Can you tell if a person comes from a specific country? Before coming to Japan, I had no idea how to distinguish Japanese, Korean and Chinese from one another. I had quite a few experience (when I was in the university as an international student) of trying to speak Japanese to a fellow student who I thought is Japanese, but after all, turned out to be Korean or Chinese (who is new to Japan and cannot speak Japanese).
To avoid future embarrassment of assuming someone is not, let me discuss their similarities and differences. This is according to my personal observations and the opinions of my friends with who I shared and discussed the subject.
Japanese, Korean and Chinese, generally, have the same skin characteristics. It is popular that their skin is more resistant to aging and that they have fair, light porcelain-like skin. It is due to its extreme sensitivity to environmental factors and chemicals effects of some products, which can disrupt the skin’s pH balance. For this reason, advertising about skin beauty care in Asian countries is very economical as Japanese, Korean and Chinese (especially girls) have to be more careful with products and treatments they use on their skin. It is even impressive to see the number of skin care products builds on the myth that Asian skin would look amazing and healthy for a long time. So, it is hard to tell who is who if you only look at their skin.
2. Body built
There are of course differences in body built among Japanese, Korean and Chinese people. As human as we are, we can be fat, thin, big or small. It all depends on our individual diet and consumption, not to mention our genes. Although we have a general impression as to how, for example, an American body tend to be (tall and big). Asians, specifically Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, are typically slim body built and kind of short in terms of height. But be careful not to label all of them slim and short, because, as I have said, everyone is different. Some can still be tall, big and fat.
1. Facial Features
They may look the same, but if you are a keen observer eyes, there are a few distinguishing characteristics. The Japanese face is generally longer and wider while the Korean face often has a more prominent jaw and high cheekbones. The Chinese face is typically round in shape. When it comes to the “windows of the soul”, the Japanese eyes are often described as angled upwards, contrary to the Chinese eyes which are usually angled downwards. Koreans often have smaller eyes.
2. Dressing style
My Japanese friend told me that it is easy to tell whether a person is Japanese or Korean. Just look at how they dress. Japanese people value harmony and uniformity, hence when they dress up, it is something aimed to blend with the majority. Plain, simple and subtle colors are the key to typical Japanese attire. Nothing that stands out. I observed that wearing suits is very common in Japan. May it be a final (research) presentation in school, a job internship, a job interview, graduation; Japanese usually wear suits, in black and white (inner). Very seldom you can see a coloured inner. Contrary to Japanese, most Koreans wear bright and more colourful attire. I remember my Korean friend said in her culture presentation in school, that, unlike in Japan, they can wear nice colourful dresses when they do their internship and especially during the job interview.
Korean Street fashion
Japanese Street fashion
Also, Korean fashion clothes go with the trend while Japanese fashion clothes put more emphasis on personal touch. Chinese, on the other hand, due to its high cultural diversity is difficult to distinguish.
Even up to now, after living for quite some time in Japan, it is still challenging for me to tell which is what, and who is who. Even people of geographically close countries and that for a long time before in the history was considered similar without distinction, can look different. It is hard to generalize. We can never actually generalize. As the saying goes “Everyone is unique”!