Why Some Asians Don’t Outright Express Romantic Affection

For some Asians, showing physical affection and love doesn’t come easy.

For some stereotypical Asians, expressing intimacy like holding hands, hugging and kissing feels hard and is both unnatural and uneasy.

Different people show love differently. Some people show love through open physical affection. Others don’t openly show love and show love through non-physical affection instead, which is what many Asians prefer.

Love and physical affection may or may not go hand-in-hand in harmony | Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony.

Love and physical affection may or may not go hand-in-hand in harmony | Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony.

All throughout school in Malaysia and Singapore, my Chinese-Malaysian parents wagged the finger at dating and romantic escapades. Physical contact with any classmate whom I fancied was frowned upon.

My parents themselves didn’t show physical affection openly between each other. My parents also didn’t say ‘I love you’ to me or hugged me as a kid.

When it comes to expressing love by the means of touch, at times we hold back because of what we’ve always known.

For some of us of Asian heritage, our conservative upbringing is one reason why we’re wary of physical romantic gestures. Our parents may have never advocated touchy-feely attitudes as something to be proud of. We may have grown up following a faith denouncing men/women/other genders as objects of affection. Our religion might stress pre-marital sex and hence physical affection is taboo.

In Malaysia, collectivistic cultures are championed in the Muslim-majority country with codes of conduct around public displays of affection. For example, Muslim girls have been threatened with arrest after hugging K-pop band members.

Also, historically Confucianism patriarchy was advocated since the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. During the revolutionary Mao era, Chinese men and women were comrades and wore unisex army suits. They were not supposed to be lovers; intimacy was seen as a duty for procreation.

If we're bold and confident, physical affection comes more naturally.

If we’re bold and confident, physical affection comes more naturally.

Accordingly another reason some Asians don’t openly show love is because showing physical affection feels embarrassing and foreign. It’s something we’re shy about, unfamiliar with or we don’t see as a respectful move towards the one we fancy.

Some Asians perceive love as acts of service. To many with the typical Asian mindset, love is more than hands all over each other. Love is practical and something that you willingly give your time for someone.

For instance, for many Asians love is putting food on the table and building a toilet for family. Many Japanese men work round the clock for a living (and romantic pride) to provide for their family and see their loved ones once in a while. One becomes familiarly acquainted with physical distance in the realm of love, and that is love.

In this competitive world where many hardworking Asians have countless goals in life, romance and showing romantic intimacy might get put on hold as we better ourselves. These days many Asian women or ‘shengnu’ (剩女) women are embracing the single life, living independently, embracing their sexuality and doing without physical affection as they live the lives they want to live.

With every touch, we might feel closer to each other.

With every touch, we might feel closer to each other.

That said, matchmaking is still common in Asia and some Asians don’t mind being set up with potential partners this way. If You Are The One is China’s top dating show and it sees male professionals facing off with single women. They women decide if the male bachelors are ‘date-worthy’ based on a series of interviews and talent stages.

Therefore, in Chinese culture courtship and playing hard to get is quite the norm before two parties get physical. At times the courtship phase is also a way to show someone you care about them and love them.

Quite commonly a Chinese person might have a set of standards they look for in a potential partner. If these are stickler of standards, it might be a while before one is comfortable showing physical intimacy. As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said on loving someone:

‘There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.’

Moreover, while the Chinese phrase ‘wǒ ài nǐ’ (我爱你) is translated as ‘I love you’, it is a phrase of formality and commitment. Thus it is not generally heard every day or used after a first date. Also in high context cultures such as Chinese cultures, people don’t say thing specifically but derive meaning and meanings of words from context – actions speak louder than words.

Physical romantic affection. It happens when it happens.

Physical romantic affection. It happens when it happens.

Not every single Asian is hesitant expressing physical love. Some are all for physical intimacy and public displays of affection at any time. Couples of Asian heritage holding hands are a common sight here in Melbourne. How each individual warms to one-on-one touch ultimately depends on what they believe in, the company they keep and their personalities.

