that 🙂

      Like

  7. Asians are short? thats NOT true. Average south korean male height is 174 cm, female height is 161 cm. There are so many countrys shorter than korea.(such as south america) It’s almost similar with US(177 cm), and Canada(157 cm)

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    • I think it depends on where you go. In different parts of Asia, and in different parts of the world, people will be of different height – some perhaps taller than others, some shorter. It depends on which suburb and district as well.

      Like

  8. I struggle with my height too. I’m a short person also haha.
    I wish I could grow 2-4 inches.
    However I will say that the most confident person I know is a short Indian man who is 5’2. He is extremely confident and charismatic and has a bigger than life personality.

    So you are right it’s all about how you carry yourself! I think people then forget how short you are or how your height doesn’t really register their minds afterwards.

    Like

    • That Indian man sounds like has a confident personality and someone is comfortable in his own skin. He must come across as a charming person, giving all of his attention not to his height but personality and treating others around him.

      I am sure you are lovely the way you are, Suaylia 🙂

      Like

  9. for all the short asian people out there, theres hope for you… more specifically for your children.
    we all know that height depends on nutrition, exercise, health care, technology. and sure enough people throughout history has been growing and shrinking according to well being.

    this is roughly the history of height for european men.
    roman era – average roman man is at 5’4 (162cm)
    medieval era – 170-175cm average for men
    renaissance – 170cm
    industrial era – 163-168cm < the greatest loss in height which is never recovered until the 20th century.
    20th century – 180cm

    during 1750s and 1850s european has their height increase by 11cm on average in just 100 years!

    do you know what this means for you?
    if your children can eat well, sleep well, and never go 3 days without exercise. theres a chance that you can find your grand kids averaging at 180cm (I'm 174cm so I'm speaking from my situation)

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    • Interesting statistics there. Who knows, maybe the population of this world will get taller over the years if we watch what we eat, exercise and basically lead a healthy lifestyle. I’m happy being short, and we should all embrace who we are and what we have.

      Like

  10. I’m 17, 5’4 male, I consider myself short because my friends are about 5’7 to 5’10 tall, 1 of them is 5’2, but I guess i’m still insecure because some of the members of my family are like 5’10. Would like to grow 3-5 more inches.

    Like

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