Asian Habits

Asian Habits

Habits and philosophies from all around Asia

Habits in Japan


Japanese people recreate nature in miniature, this specific horticulture is called bonsai. 


What is worth living? What is it worth coming out of bed for? What drives you? What inspires you?


Kintsugi (golden joinery) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. You can buy Kintsugi kits in the Netherlands, it is in my opinion a very nice way to glue broken things, with golden glue. 


Kirei is an activity. You look at all your possessions and decide what you want to keep and what can go away. It is an emotional literal clean-up and clean-up action. By cleaning up, you reflect on your past and future.


Kurashi translates to “way of life” or “the ideal way of spending our time,” but like many words lost in translation, it means more than that. If you haven’t tidied using the KonMari Method, focusing on your kurashi will motivate you to start.


(もったいない or 勿体無い) It is a term of Japanese origin that has been used by environmentalists. The term in Japanese conveys a sense of regret over waste; the exclamation "Mottainai!" can translate as "What a waste!" Mottainai is the feeling of sadness you have when something hasn't reached its full potential. Recycle and repair. It's all about the love you have for your old stuff.


In april are the cherry blossom viewing parties.


These are slips of paper that tell your fortune, divided into kichi (good luck) and kyo (bad luck). Depending on the shrine there are various grades of good and bad luck in between. One theory says if you read it without showing anyone else and then tie it to the branch of a tree in the shrine grounds before going home, even bad luck is converted into good luck.


Omoi is thinking, memories and emotion. Yaru is doing. It is empathy, freely translated, it is on the other hand more ordinary and special. It's just because it's part of everyday life in Japan, not just an empathetic reaction. It is special because it makes compassion a part of the community. How do you master omoi? Start with yourself, focus inwards. If you recognize and understand your own feelings, you can translate that into compassion for others. The essence of omoiyari is that you are aware, of other people in life. You behave in a way that is pleasant for others.


Shinto is the early religion of Japan. It is a combination of two chinese characters, which means: "The way of the gods." In Shintoism the Kami are being worshipped. Kami are gods of nature. Some kami are bound to be found in certain places, others are united with bigger objects and phenomena. Amaterasu is for example the god of the sun. Marie Kondo the "spark-joy guru of tidying" and her method, the KonMari method, is based on Shintoism. Keeping the house tidy is part of the practice.


I have sent my japanese friend once a photo of me snow bathing (in a bathing suit swimming in the snow) and asked her the japanese term for snow bathing. There is no japanese term for it. And I thought there was! The Japanese have a term for forest bathing: Shinrin-yoku. To be in the forest with the trees, will make sure you will be re-energized and that you can feel your own core.

Sumo, Judo and Karate

Tea ceremony

The aim of the tea ceremony (in a small space) is to reduce daily life to the barest essentials and idealize form. Behind this idea is to intensify the brief time spent together as a moment to be cherished. Tea utensils, the preparation of tea and the tea ceremony etiquette is all very important. When you will experience a true tea ceremony it is advised to prepare yourself to understand more beforehand of this Japanese ceremony.


It is about patience and respect of the daily things. Try to find harmony in the day to day activities, to be correct and punctual towards others and to be persistent of the things which are important to you, even when it is not easy. 


As explained by the latest Marie Kondo on Netflix (2023), do what you like and what you think is important in your life…


According to Shinto animism, some inanimate objects could gain a soul after 100 years of service, a concept know as tsukumogami.

Omiyage and Temiyage

Omiyage and Temiyage are Japanese names for two kinds of gifts. Omiyage are souvenirs you bring home from a trip. Temiyage are thank-you gifts you bring when you visit someone. Japanese people have the habit of buying plenty of gifts for their friends. As a foreigner it is appreciated when you bring Omiyage and Temiyage.

Wabisabi 侘 寂

A lot of things around me are Wabisabi, especially when you try to use things as long as possible. And when you are open to see things in the light they are, and not everything has to be perfect around you. Life in it's imperfection.


Zakka is to be grateful for the normal, simple things that make life special. For example your favorite sweater of coffee cup.

Habits in the Philippines


When a house is broken, the whole community helps fixing the house. You might have seen the pictures of a group of people carrying a hut, when it needs to be transferred. It is a true community spirit. You talk, you help and protect the people around you. It is team effort, only possible when done with a group. It is truly a beautiful thing. 