Notably, physical affection can either be a manifestation of lust or a manifestation of true love. Showing affection can be a calculated move or an unconscious move. Either way, they tend to be moments we remember.

Physical affection is never the means to an end to any relationship in any culture. At the end of the day many of us long to connect with others not just physically but emotionally, as author Tahereh Mafi wrote:

‘All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.’

We might remember moments of affection because we believe these moments could very well bring us closer to someone for the reasons we hope.

For some of us, maybe we aren’t keen on physical affection because we’re shy, private and perceive love in other ways. Or maybe we’re inclined to wait because every bit of affection, given and received, is something special to us.

Do you show physical affection to the one you love?


256 thoughts on “Why Some Asians Don’t Outright Express Romantic Affection

  1. Great post. I remember when I first met my now best friend, we would spend a lot of time talking but there was never any physical touch. It was only until we began dating that we’d start holding hands. It is definitely a sign of respect when men stay more distant in terms of physical intimacy until they are very close to someone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your last sentence, yes, yes, yes. I respect men – and women – alike who keep their distance until we’ve known each other for a while. If you can’t carry a decent conversation at a distant, then it begs the question – why are you interested in that person? It could just be physical attraction, but at the end of the day I think we all want more than that in a partner.

      Very happy for you and your other half. It sounds like you have a great friendship and foundation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely show physical affection toward my wife. More in private that I do in public but certainly in public too.

    It is my perspective as a North American male without any Asian descent, that it is not easy to find a good woman who is willing to feel genuine respect for a man, to trust any of us and feel emotionally close enough to want to physically touch us. I find that men who show this need, and it is very much a need, are guaranteed to be openly laughed at and mocked as being weak by the women they desire, and their friends. Even when the women are repeatedly insisting that men should be more emotive, their actions speak the opposite.

    The rejection and scorn hurts like hell, so we men keep all of our feelings inside. We don’t let it show that we care, that we desire, that we are emotive. We force women who truly want to get to know us on that level to declare sheer war against the walls we build up.

    Women who succeed in penetrating our defenses, and dare touch us physically touch us, are exalted. It means so much, to sensible men that is, to achieve the affections of a good woman. It really makes us feel like we can make the world reverse on its axes. It’s that powerful.


    • It is refreshing to hear such an honest perspective from someone who is fond of physical affection. Sometimes women don’t mind working for a man’s affection, other times, well, they do. And men, sometimes they wonder if they should show physical affection or not towards the one they fancy. Love, it’s a guessing game.

      You bring up the issue of trust there – without trust, usually there isn’t much room for welcomed physical affection. It is something that is often built over time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Mabel! That’s quite an interesting set of observations. But, I do think times are changing. For instance, in Shanghai, couples walk hand-in-hand in parks and ‘love’ seems like a central theme of any youth cafe. In Seoul, the story wasn’t any different. We found both these cities to be ‘love-struck’ celebrating cute, puppy love. Kissing isn’t quite common, though. In that sense, there is a sort of reservation. I’m sure the older lot are quite conservative. In India, it’s not quite common to see people show there love. But, that doesn’t stop couples from indulging in PDA. 🙂 Ironically, India and China, both, have the largest population in the world.


    • “‘love’ seems like a central theme of any youth cafe” This is such a smart observation, Cheryl. There are also many love-themed places in Asia, like Disneyland and love sculptures here and there. We’re becoming more in tune with our emotions and romantic sides, perhaps.

      Lol, that is so true, India and China have the biggest populations. Maybe some of us are really shy about showing affection in public but not behind closed doors 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As usual, a very interesting post, Mabel. This is a very good way of learning from each other and getting more understanding of other cultures. We should all be very grateful for your blogging!

    I am a warm and affectionate person, with hugs and holding hands…but no kissing in public. All the rest is kept for me and my partner/husband. My parents never hugged or kissed when I was present, and still in me is that I do not like it when there are hands all over the place in public.
    To show affection and love is essential, but there is no need for excesses in public.

