You think that the Western hemisphere with all its traditions, appearances, manners and attitudes is very different from the Eastern one, don’t you? Cultures can be so far from each other that sometimes it seems like we were born on different planets. A designer named Yang Liu (www.yangliudesign.com), who is from China and moved to Germany some time ago, created super simple but very visual illustrations about differences between Western and Eastern people and called this series “East Meets West” (guess where we got our article’s name from). Her illustrations became very popular online, so we decided to share them with you. The blue pictures represent Westerners and the red – Easterners. After looking through them, we claimed in unison: “That is so true!” What do you think about it?
It is fair to start with the so-called “understanding of time”. If you work in China, you may have a lot of business meetings, dinners and so on with Asian people. In the Western world, the attitude towards punctuality is very strict, being on time is very important because it is a sign of respect. In China, rules are not the same, so if you have a meeting with Chinese colleagues, business partners or friends, let’s say at 1pm, be ready that this person will come between 12:55pm and 1:10pm (but note that if they want to win favor, they will definitely come earlier).
In Western society, there are no too many connections and contacts, while in China, relationships or “guanxi” are definitely one of the most important part of the culture. That’s why it seems that Chinese are inside a big web of different relationships – family, friends, colleagues and so on – the more such connections you have, the more “powerful” you are. With the help of your contacts, you can solve many problems in China, but on the other hand it may play a bad joke with you. So, be careful!
In China, the relationship between the boss and the employee is strictly vertical – like “oldest” and “youngest” – and regulated by Confucianism’s principles of “father’s love” and “son’s respect”. In Europe, the boss is more like the elder comrade, or sometimes even a friend.
Taoist philosophy says that if there is a way to go round an obstacle, you should do it, like water flowing about stones. And of course, most Chinese follow this rule. In European understanding of life it is important to solve any problems in their way and to jump all hurdles presenting themselves.
Working in China means that you will be invited to dinners or parties many times. At the party in Europe, people usually separate into small groups, especially when it is something like a cocktail party without sitting around the table. In China, most parties begin (and often end) with dinner in a traditional Chinese restaurant. There, people sit at a round table with a moving platform in the middle where all dishes are served. With it, everyone can reach the dish which they want. Also, sitting in a round means that everyone is involved in ongoing discussions, so usually no one feels lonely there.
Let us continue to talk about restaurants and public places in general. In the Western part of the world, you will hardly find a loud place. In restaurants, parks, on the streets people are not very emotional and do not want to disturb others who want to relax. So, the noise level in public places is very low. In China, the situation is different. Have you ever noticed that Chinese people speak loudly? Sometimes, it seems that they scream, doesn’t it? For them it is normal to show emotions – when something is funny, they will laugh so the whole street will hear them, when they are angry at someone, they will also let everyone know about it.
The next difference is the way how people stand in line. Maybe you are confused now because “line” usually means “one by one”. But not in China. I would say that there are no lines – the one who is faster will go first. This happens everywhere – queueing in supermarkets, queueing to get onto a plane, queueing to the bus and so on. Nevertheless, in places like banks you have an e-line, which means that you have to take a piece of paper with a number in a special machine. But believe me, sometimes this is also not working. Despite of this, if you ask politely to go first, they will let you do it without any doubts.
If you ask a Westerner which way of transport is the most popular in their country, they will probably have to think about their answer. Of course, cars are an inseparable part of life, but nowadays bikes are so popular that people prefer to ride them because it is faster (in big cities you will not get stuck in traffic), healthier (while riding, most muscle groups are being worked, which keeps you fit) and cheaper, of course (no need to spend money on gas and expensive repairs). There are some European cities which are well-known for their bicycle love, Amsterdam, for example. In China, having a car shows your wealth, which is why people prefer cars to bikes. Every year there are more and more cars, traffic jams are bigger and there are more accidents on the road. You might have heard about a traffic jam in 2010 in Beijing that lasted for 11 days?
The last but not the least difference is the size of an individual’s ego. In Europe, we are used to being very free and independent. The ideas of human rights were accepted a long time ago and remain relevant to this day. Individualism is the main European philosophy and the only social politics in the Western part of the world. Chinese collectivism appeared also a long time ago and main Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism appreciate it. They say that Ego is very bad and everyone has to avoid it.
These are the most evident situations that we are faced with here, in China. If you want to see the rest of Yang Liu’s “East Meets West” series or discover another series of her works, go to our social media platforms (WeChat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and you will find links to her pages.
Written by Inna Mironova