The Meaning of Colors Around the World

Dynamic Language | February 23, 2018

When you see the color red what do you think of? A beautiful sunset? A refreshing glass of wine? Or perhaps a warning sign or blood? Your answer could depend on where you are from. How we perceive colors is affected by our background and past experiences. Knowing what colors mean in different countries can help you decide what colors to use on websites targeted to particular countries or cultures. It can also help you understand what colors to avoid, as well as avoiding misunderstandings or insults that may come about as various colors are used.

In most Asian cultures, red symbolizes luck and celebration. Rituals from baby-naming to weddings to new year celebrations all involve the color red, which also symbolizes long life. Brides in India wear red as a sign of purity, beauty, and love. Married women also wear red. In South Africa, red is a color of mourning, whereas in Russia it denotes communism and power.

Color Psychology Blog Blue

Typically blue is universally acceptable because if has positive or neutral connotations in most cultures. This is why many international companies such as Skype and Facebook use blue in their branding. Korea, Iran, and Mexico use blue as their color of mourning, whereas in Egypt it is used to ward off evil. In cultures like China and Belgium, blue is considered a feminine color, the opposite of American culture, which considers it a masculine one. China also associates blue with immortality.

Color Purple

In European and Western cultures, purple is associated with royalty, a tradition that goes back to Roman culture and possibly even further. In India, Brazil, and Thailand, purple is a color associated with death and mourning. In most Asian cultures, purple denotes privilege and wealth.

Color Yellow

Japan considers yellow a color of courage and cheerfulness, and many western cultures in Europe and America associate it with joy and happiness, yet this association is not universal. For instance, Greece associates yellow with sadness, however, and in France it symbolizes jealousy.  Yellow is the color of Buddhism, which gives it special meaning in India and Thailand as a sacred or royal color.

Color Green

The national color of Ireland, green is also the color for Catholicism there. In many other countries including Japan, India, and China, green symbolizes life and new birth. In Saudi Arabia and the United States, green means wealth or money, where in South America it means death. Additionally, in western cultures, green has associations with healthy living and environmental awareness.

Color White

In India, widows must wear white to their husband’s funeral, and in China white is also a color of death and mourning. In Korea, the United States, and some Middle Eastern cultures, white is a symbol of purity and innocence. American brides often wear it for weddings, babies are often baptized in white outfits, and angels are usually depicted as wearing white. White is the color for purity in Buddhism as well.

Color Psychology Blog Black

In Western cultures, black indicates formality; such as a black tie event. However, it can also indicate death and mourning. Japan associates black with mystery and feminine energy which could be threatening or alluring. In China, black is a color for young boys, and in Africa it stands for age and wisdom.

These are not the rules to color psychology and marketing, but rather guidelines to get started on the right track. What is most important is that you identify and understand your audience first. Dynamic Language’s translation marketing team is here to help! We want to make sure your sending your intended message and giving your customers the best impression possible.

Dynamic Language provides professional translation services in over 150 languages and dialects. Contact us today to request a quote.

This post was originally published on November 9, 2015 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.


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