    I could confide in my mother when I was young – she loved to listen to my stories after the dance – I went dancing three times a week – and we laughed and enjoyed the innocent stories. Dancing was very popular when I was young, and a natural way to come close to a boy/man. Dancing in those days meant to learn certain moves and steps and to perform them close to each other. You had to “follow” a man’s every move to the music. Very sensual. In fact i was rather good at it and danced with competition dancers as well.

    I want to tell you about something that opened my eyes to the differences of culture. I had many “penfriends” when I was young. I guess they do not exist anymore, penfriends, – or have been transformed into what you and I are doing now over the net. Anyhow. one of my penfriends lived in Sri Lanka, and was a young girl, my age (15 about). We wrote about our “boyfriends”, holding hands and kissing behind the doors in our rooms. It was just that she was of a rich family, and had fallen in love with a lower class boy. In her letters she told me about all their secret meetings and their agony and pain. She wanted to run away with him…I thought it all sounded like an old romantic novel, something unthinkable for me here in my country. How could somebody be forbidden to meet the one they loved? How could something like “class” stop them from loving each other? Many tears fell over those letters…from her, and from me as the reader…

    We lost contact over the years, but I kept thinking about how her life had turned out. In the 1980’s my husband (I got married 1978) went to Sri Lanka on vacation while I had to work. I provided him with the old address to this girl and he promised to try and find her – and send my love to her. And he found her! She was married and had two little children. Of course he could not ask her about the past, but I was so very pleased to hear that she now had a love and a great life.

    In the world today, all people are still not allowed to love the one they want, or to show their affection openly. Things have changed, yes….but not everywhere or concerning everything. An obvious example is our own Prince, Carl Philip, who had much convincing to do to make the King and Queen accept his choice of bride to be. And the same problem was for the Crown Princess, Victoria. But they were strong, showed their affection appropriately to the people and waited long enough to convince their parents.

    Keep your discussions going, Mabel. They are good for us all. And my deepest admiration for your photos – they are real pro!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dancing, love and intimacy. This combination didn’t cross my mind when I was writing this post, but you are so right. When we dance with a partner or a man, we are forced to work together, be close together – and ultimately we have to relish it in some way as it is consensual intimacy that often makes a good dance – not just a performance for others but for us to enjoy it too. Sounds like you were quite the dancer back in the day. Very talented.

      That is such a lovely story of you and your pendfriend friend. She must have worked hard to keep her love a secret; that love must have meant a lot to her. I’m sure you said some encouraging words to her, and it is so nice to hear that she had a happy ending. I don’t know if your husband asked, but maybe she still remembers you until this day 🙂 Very nice of your husband to track her down with just that address.

      Hopefully one day we will all get to be the one we love. Sometimes others around us are concerned with who we love because they want us to be in good hands, good company, and a good future. The company we keep often defines who we are, as the saying goes.

      Thank you so much for your insightful comment and for your kind words, Ann-Christine. You seem to have written your own blog post here on love and affection. I am humbled.


      • Dear friend – I apologize for making it so long…but I so wanted to tell you about this penfriend too. She remembered me and we wrote some words to each other after this. She sent me pictures of her beautiful children as well. I keep them in a box together with all her letters from when we were young. ♥

        Liked by 1 person

        • No need to apologise, Leya. I love it that you shared something – it was a touching read. That is so nice to hear that you and your penfriend are still keeping in touch. Hope the two of you share many more happy letters and words between each other ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, I show physical affection with my boyfriend and vice versa (us being tagged as a sweet couple). We hold hands, sing together, dance together, hugs and kisses, play around, etc,.
    Your post is quite eye opening, because I always thought that people who doesn’t show physical affection to their loved ones are just basically not a sweet person (a character of a person). Now I would consider that maybe because of their heritage, tradition, culture couples are like these and that on their own relationship.

    Love your photos they are all crisp! 🙂


    • You and your boyfriend are so cute. Sounds like the two of you are very much comfortable around each other, and the affection like holding hands come naturally. Even sing together. That is something and I am very happy for you two.

