Black just doesn’t mean black universally: Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Intelligence

“Would you play ‘Back in Black” by ACDC for me?”–Rayana

by Kevin Stoda, in Oman

One travel writer reveals that all colors are not treated or seen as the same almost anywhere on the planet. On the one hand, “[c]olors play an important role in our lives. They can remind us of a place, a time of year, or our favorite traditions, and can also shape the way we feel. But when it comes to what different colors symbolize in cultures around the world, these associations can vary greatly. Read on for a glimpse into how colors have shaped the history, emotions, and beliefs of different cultures through the ages.”

One website writer shares: “An understanding of cultural color and symbolism is essential to anyone doing business with other countries and other societies. These associations with color have been a part of many societies for centuries and you must be aware of both the positive and the negative implications of using particular colors when marketing to these societies.With the advent of the World Wide Web, there is a narrowing of the differences in meanings of colors between different cultures and countries.”

Therefore, we ought to take time to learn about our own cultural color biases and the biases or beliefs of colors as accepted or deemed of value by other cultures. These beliefs in the meaning of particular colors either may or may not clash with our own color values. Let’s take America as an example of a land of color biases–even though our ancestors come from all over the globe.

Historically, for North Americans, the color red has been associated with ” danger, strength, power, determination, passion, courage and energy”. The color purple is seen to demonstrate “characteristics of independence, dignity, creativity, mystery, magic, power, luxury, ambition and extravagance” for Americans and most Europeans, too.

In turn, both Americans and many Europeans believe that orange is clearly associated with “enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination, distraction, attraction, appetite and endurance.” While, the color yellow in America stands often for “joy, intellect, loyalty, unstable, spontaneous, cowardice & honor.”

In Europe and America, blue almost always shares meanings related to “depth, stability, trust, loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, and cleanliness” , and green represents “growth, harmony, fertility, money, healing, endurance, novice, ambition, greed and jealousy”.


Meanwhile, the Western view of black and white have typically been as follows: Black represents “power, control, intimidation, funerals, death, mourning, [and], rebellion”. White is associated with “brides and weddings, angels, hospitals, doctors, peace — the white dove, purity and cleanliness”.

In contrast, in China white means:death and mourning, virginity and purity, humility, age, [and] misfortune.” Meanwhile, in Japan a white color is used to convey a sense of mystery and of the night. Also, in Japan, white may also be associated with “feminine energy — either evil and a threat or provocative and alluring.” Also, in several East Asian countries, white stands for “bad luck.”

Likewise, not everywhere in the Middle East– where I have lived most of the past two decades– do colors such as “black and white” even have the same or similar means from country to country. For example, one website may claim that in the Middle East: Black is supposed to stand for “evil” or “mystery”. White is supposedly for “purity” & “mourning”.This is why in some Middle Eastern lands the wife of the dead man at a funeral may wear white as a symbol of mourning in some regions of the Middle East. Meanwhile, men typically wear white thobes as a symbol of purity. However, in Oman some of these ideas are more particular to that culture’s people.

In Oman, on the one hand, most men typically wear white thobes to symbolize peace and purity. On the other hand, Omani researchers have also shared that a black dress or black clothing in the country often simply “implies elegance, stylish, and smart[ness].” The women wear black here because the color represents sophistication, elegance, maturity, and rebirth.

Oman is not alone in lifting up black in this way. Some other cultures find the “Arabs wear[ing] the black abiah, which signifies elegance and respect for their culture.” In short, black signifies for some: I love my tradition or I love my culture–as well as–I am sophisticated and elegant


This view of the meaning of the color black for Omanis and other Arabs should be an eye opener for Westerners who see black as a color of repression of women, who they interpret as being forced to wear hot black abayas in the desert heat–while the males are allowed and encouraged to wear the cooler white and lighter colors, like beige.

Tonight as I came home from work, I turned on one of the English pop radio stations here in Oman. The Australian-born DJ soon shared, “Now, Rayanna has requested us to play BACK IN BLACK.” The classic hard rock tune by Australia’s ACDC then began to be heard across the country’s airwaves.  Immediately the DJ was serving the demand of Omani appeal to the color black.

