Travel Experiences

The art of tattooing: an inky travel

The art of tattooing: an inky travel
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Tattoos have been fashionable for 30 years… Yet the origin of tattoos goes back at least to the Neolithic era. Human beings have marked their bodies with various types of tattoos for thousands of years, and these permanent designs have different meanings: a social status, a love declaration, a religious belief, or a form of punishment.

Some countries continue their tattoo culture, even nowadays you can see the ancient patterns being carried on. This fact has attracted some travelers to visit these specific countries, and get a tattoo as a lifetime story that can be told to friends and children.

Thus this post is a travel on the worldwide ink culture, from Scandinavia to Thailand.


When you travel to Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, you might be amazed to see many Scandinavian people have tattoos on their skin. To be honest, tattooing is a common thing in Scandinavia. 

The symbols of the tattoos in Scandinavian culture are mainly in the Nordic text. Each word of the ancient Northern European language has been given the Nordic myth, with the corresponding name and the different meanings of their gods.

The Vikings often use these letters for divination, and these letters are injected with the magical interpretation- a simple combination of different spells and magic spells, as a tattoo design on the role of the magic amulet.


What’s special with the tattoo culture in Scandinavia: the Scandinavian style tattoo is very abstract. The meaning is mainly related to the objects in Viking time and boat sailing. For instance, the patterns are commonly in the meaning of ¨the tiller¨, ¨the compass¨, or the strength to fight the natural obstacles and enemy.

Sweden is ranked as the most tattooed nation in the world.

Tattoo by Peter Madsen


Most Chinese believe that having tattoos on the body is connected with criminals, gangs, bandits. The Chinese culture has this belief- the body is an endowment of parents and a continuance of the bloodline of the relatives, and so the destruction of the body, for example, making tattoo, is considered as a serious offense. 

Nevertheless, you still can see many Chinese people tattooing the bodies with dragon and snake as they believe that the dragon is their own protection of God, or their ancestors. Thus creating a totem concept, to recognize these animals or image is their totem.

 What’s special with the tattoo culture in China: apart from the animals or god protection concept, there are more and more people not only Chinese, but also many foreigners, tattooing the skin with Chinese letters. Those Chinese letters or sentences are with the meanings of life philosophy.

Many Chinese make the dragon tattoo on the skin, but they need to consult with someone who understands «I Ching» (The Book of Change) before the tattoo is done

Chinese believe that not everyone can handle a full dragon on the body. If you get the tattoo even though it doesn’t match your character after you consult with the person and I Ching, you might have something dangerous in life.



Tattoo is considered as a great art in Japan, it’s a heritage and the people carry forward the tattoo culture for many centuries.

Japanese tattoos also have their own positioning. “Half-blade” (refers to the shoulder and upper arm by the shoulder area to form an overall pattern) is Japan’s most representative tattoo-style pattern.

A lot of thorns are very popular. Half-blade pattern type is also divided into a variety of characters from «Water Margin», «100 ghost series», the Buddha series, the three characters and Longfeng series. 

What’s special with the tattoos culture in Japan:

Tattoo culture is widely accepted in Japan, however, you are not allowed to enter the public hot spring bath if you have the tattoo on your body.

Some job applications in Japan would indicate ¨do not apply¨ if you have tattoos.

This is because the society think tattoo = Yakuza (the criminal organisation).

Old japanese men


Indian painting is the continuation of India’s oldest human tattoo art. It’s also named India Henna painting, and usually being used as the decoration for the wedding.

Before the wedding, the bride ‘s friends will come to help design the tattoo, and the bride’ s palms and feet are drew with Henna painting. The people believe that the darker color can create better tattoo, but it also needs to keep it longer on the skin, because the Henna painting will be washed away after couple of weeks.

What’s special with the tattoo culture in India: in India, there has been a saying “no Henna painting, the wedding is not completed”. The night before the wedding, the bride has to let her future mother-in-law do the first hand-painted pattern, and then by an experienced master to complete the whole painting. The whole process takes at least seven or eight hours. 

In India, some people tattoo the skin with Sanskrit, but it is only allowed to be on the upper part of body because it is a way to show respect.

Kate Benzin


The tattoo culture in Thailand has very long history. The most famous tattoo in Thailand is done in “Wat Bang Phra” temple. Every year on a certain day, this temple will be full of thousands of people, but these people poured into the temple is not worshiping, they let the monk tattoo the skin.

Because the Thai people believe that monks can tattoos away from evil, prostitutes and even stabbed in the private parts of the penis pattern to pray for “business” booming! Tattoos in Thailand, in addition, have the meaning of beauty, but also a mysterious power.

Many travelers around the world visiting Thailand and get this tattoo as their long lasting souvenir, but be aware, the tattoo made by the monk can be extremely painful.


What’s special with the tattoo culture in thailand: Bamboo tattoos is what you might hear very often in Thailand. And bamboo is their technique for making tattoos instead of a gun. This requires a great balance control from the artist, and he needs to know exactly the right pressure when the ink is inserted to the skin.

People commonly get the Buddhism scripture tattoo from the monk. Afterwards, they are not allowed to blame their parents anymore AND they are not allowed to cheat with someone else’ wife.


A traveler initiatory rite.

Just like for sailors of the past century, travel is often the occasion of a tattoo.

Warning: a tattoo artist should be booked months in advance. In case of unavailability and to avoid any bad surprise, do not just try your luck anywhere: better to step out of your confort zone and enjoy an unforgettable experience with U2GUIDE 🙂

Jee Sayalero madrid
Jee, an awe-inspiring artist based in Madrid... but highly demanded.

Cofounder & CEO at |

Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Traveler & Poet


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