Posted by: JCleggman | June 18, 2008

Customs of Hugging

I’m sure you probably have already heard of Free Hugs movement that began in 2004 by Juan Mann, right? Well, it has already reached the part of Asian countries long before even as I started blogging about this. For now, I’ll just talk about what the Westerners are most familiar with, which are Japan, Korea, and China. Needless to say, these countries are aptly known as the “East.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a cultural anthropologist or even pretending to be one, but I do know the real significance of public display of affections in the Asian countries. The Asian countries are generally not touch oriented societies and that hugging in the public is relatively new to them in their respective countries.

Maybe it’s because in recent years, the Western and contemporary values and ideas have become more popular and has either influenced, altered, and even replaced, some of the more traditional gestures. So, understanding human behavior is tricky stuff. We see a lot of Western-influences in Japan and South Korea, but not so much in China (except perhaps for Hong Kong).

Hugging may be universal, or at least the Olympic events proved that, but it appears to me that Westerners are more willing to give hugs than Asian people in their respective countries as you will notice in some of the videoclips below. These videoclips will show Free Hugs movement that took place in Japan, South Korea, and China. Watch and see how these people react bit differently in each of their countries.

Free Hugs in Japan

Free Hugs in South Korea

Free Hugs in China (this guy got arrested at the end of this videoclip)

As the global village continues to shrink and cultures collide, it is essential for all of us to become more sensitive, more aware, and more observant to the myriad motions, gestures, and body language that surround us each day. And as many of us cross over cultural borders, it would be fitting for us to respect, learn, and understand more about the effective, yet powerful “silent language” of gestures as hugging.



  1. Kinda old, it’s like few years ago. There was a group of Chinese students giving free hugs in Sichuan or somewhere. Of course, polices checked upon them, making sure they didn’t cause a trouble.

    After interviewing with Chinese people about free hugs, they just commented that embracing is for foreigners.

    Strangely, it seems that Beijing and Seoul get more hugs than Tokyo.

  2. About the Japan video clip, it can be bit misleading because I embedded that from It’s just one of many free hugs video clips from Japan.

    The numbers of hugs never crossed my mind until you brought it up. Ah well.

  3. Very nice!!

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