      You are right. Some people don’t like to show physical affection because it is just not in their nature. The world is becoming more progressive and these days we are entitled to our own personal choices.

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Mabel. We are both lucky that our personality complements each other’s.

        Right the world has changed a lot now, but I also love to learn the what was, and how was of other Asian countries. Your blog is an ace for me for being so informative of Asian cultures, history, and tradition. 🙂 My great grandfather is from China I wasn’t able to meet him, his son my grandfather died when I was still in pre-school and the culture/tradition has not been passed down to me that’s why I am curious of the what ifs.


        • Very happy that you and your boyfriend put up with each other’s personalities. Sometimes can be hard to do.

          Chinese culture can be complex, and there is a lot of history behind many of Chinese cultural stereotypes. Like you, I am learning more about Chinese culture as time goes by through reading and researching. Thank you for your kind words. That made me smile 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. It is interesting reading this after being married for 15 years. you forget some of these concerns after so long. Where I’d imagine it gets complicated, is when you have people moving countries and experiencing a culture clash. I recently read an article about overseas students coming to Australia to experience more freedom. I think it was in The Good Weekend.


  7. I loved reading this post and the great comments – another good topic for discussion and discovering other points of view. ( I’m on the shy/reserved part of the spectrum; much has changed in the culture since I was in school. )


  8. Well written article and stunning pictures too. Others have commented well and pretty much covered what I too feel about this topic. Demonstrating your love for your partner is necessary. Public display should not be a big issue as it is made to be in some cultures as in my own but at the same time too much open show often looks concocted. I’ve come across couples who show much more love in public than they have in real. Each case is different. Spontaneous and natural is a way to go plus within limits 🙂


    • “Each case is different.” You summed up the notion of love and relationships there spot on, Alka. Sometimes we might be more comfortable with receiving love through a touch, other times we might appreciate more if someone showed us through their actions. But I agree with you on public displays of affection – if a couple PDAs and blocks the path, I think that is a bit selfish 🙂


  9. I had missed this post somehow! We Spanish people are very touchy. We kiss everybody on the cheeks, even when we just met. PDAs are normal (and shocked poor RealGunners haha). At first it was kind of hard for me to get used to the “no-touch” culture in China, but now it seems fine.


    • Sounds like Spanish people are not afraid to show love when they mean it. Very confident 😀 Hope no one has accused you of being too touchy in China…or maybe you really are that good at keeping your hands to yourself!


      • I’m from Chile and I guess i have much from the Spanish heritage. My grandfather was chinese but I didnt meet him as he died when my father was a teenager. Im currently living in Malaysia and married a chinese man. Im researching about this topic because for me is very natural and essencial to show physical affection with your partner of life and I still cannot understand well if a person doesnt think as me. I guess in different culture marriages we need both to give a bit and change a bit too, but I’m still in the middle of nothing tryibg to reach somewhere. I’m also very romantic and affectionate, but I have to repress myself now and hide all my emotions and feelings. Can you relate a bit about what is that feeling of no showing affection indoors, and also non verbally. What can you say about this?
        By the way your post is so interesting and help me too., but I still need more information about this.thank you!


        • Thank you so much for your nice words, and for reading and commenting, Slau. You bring up a good point there when you say in mixed-cultural marriages, it’s a bit of give and take – sometimes you are affectionate and sometimes you are not depending on how each other is feeling. It’s about compromise.

          Showing affection is what we do when we want to tell someone we love them. So I guess one way to tell someone you love them is through physical affection. The other way to show love is non-physical but through actions such as cooking a meal or cleaning or surprising you with something you want/need such as that necklace you always wanted or a new sponge for the kitchen. Personally I feel this this non-physical, non-verbal form of affection is more thoughtful: there is more foresight and reflection involved, and you give up your time to show non-physical, non-verbal affection – and not driven by entirely by emotion. I hope this makes sense!

          At the end of the day, though, we all have our preferences of how we each want to show affection. In terms of romantic relationships, honest and open communication is key to make sure each person is happy with expression affection.