At firt, as an American, I chuckled to myself. I had imagined an abaya-wearing–or even a hijab-wearing–young Omani female rocker getting down with her friends at hearing BACK IN BLACK being played on Rayanna’s–and their–behalf. (By the way, the name Rayann stands for “the doorway to heaven that opens in the month of Ramadan.”)

Then my cultural awareness and cultural intelligience kicked in. Of course, the Omani listener would have been listening in that particular moment to that same youthful ACDC Rock Anthem–but with a different set of sentiments.

Black is not necessarily seen here as either something dark or gloomy here in this land. It is not something that only Goths or Bikers wear. It is more likely observed as representing sophistication and elegance or maturity–or perhaps even one’s culture.

Perhaps, though,–as I now think about Rayanna’s request for BACK IN BLACK–, … perhaps that Australian DJ here in Oman misread the intent of Rayanna here tonight. Coming from Australia, where ACDC is from, he assumed that the request for BACK IN BLACK was for his home country’s band.

However, there is another singer named Shakir, who is still very popular here in the Middle East.  Recently, Shakira released her own more femine sounding version of the ACDC anthem. Namely, Shakira–whose family comes from the Middle East– has repopularized BACK IN BLACK for Oman and for audiences in neigboring lands.

Shakira’s version can be heard here.

In short, we westerners need to see the colors of black and white not simply as “Black and White”–using the traditions of our own cultures. The fascist movements in Europe and South America of the 20th Century have spoiled the color of black in our eyes–in any case–, i.e. so that we see an Arab men and woman wearing black automatically as something sinister, like we’d view the SS officers of the Nazi era in black and white film.

Don’t let visions of black-clad ninjas, black-suited SS agents or Mussolini’s henchmen, nor even ISIS shock troops cloud or blind our imaginations of blackness–of other colors, and other cultures, i.e. to fit our pre-conceptions or imaginations of life in other lands and among other peoples here on planet earth.

Whether using an internet’s website or in viewing other mass media, WE need to become ever-more cross-culturally literate and emotionally intelligient,

Don’t assume colors are the same everywhere. They are not.

Below are some websites and links to check out–just if you want to know how diverse cultural understandings of particular colors rage across the globe in actuality.

Stop seeing the world in terms of your culture’s black and white today.

What Colors Mean in Other Cultures | The Huffington Post–mean-in-other_b_9078674.html

Jan 26, 2016 — But in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt, orange is associated with mourning. In Japanese and Chinese cultures, orange signifies courage, happiness, love, and good health. And in Indian cultures, it’s symbolic of fire. The orange-colored spice, saffron, is considered to be lucky and sacred.

Cultural color & symbolism — Empower Yourself With Color Psychology

An understanding of cultural color and symbolism is essential to anyone doing ” the differences inmeanings of colors between different cultures and countries.

Symbolism Of Colors and Color Meanings Around The World–symbolism-and-meanings-around-the-world

Apr 3, 2015 — In Hinduism, saffron (a soft orange color) is considered auspicious and sacred. In the Netherlands, orange is the color of the Dutch Royal family, while it also represents sexuality and fertility in Colombia. In Eastern cultures, orange symbolizes love, happiness, humility, and good health.

[PDF]Colours across cultures — Global Propaganda

by M De Bortoli — “Cited by 23 — “Related articles

A single colour can have many different meanings in different cultures. In Asia ” In addition to all the traditional meanings associated with colours in various.

What Do Colors Mean in Different Cultures? — HOW Design”/online”/what-do-colors–mean-in-differentcultures/

Feb 14, 2017 — It’s fascinating to discover how color conjures different traits and perceptions. Especially when you notice the differences among color

Colours in different cultures — wintranslation ” Blog ” Articles

Same colour, two different meanings: red is perceived as the colour of communism and Russia used to be a communist country, but red is also the colour of ”

Colours in Cultures — Information is Beautiful

Credits. DESIGN: and David McCandless. RESEARCH: David McCandless, Pearl Doughty-White, Alexia Wdowski ”

Color and cultural design considerations | Webdesigner Depot

Jun 11, 2012 — Colors have a variety of associations within North American culture alone, and can meansomething radically different to Japanese or Middle ”

Color Meanings — Color Wheel Artists

Color meanings, symbolically and emotionally, can vary widely from culture to culturemeanings and general color symbolism associated with various cultures.

