How to Spot a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean person

Let’s say you run across an East Asian guy and you want to guess which ethnicity he is.  Instead of blurting out, “Are you Chinese? Japanese? Korean?” Simply ask him.  (I thought this page offered some stereotypical differences of Asian men.) If you somehow forgot your sensitivity cap or your too far away, then keep these tips in mind (here is a test for those who like tests):

(South) Korea is a relatively small country with a population of 50 million people.  It’s on a peninsula surrounded by unfriendly neighbors.  Due to history, the Koreans hate the Japanese.

Physically, Koreans are generally taller than the Japanese.  They also seem to lack the all-important double eyelid.  For some reason, the double eyelid is an attractive quality and a popular surgical procedure.  (Personally, I always found Korean females lack of a double-eyelid attractive.)  A family friend always told me that Koreans have “flat faces” like dishes.

Until I reached university, I didn’t even realize Koreans existed.  I figured anyone with a last name of “Lee” or “Chung” was Chinese and those that I did see, I’m sure I confused them with the Japanese.  Given the relatively small population, I believe Koreans look relatively similar.

Double Eyelid

Culturally, the population seems pretty open to Christianity.  A Korean professor from undergrad told me that in Korea the Christian population is 20-25 percent but for some reason outside of Korea it’s 90 percent.  Koreans always seem to be the more insular of the three groups.  They seem to travel in packs, go to their own (dance) clubs, restaurants, and churches.

Japan: In comparison, Japan is a slightly larger country with 130 million people.  What’s important to remember is that Japan is an island nation. Until the modern era, the Sea of Japan has protected the country from foreign invaders and kept the Japanese “pure.”  For instance, the Mongols who conquered much of Asia and Europe twice failed to cross the Sea of Japan.  The Japanese place a big premium on racial purity.

Physically, the Japanese are shorter than the Chinese and the Koreans by 1-2 inches.  All people from that part of the world like fair skin so it’s pointless to say which is “the fairest of them all.”  Up until recently, Tokyo was at the forefront of fashion and style in East Asia.  Thus, you could count on the Japanese to be incredibly hip and colorful in their style.

The Japanese are infamous for their bad teeth.  This article offers an explanation of why anyone would want to pay to look like a “snaggle-tooth.”

Bad Teeth

Tempermentally, Japanese people are excessively polite.  Apparently sneezing and blowing your nose in public is rude. Even in the modern times, they still do a fair amount of bowing.  Bowing!  Closely related, the Japanese have a habit of “head bobbing” when they seem to be trying to get out of the room.  For instance, the lady will bob her head, take a step back, then say, “Hai!”, followed by another head bob. Repeat until you’ve slithered out of the room.

Culturally, the Japanese are a rather sexist society.  Women have a tough time cracking the glass ceiling.  Sometimes I hear that there aren’t enough workers in Japan.  Maybe the guys who run the country should encourage the women to get out of the kitchen and get a job.

China is the largest country in East Asia with a population of 1.35 billion people.  It covers a vast expanse of land and includes a number of ethnicities.  Keep in mind that’s 10 times larger than Japan and 26 times the size of South Korea.

China and EU

China (9.6 million sq km) is roughly twice the size of the European Union (4.4 million sq km).  While it seems obvious to say that Germans and Greeks look pretty different, somehow people want to give a blanket statement of how Chinese people should look.

Giorgos Karagounis, Greek national team captain

Giorgos Karagounis, Greek national team captain

Michael Schumacher, German F1 driver

Michael Schumacher, German F1 driver

China has people who come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There are people from the north who are generally taller than those from the south.  Those from Western China seem to look somewhat Caucasian or mixed.   Even those from the big cities can be kind of strange looking because there is a lot of mixing between people of different regions.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers


Since China is so big, I believe you should expect to see Chinese people at all income levels.  For instance, China is known to require the use of Chinese laborers when it offers contracts to African countries.  Thus, it’s common to see Chinese construction workers building roads or at construction sites.

Culturally, I find the mainland Chinese to be the most … socially awkward.  China is the most recent of the three countries to develop so the people lack certain habits that seem socially normal in the West.  I think a lot of this has to do with living in crowded cities.  The largest Chinese cities (including surrounding areas) are both dense and populous.  Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai are 44 million, 28 million, and 20 million, respectively.  A “medium sized” city is in the 5-10 million range.  A large population allows anonymity and encourages people to be the worst selves.  For instance, expats have reported seeing Chinese people walk about Shanghai doing their errands in their pyjamas.

Out and about in your pyjamas

Out and about in your pyjamas

Chinese people don’t seem to understand the concept of forming a line or queue.  If a window opens, you can be sure the Chinese will huddle in a crowd and push and shove to get to the front.  Even walking down the street, you can expect someone to push you out of their way without saying, “Excuse me” or “Pardon me.”  When I pass through Chinese airports, I always look for the people intent on cutting the line (jumping the queue).


Another thing the Chinese seem to do a lot is spitting.  I’ve heard you shouldn’t stand too close to buses or trains because you might get hit.  Heck, even walking down the street, you may have the misfortune to walk into someone’s saliva trajectory.  Admittedly, I once was guilty of such habits.

Anyways, I’m afraid of summarizing because I will be putting all my stereotypes in one place.  Given the size of China and the diversity of people, you should probably start your guessing with “Chinese”.


