Differences between Eastern and Western culture

How to confront a problem

In 2008, these images were sent to me by a friend working at Reuters.  They are copyrighted by Yang Liu, a Chinese raised in Germany whose biography is at the end of this post. The pictures appear in her book “Ost trifft West” (East meets West).  These images depict simplified and generalized differences & commonality between groups in their approaches, perspectives, and moments in history. In the images, Blue –> Westerner and Red –> Asian.

Relative sense of self
Type of weekend activities
Public expression
Differences in queuing
Relative status of the leader
Relationship models: Simple vs Complex
Differences in Sense of Punctuality
Differences in Transportation

Update: See JapanNewbie.com’s additional narrative on the pictures.

Update II: at the request of the artist, a number of images were removed from the original post. Please visit the artist’s webpage below to see more and to learn about shows of the artist’s work.

Update III: Yang Liu, the artist, drew my attention to an “interview” a Chinese newspaper conducted, allegedly with me. In fact, the “reporter” never contacted me and there was never an interview, with the paper Ms. Liu brought to my attention, nor any other on the subject of these images or their concepts.

All of the images are from Ms. Liu’s book “Ost trifft West” (East meets West) Hermann Schmidt Verlag Mainz -Differences between Germans and Chinese – A diary of Yang Liu @YangLiu Design, www.yangliudesign.com

BIOGRAPHY: Yang Liu was born in 1976. In age of 13, she moved with her parents to Germany. At the age of 17, she started her studies at the University of Arts  in Berlin. After her master degree, she worked as a designer inSingapore, London, Berlin and New York City. In 2004 she has started her own design studio. While she is giving workshops and lectures on several international conferences, she was as well as teaching at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Glasgow school of Art. Her works had been awarded with several international design awards and are shown in Museums and became partof the collections.

68 Replies to “Differences between Eastern and Western culture”

  1. Excellent commentary on the cultural differences, primary being the heirarchical element of the group (family or work) and the concept of the unity of the group.And yes, Westerners are prone to linear thinking, for one reason, IMO, because as individuals we are less group-bound. Is there a suggestion of Chinese susceptibility to group-think? In the mid-70s I had a fellow working for me who had taught English on Taiwan for 18 months. His view was that his students had the personalities of “carpenter ants” because everyone had exactly the same opinions.
    Some of the presented Chinese traditional approaches have changed with exposure to Western ways, though. Idle thought: is this presentation actually cultural condescension? I get a feeling of superiority.

  2. It is an interesting graphic presentation of the peculiarities of cultural approches to life. Being an easterner, I can endorse it for most part. Both approaches are valuable and I would say are complimetary like the masculine and feminine. The aggressiveness of Western lifestyle is smolering the eastern lifestyle which is receptive. I hope we can integrate and harmonixe both lifestyle as we are coming closer to each other.

  3. Hi,I was wonderting if you could ask your friend the original resource of the image.
    I want to use these graphic in my project.
    Thanks.

  4. This is interesting but I think the category of “Eastern” or non-Western is too broad and as such is not really accurate in at least 2 of the perspectives.Japanese people almost always line up (queue) in straight lines. Here Japan does not fit the “Eastern” stereotype.
    The punctuality of Japanese is pretty legendary (note the train system for a perfect example). Here Japan does not fit the “Eastern” stereotype.

  5. The other problem is that lumping all western countries together does not work either. Even doing a direct comparison between larger countries and one particular Asian country isn’t effective as some countries (like the U.S.) vary widely based on region. The U.S. is broken into 4 distinct sections with different tendencies in each.Overall, this represents stereotypes pretty well, but it’s misleading for a lot of countries. A better resource for cultural comparison is the book “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands” which does a country by country comparison of all of the types of things graphically represented above. It’s not as simplistic, but it’s more informative.

  6. I think that when viewing these pictures, one should be advised to understand the artist is of Chinese origin and was relocated to Germany as she was growing up. Notice how in the “perception of each other picture, the red side sees the blue as beer drinking, sausage eaters; two very distinct German persona’s. I love the punctuality piece, I’m American and I wish I could be late to appointments 5-10 minutes with no negative repercussions.

  7. this is a wierd way of presenting but effective, but unfortunatly for the work im doing, id prefer script on a peice of paper but welldone! A+

  8. Honestly I’m rather offended. I don’t see the lumping of huge numbers of people into over-simplified groups as a particularly clever or good thing to do. I’m particularly bothered by the representations of easterners as short or small, or the pictures suggesting easterners are less logical. The fact that this work was done by an asian does not make it any less degrading.