  10. A very interesting post, as usual, Mabel. Showing affection in public is closely tied to our self image, our outward persona – that one that we allow others to see. I watch couples go through a cycle: they begin dating and PDA’s, ( I had to check that in urban dictionary – LOL) start in a somewhat tentative way – then if the relationship continues, slowly intensify, especially if the couple become engaged or contemplating marriage…. then they seem to touch each other’s hair or hand or body, very frequently. They marry, and as the marriage goes on, and years pass, they gradually distance themselves from PDA’s- passion has changed to an intensive, or less intensive, partnership, I think. It is also a moot point about elderly people showing physical affection – I once saw a Danish film on this issue. How some people think it is disgusting that elderly people can still feel passion/lust!!!

    You mentioned – having confidence means that physical affection will come easier. Do you think some Asian boys are frightened of physical affection because it is so unfamiliar to them? OR is it they don’t know how to live up the expectation of physical affection in a relationship? And I wonder: did you end up going shopping with that boy who asked you?

    Btw, I so enjoy watching YATO… who would have thought I, at my stage of life, would find it so interesting? I love that the girls get to judge. And I do find it so surprising what the boys say in their clips; how demanding their requirements for a girl are! They seem way to picky, sometimes, I think. It is like a job interview!

    The quote by Nietzsche, as we know, makes us think. I think the feeling of madness is true, things feel a little unbalanced when you are head over heels in love. All you can think about is the person you love, but the reason is that this person makes you feel so intensely happy, you want to spend time with them, in fact you feel you want to spend your entire life with them. If we did not experience this feeling, would we be so keen on marriage/having children? Is there a biological reason for us to feel “love?”

    I also find it interesting that parents can place pressure on children to marry, yet dissuade all adolescent attempts at trying out these kinds of “relationships”, as I think this is what most adolescents are trying to do – test the waters. ( of course, the teenage participants have to be very mindful of the consequences of these relationships, too).

    I have gone a bit off topic here, Mabel, but it is a good post worthy of discussion.


    • You raised so many interesting points, Amanda. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said at the beginning, “Showing affection in public is closely tied to our self image, our outward persona – that one that we allow others to see.” Affection is essentially a choice. There is a perception that if you’re affectionate all the time, you’re shallow when it comes to love. Of course we all know that is not true, but at times, it might hold true. Showing affection, it could be a sign that we are comfortable with showing love and being loved back in return.

      Historically, not all Chinese (and I think this goes for other Asian cultures too) are against affection.There are accounts of the Chinese being very passionate about sex in the early dynasties. I wanted to write more about that in this post, but thought that it was long enough already, so I put a link instead somewhere.

      Which leads me to your questions about Asians and relationships. It could be very well a yes to both questions. But I also think quite a number of Asian descent value the notions of purity, family and respect – at least that is the Asian men I’ve come across. I never did end up shopping with the guy who very nicely asked me, but I’m sure it would have been a good time.

      A biological reason for love and affection? Now that is a fascinating thought, and I can’t see why not. Some of us are fond of kids and family – and we can express our desire for that indirectly by showing love and affection to our partner. But on the other hand, some of us aren’t and not all of us see marriage and family as a means to and end. Relationships do come in all forms, shapes and sizes these days. Sames goes to love.

      Thank you for this wonderful comment. It really made me think.


      • Yes indeed, affection is a choice. Sometimes girls actions are misconstrued by guys and this leads to problems. It is hard to know what to do as each situation is different. Experience and parental values helps us better judge how to act and how much
        affection to show. But still, we come back to having the problems inherent in ‘reading’ others. I have a friend whose relationship was looking promising until the man got cold feet and it sounds like he felt unprepared for romance; he was out of practice, not having had a relationship for a number of years. The result was two very disappointed people…….such a shame. And for some marriage is about children. ..yes, and others are more after career or companionship. Whichever one is your particular priority might even dictate the type of person you will be attracted to, at a given time.


        • I think that guys can be misconstrued by girls too (and same goes for all other kinds of couplings out there). But you are right – each situation is different, and love and affection are complex.

