As tattoos are slowly but surely gaining acceptance and popularity amongst most of the American population, it is interesting to note how widespread the appeal of this practice is becoming in other countries around the world. It is also interesting to consider how various other cultures view this practice, and whether those views have changed over time as has been the case with the United States.
Although it may be surprising to Americans whose main source of familiarity with Oriental symbols and other artwork comes from viewing this lovely, traditional art in tattoo studios all across the United States, due to the significant influence of Buddhist and Confucianist religions both the Japanese and Chinese societies take a very negative view of tattoos. In these societies, tattooing was a means of branding criminals; it was not acceptable for citizens to engage in the process. In today’s society, tattoos are still unacceptable. Although their younger generation usually takes a more liberal view of tattooing, the youngsters who have them generally keep them covered.
Tattoos have long been a part of life for royalty in Great Britain. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors King George the fifth and King Edward the seventh, one of today’s most well-known royal figures, Prince Charles, also sports a tattoo. Unlike in the distant past, however, tattoos in Great Britain are no longer limited to the class of royalty; during the past few decades, tattoos showing up on their rock stars has brought the practice to the mainstream population. What was once a status symbol for wealthy public figures has become a widespread part of everyday life for the younger generations.
In Mexico, tattoos were originally thought of as a symbol of courage. The early explorers who arrived in Mexico in 1519 believed the practice to be the influence of Satan. In a recent survey, more than half of those polled who were over age thirteen stated that they would consider getting a tattoo. While most expressed a preference for designs such as flowers, religious symbols, or names, some said they would like a tattoo of their favorite brands of soda or beer. This is assisting in marketing to some degree, as many people in Mexico City now consider tattoos to be a fashion accessory, not only widely acceptable but in style.
In Vietnam, tattooing is still currently illegal, and is rarely done except in prisons. For those who insist on having some type of body modification in light of the laws against tattooing, cigarette burns are used instead. It is rare that anyone other than gang members utilize this practice.
Considering both the Biblical prohibitions against tattooing and the still-present memories of the Holocaust, it is not surprising that most of the older generation in Israel continues to hold a negative view of tattoos. It is a little surprising, though, that the younger generation not only does not always share this viewpoint, and actually considers the practice of getting tattoos of religious symbols to be a visible sign of pride in their Jewish heritage and identity.
In assessing both the historical aspects and present-day points of view, it’s not difficult to see that for many countries around the world culture plays a significant role in whether or not tattoos are thought of as an acceptable form of self-expression. In most cases it is also clear that with or without cultural influences, times change and with the changing times comes different ways of looking at the subject of tattoos. What took a very long time to gain widespread popularity in the United States has proceeded in a similar fashion in most other countries also.