  9. I don’t see the “Me” comment as making any comment about the size of the person. I see it talking about the person’s perception of self. In essence, it’s showing that westerners tend to be more self-absorbed, while easterners tend to be less concerned about themselves. I’m an American, and I have found this to be very true among the people in both groups that I know.Actually, I think that these images do a good job of showing both cultures in a fair way.

  10. As a Euro-American dating a Chinese raised American… this represents ourselves perfectly. ha.Both of us jostle each other for thinking like these cards. Very interesting!

  11. Things that are new shows the blue side seeing something new and viewing it from afar perhaps with a little bit of fear or apprehension… whereas the red side embraces the new thing/object and picks it up to examine it closely. They are not afraid.

  12. will there ever be a meeting point of these diverse ways of living.these two opposites can be complimentary to each other in finding solution to the problems of the world.east vs west has never concluded who is the best

  13. “Things That Are New” comment:When Westerners see something new the first question (in English) is, “What is that?” but in Chinese the question is, “How do you cook it?”
    In the West our relationship to the world around begins in abstraction, “what is that thing – independent of all other things, able to exist in the absence of all the other phenomena I am seeing with it?”
    But in the East Asian world, the first consideration is a relational one: what is my relationship to the events occurring around me and how to I harmonize with them? That is, how do I work with, of what use is, that object in the picture; hence the holding in the picture.

  14. In response to:”Honestly I’m rather offended. I don’t see the lumping of huge numbers of people into over-simplified groups as a particularly clever or good thing to do. I’m particularly bothered by the representations of easterners as short or small, or the pictures suggesting easterners are less logical. The fact that this work was done by an asian does not make it any less degrading.”
    Wah. Get over yourself. Laugh a little and enjoy the differences between everyone’s cultures.

  15. I love the commentary on the differences of culture. I am an educator and feel this may be useful for my students when we cover the Asian culture.

  16. I loved this. I didn’t, as an earlier comment stated, think the people sizes referred to actual sizes, but how important we perceive ourselves in the group. Wasn’t that obvious? Anyway, I’ve lived in Egypt for about a year and a half, and this really works for the cultural differences between the US and Egypt as well. I Stumbled this, and got my attention enough for me to add you to my RSS, thanks!

  17. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. It has little relevance in real life and advances the destructive notion of a clash of civilizations. Many of us live between, across, and through these ‘divisions.’Maybe this model would work in the 19th century (although I even doubt that) but in the age of globalization it is false and empirically invalid.
    Worth a laugh though… and maybe that is what is is intended for. I am sure it is meant for a western audience… in spite of its author being “a Chinese” (whatever that is).

  18. I agree with most of the info here, its a bit extreme but works.But I did not get the logic of ‘Shower timing’, it should be other way around. This is form my experience living in both locations.

  19. I’d say the “Things that are new” images are depicting one of two things.a. Asians are quicker to accept new things than Westerners.
    Or
    b. Asians are quicker to steal new things they find along the way and claim them as their own.

  20. i want to say that you don’t differentiate western culture and eastern but you bring out western culture good to see but there are also some bad and good thing everywhere i don’t know whether you are western or eastern but i thing you rather don’t write good about eastern.

  21. @Ivy Ng, these are the highest res images I have. I suggest you refer to the author’s book for your project.@Saurabh, Prakash, BILLBALL, thanks for your remarks.

  22. Hi, need this in my project also.Please send me the original sources if you do have one.
    Appreciate your help.
    Thanks a lot~
    nice to meet you~

  23. Namaste to all my west friends who beelive above shown is reality!You really have myths about East. It includes one of the oldest civilization of world. It has diversity in every field from flaura and fauna to pupil living. Its literature n music are world wide famous. Even you at your home listern only eastern music.

  24. Interesting to read the comments. The author of the graphics is Liu Young and you can reach the original set by googling her name. I have shown these pictures in presentations with people from all over the world, to spark discussion on topics about cultural adjustment to Canada. Usually the pictures give people words to describe the frustration, confusion or embarrassment they feel having to accommodate to new culture. In a recent presentation to a group of Middle Eastern students there was much quiet laughter, an acknowledgment that yes, there were great differences to get used to, and it provided a foundation for good discussion. Yes, the slides are simple and use stereotypes, but if you look at the slides as presenting one person’s view, ask simply, does this resonate with you?, they are a wonderful resource for discussions on culture.