          Sorry to hear of what happened to your friend. It takes two to tango in a relationship and both parties have to be committed and be on the same page to an extent.

          I find it odd that so many of us like to think that marriage is about children and family, and that can be a basis of love. But in a world with so many more choices and opportunities, the notion of love and relationships is constantly changing.

          Liked by 1 person

          • How wise you are Mabel! You are absolutely right. Gender equality feminism, modern style families are changing the dynamic of marriage and relationships. I know quite a few coupke that have been together for years but will probably never marry. I think that it is great that they have a choice and are not constrained by expectations! I have been married for 30 years. ..crazy!! There have been many ups and downs but we have become closer and more understanding of each other as time passes. Life changes our personality and you are lucky if you find someone who is on the same page as you and can help you write your own “story.” Oh yes and absolutely, a sense of commitment is vital to get through the downs!!


  11. I don’t know that it necessarily has to have anything to do with affection; unless it’s my wife or kids, I just don’t like touching, period. The way Westerners embrace, huge, slap each other on the back, kiss complete strangers on the cheeks? It’s taken me many years to get used to this.


    • Like you, it has taken me a long time to get used to various kinds of touching, whether it is someone I like or someone I am not too familiar with. A touch if often ambiguous, and it can so easily be taken and interpreted the wrong way.


  12. First of all, your photography on this post is stunning, Mabel.

    As a gay man, it has always been very difficult to show affection for my partner in public. Even in today’s society, many gay people fear showing affection because of the fear of insults from others. I have seen a few same-sex couple holding hands and thought how lovely it looks, but, equally, they have to be brave to do it for there are still some who can be homophobic.

    In today’s’ world (and especially with this week’s events) we should all show love as often as we can. The simple action of holding hands with your partner should never be seen as a bad thing. Love makes the world go around and if we stop showing it then the world may one day stop.


    • It is sad that some people turn the other way when it comes to same-sex couples. Love is love, and hopefully some day we will all see each others as equals. In Australia, you do catch the occasional same-sex couple holding hands, but mostly it is very discrete.

      I think you summed up love in your last line there. When we are kind to each other and show one another compassion, things are always so much simpler.

      Thank you for your kind words, Hugh. I had a lot of fun taking these photos over the last few months 🙂


  13. I found this post really interesting. I kept thinking “not just those of Asian heritage”. We don’t demonstrate much physical affection in my family but I think that’s because we’re all shy and introverted people. Both my husband and I grew up in families that didn’t demonstrate it much and so it’s the way we are also. I think parental example also plays a part.

    By the way, I love those night shots of Melbourne – they’re stunning!


    • So true that our personalities play a large part in determining whether we’re comfortable showing physical affection. Being a shy person myself, I struggle to look at people, let alone think about going near them until after a long, long while. Sounds like your family knows what their comfortable with. That is great.

      Thanks, Heather. These photos were so much fun to take. One of them was taken last year and the others this year 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A very interesting post Mabel. Somehow I had missed this one earlier. Yes in Asian cultures the display of affection in a physical manner is often frowned upon. In India, in the ancient ages the society might have been much more open (as is apparent from the ancient temple and rock carvings), but the restrictions on physical display of affection in the medieval times might have been a repercussion of the invasions followed by the Mughal and British rules. Now things are somewhere in between. I haven’t ever seen any show of PDA among my Chinese or Japanese friends. While I think that complete lack of physicality in display of affection can thaw a relationship to some extent, at the same time I find it vexing when some people (particularly Indians) go overboard in the show of PDA. So I guess again a balance in needed somewhere.


    • Thank you very much, Somali. No worries, no one is ever too late to the party here 😀

      That is a fascinating bit of Indian history, and even more fascinating to hear that love and physical affection has evolved through different moments in India’s time. It is wise that you suggest an “in between” when it comes to showing love in a relationship. If the relationship is physical most of the time, it begs the question – is there an emotional commitment between the two parties, do each value each other’s personalities. On the other hand, if a physical relationship is mostly devoid of physical affection, then one has to take the other’s love in the form of actions – and sometimes, seeing can be deceiving.