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  2. 95percent Japanese celebs have undergone in Plastic surgery. both man and woman.
    eyelids surgery is super big in Japan.
    nowdays some Japanese force their kids to get eyelids surgery.
    more than 50 percents Japanese woman, more than 30 percents Japanese guys have undergone in eyelids surgery.
    and there are many ppl who have double eyelids naturally in Korea.

  3. Sandy

    My British friend says Koreans have “potato faces” – which is similar to the flat plate reference… No wonder plastic surgery is so popular in S. Korea.

  4. David

    I agree with almost everything except two things. Koreans I’d say are the most accepting of other cultures at the moment and the Japanese are the least. Japan has right wing groups sprouting with nationalism, insisting their race is pure and their culture is special while others are irrelevant. Also, while Koreans have the highest plastic surgery rate in the world, it’s mostly Chinese tourists. Japan comes a close second after Korea in plastic surgery.

  5. Henry

    @Diane Kim
    You are bloody hilarious, you literally invent delusional conspiracy theories claiming that Japanese parents force their children to get surgery………..umm honey we have very old pictures of the Japanese from nearly 100 years ago and they still had double eyelid back then.
    Even poor people in Japan commonly have double eyelid, even extremely ugly people there have double eyelid. Sorry but they just have a much higher rate of double eyelid honey, it’s because they aren’t actually the same genetically as Chinese or Koreans.
    The Japanese people are a mix between mainland east Asians and with the original Jomon native people of Japan, who had double eyelids and were kind of like Islander people. This is why so many Japanese men also are more hairy than Korean men as well, or let me guess “fake beard surgery” lol. Grow up honey.

    You are a “Kim”, you are Korean and you are insecure. Why are you so insecure about the Japanese honey? No one said that Koreans can’t look good. But there is too much surgery in south Korea, the women don’t look anything like North Korean women and they don’t look like Japanese women either. South Korean women need to stop the surgery.

    Some Korean women are pretty, some can have partial fold. It’s true, but it is only a minority like maybe 10%. There is minor Jomon DNA actually in South Korea, I don’t know if it came over via Japanese invasions, but that likes is the case.

    Now when we look at Japanese pornography we see Asian women with reasonable large breasts, and most are in fact natural. But this hardly means that Japanese women commonly have large breasts, this is where some people go wrong. The large breasted women in Japanese porn for example may only represent a mere 5% of Japanese women.

    I am 100% sure if Korea and China had their own porn industries that we would see heaps of large breasted women also, but of course they would as well represent a small minority of the real Chinese and Korean populations.

    Japanese women on average though may have slightly larger breasts and Japanese men have slightly larger penises. This is just a fact, I am sorry if it makes you angry.

    Personally I think there are pretty women from every country, but there does appear to be a different amount of them. I have been to many countries and I am Australian. I would say out of Asian countries that certainly the Japanese women are the most pretty. Followed probably by women from Taiwan and then China and then Korea.

    But that is subjective though, there are some guys I know who believe that Filipino or Thai women are the best, but personally I don’t find most of them pretty because they seem to have big teeth that poke out of their mouth and they have less pretty eyes also.

  6. Henry

    Come on David, don’t be stupid. Now you are claiming that Korean plastic surgery numbers represents foreigners all going to Korea for surgery? This is a delusional South Korean conspiracy theory by insecure Koreans.
    Any Asian person can see how fake literally 9 out of 10 Kpop women are, they don’t even look Asian anymore and just look like plastic women.

    I honestly don’t know what caused this, but I suspect it was the US which caused this. You see South Korea was occupied by the Americans and this is also why the South Koreans adopted Christianity since WW2 and also circumcise now, 87% of Korean men are now circumcised.
    America pushed a lot of it’s culture onto the South Koreans, and I believe they even pushed beauty standards on the Koreans. American companies would be in Korea and many places had pictures of western women, it started to make the Koreans think that they are who pretty people are since they were on most of the posters.

    Then Korean women started to want to copy some of the features they would see. So they would look at the models and try to copy the nose and try to get a double eyelid and also put contact lenses in their eyes and also change their hair colour to blonde or reds etc. This is all very common for Korean celebrities. Koreans from WW2 grew up looking at American white celebrities and eventually the Koreans were able to put their own Korean women with surgery to fill those positions instead.

    It’s a culture of self hate in South Korea, but it will improve in the future I believe. I think that the Korean government was controlled by the US all up until the Park impeachment. I believe that if South Korea rejoined with North Korea then they can form their true identity again.

    There are many naturally pretty Korean women, but Kpop women are fake and weird. They have Michael Jackson noses and extreme double eyelids that only really a person who is half Caucasian could have. Some even get jaw surgery and have strange unnatural shaped jaws. When you walk into regular areas of Korea or look at some 15 year old school girls you will notice that none of them ever look anything like the Kpop women. That’s because the Kpop women are sadly a result of surgery.

    Though most Japanese female celebrities are just pretty and they don’t look like Kpop women, they just look like pretty Japanese women and you can walk around in Japan and find many women who look like the pretty women in the media, even you can see in 15 year old school girls a lot that have the same features as the pretty women. Japan is just like that, sorry if it offends you. Most Japanese just simply don’t look like Koreans, they are genetically different people.
    Japanese people are at least 20% Jomon, a people who looked barely anything like east Asians, yet these Jomon were very close to east Asian people in DNA though, they were like an old primitive form that was stranded on the Island of Japan and hadn’t evolved the typical Asian features that we see on the mainland.

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