Tattoo culture and how Asian international students view it

CONSIDERED taboo by many students from various Asian countries, getting a tattoo doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Trinity College Foundation Studies students Vivian Cao, Rebecca Christina and Sawyer Xiao compare the different ideals that Asian and Western cultures have when it comes to tattooing. 

Photo: Sawyer Xiao

Chinese student, Song Tian, already has one tattoo (pictured) and would like another. Photo: Sawyer Xiao

When coming to Australia, international students are often curious about the number of tattooed people they see on the street.

But what do Trinity College’s students make of this tattoo culture?

Many of Trinity’s students come from Asian countries and, after speaking with several of these students, found that the majority of South-East Asian students do not agree with the practice of tattooing. The most common reason they gave was simply that tattoos are not welcomed in their culture.

Traditionally, people in their countries consider those who have tattoos to be “bad people”. This view was supplemented by the fact that all students’ parents didn’t want their children getting tattoos.  Despite these traditional notions however, there are still some students who would love to get a tattoo.

Photo: Vivian

An anonymous student with one of her small star tattoos. Photo: Vivian Cao

Chinese student Song Tian, for example, took a risk by getting his neck tattooed with both his name and his father’s. He has since found that some people are less likely to approach him because of his tattoo. Yet knowing this, he is already thinking of getting another one despite his worries about how that might affect his future employment prospects.

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, decided to get two little tattoos of a star and a cross. She chose to get her first tattoos in Melbourne because she believes tattoos are much more accepted in western culture.

In western ideals, a tattoo is generally considered a type of body art and can reflect aspects a person’s life.

Photo: Vivian

One of Trinity College’s teachers, Cara, isn’t concerned about how she is perceived by her colleagues at work. Photo: Vivian Cao

One of the teachers at Trinity College, Cara, has four tattoos. On her arm she has two girls with drama masks, which reflect creativity. She also has another tattoo on her back, inked when she was 18, which only further shows the popularity of tattoos among western teenagers.

For Cara, her tattoos are not a concern because she is well accepted by her colleagues at Trinity College. Clearly, cultural differences between Asian and Western societies strongly influence the acceptance and prevalence of tattoos.

So how long will be until tattoo acceptance breaks into Asian societies?

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch us via

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