  15. What a great bit of history. That’s right. Comrades. But I have an inkling that the men esp just could not – for the life of them – NOT see the beauty of their uniformed counterparts. And that’s a keen observation that love is foremost practical with Asians – at least with the generations above us. But you know, more and more every year, I can hear and see behind the veil of propriety that muted open talk about sex and romance. I think about all the untold stories, the drama and heartbreak, they knew at our age, how they were human just like us.


    • Thanks, D. It is an interesting suggestion you make. I too wonder about all those untold stories of romance back in the day. I think as time goes on, we will hear more of these stories. But I wonder why some choose to see love the practical way – apart from all the practical reasons, what else do men/women get out of that. Then again, love is complex.


  16. I’m not Asian, but you know, my family raised me similarly to what you describe here. No hugs, no kisses. Friends or not, they are not to receive any. Except for birthdays, when there’s no helping and you get hugged and kissed by everyone.

    Now that I’m “all grown-up”, things are a bit different. I can hug whatever friend I want to. (Still preferably girls. Otherwise my family will have a heart attack. ._.)

    Which reminds me, I have a friend, she’s Chinese, and she does hold my hand, and hugs me, and she even kissed me good-bye, once. (Don’t get the wrong idea, we’re both friends, and straight.) I suppose it’s only because I am a girl that this happen. Or not?


    • You raise a great point. When we are adults, we can do whatever we like (unless we still want to listen to our parents). So if you want to hug away when you are all grown-up, by all means go ahead.

      My Asian girl friends are fond of holding my hands and hugging me. It’s something natural, and we are all straight. We don’t think it’s odd. People do give us stares, though. It’s an Asian thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. As always, a beautiful post Mabel. You put it across so well. Yes, people like to express love and affection in different ways. Some like to hold hands and kiss, some don’t. For some, a simple eye contact is enough to express how much the other person means to us. You are right in that our upbringing and the norms of the society we live in has a huge influence on how we choose to express love. Although things are changing, Indian society has been largely uncomfortable with the idea of PDA. This could well be attributed to the patriarchal nature of our society. There is an economic angle to this too. Even today, it is almost impossible for a woman from the lower strata of society to freely express love, affection and intimacy without being morally judged for it.


    • Such an interesting angle oand class does indeed play a part in love and affection, discussion you bring to the table, Uday. Social strata and sometimes we don’t have much of a say in that.

      I really like how you say that eye contact is a way which we can express love. So true. Just one look, one glance at the right time with the right emotion through our bodies, translating through the gaze, can say so much.


  18. Interesting and thought provoking post Miss Mabel, I am not one to show physical affection to the ones I love, although sometimes I wish I was. I dont find it repulsive to see (within reason of course) but do find when it comes to me and expressing how I feel physically, it doesn’t come naturally. I like my space and figure others do too.

    It doesnt even stem from my upbringing, my parents always hugged and kissed us good morning and night, held my hand etc. Maybe I am Asian (lol) we really are sisters!

    Hope you had a relaxing super long weekend lil sis. Thinking of you. Sending you big hugs and love. Talk soon. Mwah. xox


    • Awww, I will be sure to give you your personal space if we do meet, Miss Anna! But not before I give you a big, big hug first!

      In all honesty, I like my personal space too. I am my own independent woman and am proud of that. I can carry myself tall without drawing on others a lot of the time without love or encouragement. But that said, I like the physical and emotional warmth that comes with physical affection.

