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What is a Eurasian?

By Wanda Albano
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Strictly speaking, the term "Eurasian" may refer to one of two things. The first definition pertains to a person from Europe or Asia, especially in the regions where the demarcation between the two continents is vague. The second refers to a person of combined European (Caucasian) and Asian ancestry. The latter is the definition mostly used today.

Taken in the contemporary context of a person with mixed ethnicity, the term "Eurasian" most likely originated from British colonizers who settled in India. Children born of Anglo fathers and local mothers were called Eurasian. Nowadays, the term is an umbrella for all individuals whose racial heritage is taken from both the west and the east. Filipino-White mestizos, Thai-White luk kreung, and even the Hawaiian Polynesian-White hapa can all fall under this category.

Statistically, although there is a considerable number of Eurasians or Anglo-Indians in India, the largest population of Eurasians in the world can be found in Southeast Asia. European colonizers left people of Spanish, Dutch, German, Portuguese, and French ancestry in this region, especially in the Malay peninsula. In some cases, these people have formed separate and tightly-knit communities, with their own traditions and cultures, perhaps due in part to the initial distrust given them by locals and foreigners alike.

Examples of these communities include the Kristang or Cristao of Malaysia and Singapore (Portuguese and Malay) and the Macanese of Macau (Portuguese and Chinese). Such groups have maintained distinct languages and cuisines and are likely to marry from within their own social subset.

In the more recent past, especially in places touched by war, children with mixed western and eastern features are looked down upon because they are seen as the children of soldiers and prostitutes - children of the nightmares of war. Perceived as constant reminders of hard times, these "G.I. babies" grow up unaccepted and shunned by local society. In fact, it was only in the 1990s that a lot of racially mixed Thais were even granted citizenship.

Interestingly, it seems the tables have now turned. Eurasians have become hot commodities in most fields which revel under the public eye and flourish as models, actors, entertainers, etc. The Eurasian face has now become de riguer in many Asian countries. In the Philippines, for instance, with its long history of Spanish colonization, Eurasian features have become the standard of beauty. The fair skin, tall stature, and aquiline nose are almost prerequisites for a career in the entertainment industry. This sentiment can be seen echoed all over the region, resulting in the Eurasians' relatively small population being over-represented in the media.

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Discussion Comments

By shockice — On Apr 10, 2014

Anyone of Eurasian ancestry is technically Eurasian. Eurasia is a continent that includes West Eurasia (Europe) and East Eurasia (Asia). It's all one continent though, called Eurasia and it's people are all Eurasians.

The terms European and Asian only came about to be a distinction of west and east of Eurasia. Only uneducated people don't realize it's all one continent, one people.

By anon336672 — On May 30, 2013

There hasn't been a full study done on Eurasian ethnicity. But based on the data available, the Philippines and Brazil have the largest Eurasian populations.

Brazil officially lists around 4 million Eurasians in their country.

Stanford University did a a small study of 28 Filipinos (it doesn't state whether they are American-Filipino or Filipino), in which they determined around 3.6 percent of Filipinos (around 4 million) have Eurasian ancestry. This data from this study is considered inadequate because there are more than 98 million Filipinos and their ancestry varies depending on their location (i.e. significant Chinese and Spanish ancestry in old urban areas like Manila).

By anon129729 — On Nov 24, 2010

I dated a man of Filipino and European (Spanish) descent. I would say that while he would never be mistaken for a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, he could probably pass for a Greek or Southern Italian. He said that as a child in the Philippines he was doted upon because of his Caucasian features.

The very ironic thing was that here in North America all my White girlfriends thought he was cute. So he seemed to embody the ideal of good looks in both East and West.

By anon24638 — On Jan 15, 2009

What countries lie on the eurasion plate?

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