The Symbols of Green in Different Cultures

Today is the day to pull all the green you own out of your wardrobe to show off your best St. Patrick’s Day spirit (or to avoid getting pinched). But, as linguists, we are always thinking about how aspects of culture are interpreted around the world. What effect does the color green have in other societies? What is the significance of this color around the world?

Ireland

Beautifully nicknamed, “The Emerald Isle” by poet William Drennan, green holds an important symbolic meaning for Ireland, not only for its glorious green countryside but also for St. Patrick. The holiday and the color both have a spiritual significance in the country.

Western (except Ireland)

In Western cultures, green symbolizes luck, money, and jealousy. On St. Patty’s day, it also usually means pub-hopping.

Latin America

Though South America is known for its rich forests, green usually symbolizes death. In Mexico, green is associated with independence since it is one of the main colors on the country’s flag.

Muslim World

Green is very important to Islamic cultures because it was supposedly the prophet Muhammed’s favorite color. The flags of Iran and Saudi Arabia include the color. It can also symbolize respect, which causes it to be held to a high honor.

Asia

In Asian cultures, green usually symbolizes eternity, wealth, fertility and sometimes, infidelity! If a man is wearing a green hat in China, it means his wife has cheated on him! Ironically, the jade stone in China also represents virtue. In Japan, green represents eternity and vitality, while in places like Indonesia, the color used to be banned.

So if you’re planning to use the color green in your next global communication campaign, make sure the color is in line with the message you are willing to share with your target audience. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask us!