      Maybe we really are related in some way, big sis. You never know. Stranger things have happened. Sending you lots of well wishes, luck, a big hug and a big, big kiss xoxo


  19. Honestly, I think Mable has perfectly described the motivations behind our Asian ways of expressing love and care. You cannot sure that something does not exist if you simply cannot see or touch. You just need to feel, stay silent and feel… That all we, most of Asian people, ask for from someone who is matter to us 🙂


    • You are very kind, Khan. But I think you said it best: “You just need to feel, stay silent and feel” And I agree with that. Sometimes feelings cannot be put into words or cannot be expressed in terms of touch – they are simply just that, feelings. I hope you and your husband have your own ways of showing you care for each other ❤


  20. Haha this when are you going to get married thing….Uuugghh when I was younger first my parent put all their efforts into scaring away all boyfriends or potential boyfriends. Then suddenly out of the blue they started getting this panic that I wasn’t married… geez! Plus, my parents never tried any matchmaking on me, just of the record… Great post Mabel with all the history. And yes we often confuse love with affection when the practical things to make us all be able to live together also count.


    • Hahaha. Your parents sound like my parents. The irony of it all. But perhaps parents are just concerned of our wellbeing and want a partner to take care of us…you never really know. Love and affection can be confusing, yes. Sometimes getting caught up in the moment and get carried away doesn’t help.


  21. I love the first photograph ~ a perfect place to walk holding hands, the occasional arm around the waist and then the first kiss 😡 One of the first senses I was in a different culture when I first ventured out to China/Asia was the absence of such ‘closeness’ as I saw it ~ and it took me awhile to understand it (never got used to it, but began to understand it). This post is a perfect way to shed light on this twist of thinking in a different culture 🙂 The power of eye contact is so much more in Asia, and you once again show the differences of cultures are the distinct beautiful traits of people around the world. Wonderful post Mabel.


    • “The power of eye contact is so much more in Asia” when it comes to love and romance. So glad you brought this up. That compensates for the lack of closeness that you see in many parts of Asia, though admittedly the younger generation seem to be moving along with the times. Certainly some of us will prefer physical closeness, some of us would much rather prefer an emotional and mental close connection when it comes to love…maybe both. And both can be intertwined.

      The first shot is my favourite in this set. I am glad you like it. It was a very lucky long exposure shot 😀


  22. Hello Mabel. I couldn’t agree more with you! As a fellow Asian (I’m living in the Philippines, BTW), it’s somehow part of our culture that PDA is a rather bold thing to do. It’s not totally a bad thing, though, but sometimes, I can’t help wishing we can express our love with our significant-other in public without getting a few stares here and there. 🙂

    Anyway, I thing this is an excellent post and that you’re a great writer! 🙂 Regards.


  23. I am an Italian American man that is going out with a Chinese lady. To say that I come from a deeply passionate background is an understatement. Growing up I though my grandmothers name was mia amore as that is what granddad always called her. Me and this lady have known each other for several years and have been dating for a few months. I have great affection for her and enjoy expressing it. She seems to have similar affection for me but is very hesitant about showing it. So far this has been very confusing and frustrating to me. Thank you for the incite.


    • Sounds like you grew up in a family that were very open with their love for each other. It’s a good thing, a great feeling to be acknowledged and feel like you matter – and there’s so much to be gained when we love each other and lift each other up. Every relationship is a learning process, and overtime we change as people and our the way we love and how we want to be love changes. Best wishes to you and your Chinese lady.


  24. Pingback: Asian Customs You May Not Know About - Postcard Press

  25. I once photographed an Asian wedding. What would be normal photos and poses in US were incredibly hard to achieve with these Japanese families. They were super nice and tried their best, giggling, while “hugging” each other with a contorted torso and yanked back hips.. it was amusing and educational. The only moment that I felt bad about when a dad hugged his son and it was the FIRST time since he was a baby… I could see how much he longed for it… In my opinion parents should hug their kids at all ages. It’s just not right to grow up without a human touch. In fact the science is clear about how touching produces anti inflammatory, soothing hormones and affects our brains in a profound way.


    • Photographing the Asian wedding must have been an amusing experience indeed for you Diana, and also an experience for those posing for your lens. It goes to show how some of us, no matter our background, are open to physical affection – and want it. Then again, some will always be shy or hesitant about showing physical affection to each other. It’s interesting how if you grow up without human touch, you might be wired to feel that it is strange behaviour – and this kind of emotion can be hard to change when we are older.


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