“Different perceptions of nose between East and West”


Main character of Italian children’s author Carlo Collodi’s children’s classic story ‘The adventures of Pinocchio’ would grow his nose every time he lies. Why did his nose become longer instead of the mouth that told the lie?

Don’t you think that perhaps the author chose the changes of the nose because nose is the most protruding area on the face, just like an easily detectable lie?

Also, the set-up of making Pinocchio’s nose become longer as a form of punishment may be directly showing the Western people’s dislike for long and big nose. Therefore, story of Pinocchio who could grow a nose from lying could send a strong moral message to Westerners that dislike long and big nose.

Not only that, rhinoplasty for covering Jewish appearance during World War II was popular among the Jewish population that had big and humped nose. Furthermore, humped nose has evil connotation for Europeans. One example would be humped nose on the witch in Snow While tale. Perhaps because of these reasons, most rhinoplasty procedures from the West have developed plastic surgery methods of shortening the long nose and making big nose smaller.

In Western plastic surgery books, there are relatively few techniques of raising the nose. Also, raising the nose is very rare, so other than using rib cartilage for nose augmentation there are hardly any other techniques.

On the contrary, what is the meaning of nose in our country? Often we use the expression ‘I want to snap their nose’ when we want to depress another person’s spirit. Also referring to haughty woman, we say ‘she has high dorsum.’ Not only that, we frequently use the expression ‘they will break their big nose’ for proud and arrogant people.

These kinds of examples are not only seen among adults, but also in children’s world. When kids draw an ugly person they usually draw flattened pug nose. Also, when they fight, ‘nosebleed’ determines outcome of the match.

Likewise, in our country, nose is the symbol of pride and dignity. People refer to straight and high nose like that of a Buddha as dignifying and respectable. Especially for men, straight and high nose give the overall face masculine and strong impression.

In addition, in our country big nose is slightly connected to sexual meaning and is a symbol of manhood. Therefore, it’s a traditional saying that size of the nose is comparable to phallus size. Not only that in the ancient Korea, husband who cheated on his wife underwent ‘nose torture (코문이)’, which is having the wife bite on this nose.

Perhaps it’s because of this cultural background that most Korean people want high nose. Men wish to have straight and high nose, and women desire curvaceous and sharp nose with upturned nasal tip. Therefore, most patients that come for rhinoplasty prefer surgeries for raising the nose or straightening the dorsum.

Likewise, perception of nose in Korea and the West show differences in many areas, and the preferred form and shape of the nose differ as well.

Dr. Kwon Taek Keun at Aone Plastic & Aesthetic Surgery says “Due to diverse cultural understanding and structural differences of the face, Western plastic surgery tends to have reduction methods whereas most of Korean plastic surgeries practice augmentation. Hence, if Western cosmetic surgery methods are being copied literally then rhinoplasty surgical method must be adjusted accordingly.”

In addition Dr. Kwon emphasizes that “aesthetic standard of nose shouldn’t blindly follow Western standards, and instead be adjusted according to sentiment of our country, and it’s essential to invent surgical methods that are suitable for Korean people’s nasal structure and standard of beauty.”

Article by
South Korea Plastic Surgeon