A quick history of why Asians wear surgical masks in public


The practice of wearing surgical masks in public is a reflection of the cultural values and beliefs of many East Asian immigrants. In East Asia, it’s seen as a sign of respect for others to wear a mask when one is sick, as it prevents the spread of germs. It’s also seen as a way to protect oneself from potential illnesses. The fear of Ebola has only heightened this practice, as many immigrants feel that wearing a mask is the best way to protect themselves and their families from the virus.

At the same time, there are some who argue that wearing masks in public can be counterproductive. They point out that masks can give people a false sense of security and lead them to ignore other important safety measures such as washing hands regularly or avoiding contact with those who may be infected. Others worry that wearing masks could lead to discrimination against those who do not wear them, creating an atmosphere of fear and mistrust among different ethnic groups.

Ultimately, whether or not one chooses to wear a mask in public is an individual decision based on personal beliefs and values. However, it’s important to remember that while masks may provide some protection against airborne viruses, they are no substitute for following basic hygiene practices such as washing hands regularly and avoiding contact with those who may be infected.

The masks are a visible sign of respect for others and a way to show that one is taking the health of those around them seriously. They also provide a sense of comfort and security, which can be especially important in times of uncertainty. In addition, wearing a mask can help reduce anxiety and stress by providing a physical barrier between oneself and potential sources of infection. Finally, wearing a mask can be seen as an act of solidarity with those who are more vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.

In Japan, the practice of wearing masks to protect against influenza and other illnesses has continued into the 21st century. In recent years, it has become increasingly common for people to wear masks in public places during cold and flu season, as well as during times of increased air pollution. The Japanese government even encourages citizens to wear masks when they are feeling unwell, in order to prevent the spread of germs.

The primary reason why mask-wearing has been primarily limited to East Asian nations is because of the cultural norms and values that have been established in these countries. In East Asia, wearing a mask is seen as a sign of respect for others and a way to protect oneself from airborne illnesses. Additionally, many East Asian countries have experienced severe outbreaks of infectious diseases in the past, such as SARS and MERS, which has led to an increased awareness of the importance of wearing masks. Finally, there are also government regulations in some East Asian countries that require people to wear masks in certain public places.

The belief in “fan death” is rooted in the idea that the intake of “feng,” or noxious wind, can weaken a person’s body defenses. This superstition has been prevalent in East Asia for centuries and is still widely believed today, particularly in Korea. The fear of sleeping in rooms with running electric fans is based on the notion that the fan could be blowing noxious air into the room, thus weakening a person’s defenses and potentially leading to death.

In the face of a global pandemic, masks have become a symbol of solidarity and responsibility, as well as a way to protect oneself from potential infection. As East Asia continues to grapple with the effects of air pollution and the spread of infectious diseases, it is likely that mask-wearing will remain an important part of life in the region for years to come.


The use of masks as a social firewall is also seen in other cultures, such as in South Korea, where young people wear masks to avoid being recognized by strangers. In some cases, the masks are used to express a sense of alienation from society or to create an air of mystery.

In Japan, the use of masks has become so widespread that it has been described as a “mask culture”. The trend is seen as a reflection of the country’s changing social norms and values, with many young people feeling increasingly isolated and disconnected from their peers. The use of masks can be seen as a way for these individuals to protect themselves from unwanted attention and maintain their privacy.

Masks have become a fashion statement in East Asia, with people wearing them for both practical and aesthetic reasons. In Japan, masks are available in a variety of designs, from cute characters to stylish patterns. At China Fashion Week, designer Yin Peng showcased a line of smog couture clothing paired with different types of masks, ranging from Vader-style ventilators to full-head riot-gear rebreathers. The trend has been embraced by many as a way to express their individual style while also protecting themselves from air pollution.

In the meantime, it’s important to remember that wearing a facemask is not just about fashion. It’s also about protecting yourself and others from the spread of disease. So if you do choose to wear a facemask, make sure it fits properly and is made of an appropriate material.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that 0.5% of the Indian population died during a 20th century flu pandemic. This figure has been revised to 0.2%.