Colours And Their Meanings In Different Cultures Around The World “ ” Blog ” Trends

Feb 17, 2016 — Let us take a tour around the world and see what meanings do the colors hold in various cultures. Same color may mean the opposite thing to ”

Meanings of Purple/Violet — Color Wheel Artists

Remember that the meanings of violet or any other color are cultural and ” The meanings of violet can be quite different depending on whether they lean toward ”

Color Meanings From Around the World — Lifehack”/colors-and-what-they-mean-around-the-world.html

Color meanings vary drastically throughout the world and understanding these meanings can help you communicate with others from different cultures.

What Colors Mean in Different Cultures |–meandifferentcultures

Mar 18, 2011 — Every culture associates colors with different ideas and emotions. In the U.S., we assign red to hate or anger, blue to sadness, and green to ”

Color Meanings in Different Cultures |–meanings-in-differentcultures.html

Color is an important aspect of every culture. Colors can represent love, anger, sadness, infidelity, and religious affiliations, depending on the”

Meaning in Colors: Learning How Cultures Think About Color |Marked “

In fact, finding meaning in colors is very much a continuation of the cross-cultural ” from variousplaces on the Internet, here are some examples of how culture

[PDF]A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Symbolic Meanings of Color

by HC Yu — “Cited by 4 — “Related articles

The paper will examine human cognition of colors, explore the origin of primary colors, and analyze themeaning of color in different cultures. The awareness of ”

International Color Guide | Xerox Small Businesses ” Small Business home ” Tips

Colors mean different things in different cultures. Black, for example, signifies death and is worn during times of mourning in Western countries; black in Egypt, ”

Color & Culture Matters

The Evolution of the Symbolism of Green in Western culture. ” an assortment of different coloredchocolate sweets) is sending a somewhat similar message.

Meaning of Colours Across Cultures Dr Deborah Swallow — Global “

Feb 20, 2010 — In it, I caution marketers to know their target audience as different cultures ascribevarious meanings to colours. How easy is it to convey the ”

The Meaning of Colors — Changing ” Disciplines ” Communication

Here is a table of colors and many of the meanings they tend to evoke, particularly in Western cultures. Notice how colors can mean very different things — it is not .

Visual Color Symbolism Chart by Culture — Web Design ” About Tech ” Web Design & HTML

Jul 12, 2016 — A chart of various colors that can be used in designs and their meanings in different cultures and societies around the world.

How Colour Communicates Meaning — Treehouse Blog

Sep 10, 2009 — Different colours mean different things in different places. This is ” In western culturehowever, it is associated with royalty, luxury, wealth and ”

Color in Chinese culture — Wikipedia

Color in Chinese culture refers to the certain values that Chinese culture attaches to colors, like ” It was generally used alone and often implied sexual desire or desirability. During the Tang Dynasty, the word ya’nsè came to mean all color.

Color symbolism — Wikipedia

Color symbolism in art and anthropology refers to the use of color as a symbol in various cultures. There is great diversity in the use of colors and their ”

What does pink symbolize in different cultures? — Quora

Jul 22, 2015 — Excellent question! So many people do not realize that there is a world out there “. Ummmm” An understanding of cultural color and symbolism is essential to anyone doing business with other countries and other societies.

What Colors Mean — Fact Monster ” Word Wise ” Speaking of Language

In many countries, colors represent various holidays; they are also used to ” The Bolsheviks used a red flag as their symbol when they overthrew the tsar in ”

Color Psychology, what do colors mean and represent — Digital Skratch

Colors have deep subliminal meanings that affect our thinking and rational. They have symbolicmeaning that changes amongst different cultures and countries.

Colours in Different Cultures — Search — Elliot for Water”

What Colors Mean in Different Cultures | WhatColors Mean in Different Cultures. Colours in Cultures A ”

Meanings of Colors | Psychologia ” Personality

Meanings of colors in different cultures, how colors can be perceived by different people and what psychological and physiological effect colors may have on us.

color meaning in different cultures — Pinterest

Meaning of colours in different cultures and religions — useful if you are ” Thank You in 30 Different Languages This shows how some things might not look the ”

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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