Skip to main content

Colour & Culture.

The perception of colour and its meaning has a social and cultural component specific to each place.

In this post, we are going to recreate ourselves in the meaning of colour but instead of doing it from the psychological point of view, we do it from the cultural point of view. While in the previous post entitled: “Colour, meaning and creativity”, you can see how colours affect us psychologically.

colour and culture

Some languages have the name of some colours in common, but the meaning is very different depending on the culture of each place.

There are also cultures that have more than one word for the same colour, as they distinguish shades of colour that we do not even see in other cultures.

I want to start with yellow and blue, in case you don’t know, the colours of the Ukrainian flag are given by the meaning of direct association between the blue of the sky and the yellow of its vast wheat fields.

Illuminating 106 C


It is the most visible colour from a distance, which is why it is used to mark construction sites or directions, and why New York’s famous taxis are yellow.

In China, during the King dynasty, only royals were allowed to wear yellow.

Vincent Van Gogh saw the world through a yellow filter caused by the medicine he consumed. Thus, the painter only transferred the tones he observed to his paintings. It is one of the colours he used most often in his works.

Blue Indigo 19-3928 TCX


It is perhaps the favourite colour of all cultures. Maybe because it is the colour with the most nuances to choose from.

Blue was chosen by the United Nations as a corporate colour because it had no specific meaning.

The Tuareg wear blue clothes, dyed with indigo, a vegetable dye that dissolves in high temperatures and permeates their skin, making them slightly indigo. This minimises sweating, so that fluid loss and the risk of dehydration is almost non-existent.

In several languages such as Japanese, Thai or Korean, the same word is used to describe blue and green.

Irish Green 15-6340 TCX


In the performing arts and television, the Green Room is the space where performers relax between performances.

During post-classical and early modern Europe, green was the colour commonly associated with wealth, merchants, bankers and the aristocracy, while red was reserved for the nobility.

Green has a long historical tradition as the colour of Ireland and Gaelic culture.

It is the historic colour of Islam , representing the lush vegetation of Paradise. It is found on the flags of almost all Islamic countries.

Rojo Chino 18-1663 TCX


Passion in a colour.

In Asia the colour red means good luck and happiness, being the most important colour in China.

This colour is a symbol of life in Japanese Shinto,

Red in Russian “Krasivi” means “beautiful”.. “Krasni” is used to indicate something that is red in colour.

Fashion designer Christian Louboutin made a specific shade his trademark: theChinese red – Pantone 18-1663

Orange 021 C


Before the word orange came into common use, saffron was sometimes used to describe the intense yellow-orange colour.

Saffron is the color of illumination, so Buddhist monks wear orange robes.

In the Netherlands, orange is the colour of the monarchy, in fact the carrots we know today are orange in honour of the Dutch monarchy who in the 16th century promoted them over the violet carrots that were known at the time. However, the colour is given by the high concentration of beta-carotene in the carrot root, the phytochemicals that give it its orange colour.

Love Symbol #2


It is no coincidence that it was Prince’s favourite colour, as it is the symbol of royalty. It has its own Pantone shade created in his honour, a shade of purple called Love Symbol #2.

In Roman times it was as a colour reserved for the elites; Purple was the most expensive dye and was only used by Roman magistrates, emperors and rulers; in the reign of Isabel I only royalty could wear this colour, and in Japan it was reserved for the emperor and the aristocracy.

Purple was the colour of women’s suffrage; in 1970 it was adopted by the women’s movement.



This colour is associated with purity and peace in the West, but in Asia it symbolises death. It is a symbol of mourning; people wear white after the death of a family member.

In China, actors with white painted faces represent cunning and treacherous men.

The Inuit have many words to define the colour white, as they are able to distinguish many more shades of white.

Process Black C


During the Roman Empire the association with death and evil was already established, but during the Renaissance wearing black was a symbol of nobility and wealth.

In English, the terms Black Monday or Black Friday have negative connotations because many terrible events have taken place on these days throughout history.

However, in Egypt black represents the colour of “rebirth” and “resurrection”.

For Chinese theatre, a man with a blackened face represents an honourable and righteous person.