It?s a Vibrant Globe: The Meaning of Colour Across Borders

As children, were often asked ?what?s your preferred color?? We believed that our color choice says a good deal about who we're, and that the questioner will immediately understand its meaning.

But colors, like words, usually do not carry universal meaning. We all have different reactions to several tones and shades depending on how and where we were raised, our past experiences by using it, and our set of preferences ? which, like children, can change inexplicably.

The simple truth is colors carry a lot of meaning ? but that meaning varies drastically across languages, cultures, and national borders. If you are alert to a few of these differences, you will be able to prevent embarrassing cultural mistakes when speaking about and utilizing colors among colleagues, friends, and clients ? and will also enable you to promote your product effectively in global markets.

Below, a simple guide to five colors around the world.


In Western cultures, black is a member of death, evil, and eternity. In some Eastern cultures, however, many times, it carries the contrary meaning; in China, black is the signature color for young boys, and is utilized in celebrations and joyous events.

White, however, symbolizes age, death, and misfortune in China and in many Hindu cultures. Across both East and West, however, white typically represents purity, holiness, and peace.


Red is one of the most powerful colors, as well as meanings in many cultures run deep:

China - Celebration, courage, loyalty, success, and luck, among others. Used often in ceremonies, and when along with white, signifies joy.

Japan - The traditional color for a heroic figure.

Russia - Representative with the Communist era. For this reason, it is suggested to get extremely careful when utilizing this in Eastern European countries.

India - Purity, so wedding costumes are often red. Also the colour for married women.

United States - Danger (think "red light!") and employed in in conjunction with other colors for holidays, including Christmas (green) and Valentine's Day (pink).

Central Africa - Red is often a color of life and health. But in other areas of Africa, red is a color of mourning and death. To honor this, the Red Cross changed its colors to green and white in South Africa as well as other areas of the continent.


Blue is frequently considered to get the "safest" global color, as it can represent anything from immortality and freedom (the sun) to cleanliness (in Colombia, blue is equated with soap). In Western countries, blue is often viewed as the conservative, "corporate" color.

However, be cautious when utilizing blue to deal with highly pious audiences: the colour has significance in almost every major world religion. For Hindus, it is the colour of Krishna, and read more a lot of in the gods are depicted with blue-colored skin. For Christians, blue invokes images of Catholicism, particularly the Virgin Mary. Jewish religious texts and rabbinic sages have noted blue to be a holy color, while the Islamic Qur'an describes evildoers whose eyes are glazed with fear as زرق zurq, which could be the plural of azraq, or blue.


Until natural foods companies started marketing green beverages as healthy and good-tasting, many Western people thought green food was poisonous. Today, green is recognized as an even more positive color. American retailers are leveraging the environmental movement to sell eco-friendly goods, often using green-themed packaging or ad campaigns to point out a product's compliance with "green" standards. Not so in China and France, where studies have indicated that green is not a sensible choice for packaging.


If the Dutch have anything to say about this, the World Cup will likely be flooded with many different orange come july 1st. (Orange may be the national color of the Netherlands as well as the uniform color of the country's famous football team.)

On the other side from the world, however, orange includes a slightly more sober meaning: within Hinduism, orange carries religious significance as large for Hindu swamis. Throughout Southeast Asia, Theravada Buddhist monks also wear orange robes.

So before your inner child enthusiastically references your color preference to foreign friends or colleagues, you might learn more about that color and its particular cultural significance. Also, be alert to color choices as they correspond with your organization?s campaign copy and graphics ? whether printed collateral, a web site, or marketing campaign. Know your target audience along with their respective color conventions so you don?t inadvertently send an unacceptable message. We recommend this useful visual representation by Information is Beautiful.

Oh one more thing, well known colors at Acclaro are blue and orange.

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