Finding your spot

Recently I was back in the Philippines, taking public transportation. When you would like to take your window seat, be reminded you have to climb over other peoples lap. Squeeze in between the seat in front of you and the seat with the passenger on it. Enough space, a little intimate but do-able, it has something about it.


Children take your hand, put it on their forehead, as a way of greeting you. It is an act of respect. The child says mamo po, can I have your hand please? Most of the time, they say God bless (you), when put on their forehead.


In the Philippines it is common when you have been on a trip, that you bring a token of love back to the people who stayed home. It is a filipino tradition of travellers bringing gifts from their destination to people back home. It can be anything, something to eat or to drink is always a welcoming gift, since filipinos love eating! It is actually not about what you bring, it is something that you have brought, so the other person knows you thought about them while away. The first time, I heard bring pasalubong, from multiple people, and didnt know how to act. When you see souvenir stores in the Philippines, it has the sign pasalubong. So now you are prepared.... just bring something back... 


Is fixing things, even though you dont know how to fix it. The filipinos use remedio. Remedio used to drive me crazy. It is fixing things with what you have, in a creative way, and if it works again... that will be clear in the near future. You have to be flexible to embrace remedio.


Squeeze your but, in the jeepney, also when you think it is already full. There will be place, when you squeeze. When you are for example sitting at the window in an airplane and you have two filipinos beside you, you squeeze your body in and out going to the aile. It is not a habit to stand up, when you can squeeze, when used to it, it works perfectly fine.


Pump up the jam, pump up the volume. Filipinos love loud music, loud talking, as long as it is lively. The high amounts of volume makes you feel festive and alive, even when there is not a party.

Habits in South Korea

In South Korea, and other places I have seen it in Asia, they brush their teeth, three times a day after a meal. People bring portable toothbrushes and you often see people brushing their teeth in the washroom in their office.

Family is everything and the eldest son carries the responsibility of the family.

Kimchi is a national dish. People make kimchi at home. In the supermarkets a lot of dark bordeau red buckets can be found, so you don't see the stains of the herbs going to be fermented with the vegetables.

I personally love banchan. When you order Korean food it is likely you get a lot of different small bowls, (most of the time vegetarian) side dishes. For me as a dutch person, I can do without the maindish, since banchan is so delicious.

Habits in Thailand

Thai people will talk about architecture, dance, festivals and food when you ask about their culture. 

Sanuk is a term to express that everything should have something sanuk. Something which is worth doing. The sense or approach with a little playfulness. Even work can be sanuk, singing while working, cracking jokes in combination with the thai smile. 

Saving face is important as is in many Asian countries. The habit is to avoid confrontation, and not to embarrass yourself or others.

Social rank plays an important part in society. It goes with obligations, obedience, caring for, respect, sharing of wealth. The "big person or senior" pays the bill when dining or entertaining. The person with the most social rank pays for everyone.

    Habits from all over the world

    Why this journal about habits in Asia

    I love Asia. I feel at home in Asia. I am half chinese and half dutch. I feel more at ease in filipino culture than chinese culture. I have a good friend from Japan. Throughout the years, I have tried to be open for Asia. To embrace Asia in my being, in my core and to understand and learn more of this continent in the world. Some of the things that really caught me...  Any Asian habits that particulary interest you? This magazine is work in progress....


    Asia is the biggest continent in the world. It is huge, this is the list of all Asian countries. Armenia and Cyprus are geographically in Asia, but they also are considered as a part of Europe.

    • Afghanistan
    • Armenia
    • Azerbaijan
    • Bahrain
    • Bangladesh
    • Bhutan
    • Brunei
    • Cambodia
    • China
    • Cyprus
    • Georgia
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Israel
    • Japan
    • Jordan
    • Kazakhstan
    • Kuwait
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Laos
    • Lebanon
    • Malaysia
    • Maldives
    • Mongolia
    • Myanmar
    • Nepal
    • North Korea
    • Oman
    • Pakistan
    • Palestine
    • Philippines
    • Qatar
    • Russia
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Singapore
    • South Korea
    • Sri Lanka
    • Syria
    • Taiwan
    • Tajikistan
    • Thailand
    • Timor-Leste
    • Turkey
    • Turkmenistan
    • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
    • Uzbekistan
    • Vietnam
    • Yemen
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