International students express thoughts about American Halloween traditions

Kaitlin Walker

To some, Halloween is a given in America. Most Americans dress up, carve pumpkins and go to a haunted house or two. The shocking part is that Americans are the only culture who celebrate like this.

Although different customs and versions of Halloween are celebrated all over the world, no country celebrates quite like Americans, according to international students at Kent State.

The American traditions of Halloween are a novelty to many foreigners.  Most have only heard of the holiday from watching American movies and television shows, therefore, they know a little about it, but have never truly experienced it.

International students weighed in on their thoughts about Halloween in America and how or if they celebrate at home.

Shui Yu – China

Senior finance major

Costume: Japanese anime character

In China, they don’t typically celebrate Halloween unless they study English in a big city, although some shopping malls and bars will decorate, Yu said.  

“We just know that Halloween is a big party with ghosts where you scare people,” Yu said.

He said it would have been fun to trick or treat because it’s a good time to get candy and he has never experienced it.

Beatriz Oliveira – Brazil

Freshman nutrition major

“I didn’t want to buy anything, so maybe I can pretend to be an Eskimo because this weather is freezing for me,” Oliveira said.

Oliveira said her country doesn’t focus on the scary aspect of Halloween.

“We don’t celebrate Halloween in Brazil,” she said. “We have carnival, but it’s not horror or scary; it’s happier. We dress up and wear costumes, but the meaning behind it is not the same. I think it’s unique. It’s not big in other countries.”

Gabriela Ramirez – Mexico

Graduate student in geography

No costume

“We have something similar to Halloween, but it’s completely different,” Ramirez said. “In the U.S., they have parties and just have fun. In Mexico, we have two days to celebrate what we call Dia de los Muertos. It’s more like a celebration and we spend time in the cemetery. We don’t ask for candy. We just like being with people at the cemetery.” 

Ramirez said Americans spend too much money for Halloween, which is one of the reasons why she won’t be dressing up. 

“I’m excited to see how they celebrate, but I just want to walk and see the costumes,” Ramirez said.

Shirish Bhatnagar – India

Graduate student in finance and logistics

Costume: Tom Cruise from “Top Gun”

“Halloween is not a big thing in India, but slowly things are getting westernized and things are catching pace,” Bhatnagar said. “It’s celebrated in major cities. I never did it, but my younger cousins are doing it.”

Bhatnagar said his favorite part of the holiday is the costumes.

“It’s a way to show people what you want to be inside,” Bhatnagar said. “It’s like showing another side of your personality. It’s the only time of year when you can show who you really are and nobody will be suspicious of it.”

Muhammad El Hadj Ali- Tunisia

International student & scholar advisor/SEVIS coordinator

Costume: FBI agent

El Hadj Ali said Halloween was a cool and interesting experience when he first came to Kent.

“Because I was at a college town, I thought it was just an excuse for girls to dress slutty and guys to get drunk and act crazy,” El Hadj Ali said. “Now, living in Stow, when I see the kids going door-to-door and getting candy, I think it’s a good activity. If a kid wants to be something they are fascinated with, they get to do that. It’s a lot of fun to see.”

See a map of which countries celebrate Halloween on Maps of the World’s website.

Kaitlin Walker is the international reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].