  25. Those vivid pictures really impress me quite a lot!!I’m student from China. And I think most of them represent correctly what we do in contrast to what people are doing in Germany.

  26. Some of items is right, some of them are not and a couple of them are totaly wrong(i.e. restaurant) but all of them show the existing eryotypes. Let forget them and try to know each other in a new interactive way , in firs decade of 21 century.

  27. I am not German, but live in Germany. I recognise a good deal of the German behaviours, but I think many of them will be German rather than Western. For example for Transportation, Stomach Ache, Three Meals a Day, or Punctuality I have observed exactly what is pictured here, but it is not like that in France or the UK. Similarly I suspect that there will be differences between different asian ciltures, and these are not wholly representative. BUT, as a simple way of explaining the differences they are excellent.

  28. Extremly stereotypical. This is the reason why wars exist:) But funny nevertheless. Explaining Western Ego in a perfect sense. People are the same, that’s what we all tend to fail to see. haha.. oh well..

  29. I am a German living in Thailand, and I can recognize many of my own experiences of the cultural differences between ‘East’ and ‘West’.Those pictogramms are simplifications, but I think they are quite cleverly made. They are easy to understand (well, most of them), and they invite to think about your own culture, and how you perceive the other.
    Are they degrading either the ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’ way of seeing the world? I don’t think so … but they show some (fundamental) differences in thinking that both have strengths and weaknesses … if you like slamming those pics because they degrade either one side, perhaps you should start asking yourself how open to other cultures you are … 🙂

  30. About the restaurant. You may consider a normal Chinese restaurant for Chinese as a pub for American. People go there are not just for food, they go there to hang out, chat and drink, so it explains why sometimes a group at a table can last a few hours. But it also depends on what kind of style the restaurant is.

  31. looksome of these information true but the other is false
    so please dont laugh about other people and other cultures

  32. I cant agree to some of the pictures regarding the west, because the western countries differ a lot, it may apply to one country but not to others.I’ve been living in Asia for quite sometime now,at first its hard to adopt, but as soon as I became part of their society I am starting to value it! Marrying an Asian brought me to a new world.
    I was impressed with their value of relationship, although it may differ in movements and terms, but it ends up valuing and respecting one another. Its really fun staying at a resto for two hours just talking bout not so important stuffs, just for fun.
    I agree with ANGER, they are one of the happiest people, even though they suffer many disasters in a year and a still striving economy, but I think one reason behind it is their faith to their religions.
    With regards to shower time, I have another opinion, most people I encounter here shower twice a day…in the morning, and then at night.
    They have many differences, but they end up at the same point(using different paths).

  33. hi,i agree with those pictures.i like the way that your friend explain about the topic.this pictures will useful for the project items.hello to all who they are opening this page.

  34. Excellent pictorial representation. However some follow stereotypes…I dont agree with all, but they raise a debate in a unique manner. 🙂

  35. When our world becomes more boundless, we can communicate with many countries around the world. So, the changing of the culture has happened between the western and the eastern in many ways. In my view, I classify the way of copying the culture from the western into two types. The first is advantages and the second is disadvantages.First, I divide the advantages into two parts. First part of advantages in the harder work. The western people spend on the time with their work more than eastern. The next is the education. The western people concern about the improving of their country by the education process.
    Second, I divide the disadvantages into two parts. First part of disadvantages is the sex. They show their love in the public. For example, kissing hugging, and others. The way of eating. They always eat fastfood as their main meals. That are why get fatter than the eastern people.
    In conclusion, we need to think before copying their culture because there are advantages and disadvantages from the western culture. We should choose the advantages to apply with yourself life.
    PTE51201507

  36. I think both are very good and differents from people who beleive in… i love all between west culture and Asian culture/

  37. I’m British, live on an island, seems to me we might have lot more in common with the Japanese than many other landlocked nations or continents. When Japan was our ally in WW1, they modelled their navy (with our help)on ours and with no apparent problems (a navy is very complex not like a ship. Also I believe they are very good at swearing as are the English!Also I disagree with linear and lateral thinking; I mean how do we know how we think? We do not know that these thinking patterns are and therefore cannot be quantified. However,I believe logical thinking has been quantified to some extent but I’m not sure. Nevertheless the Japanese peoples also think logically. Hope I’ve made myself clear?

  38. I think this is very true. as I live in America now, I find so many different things. there have good things and bad things on both sides. what I need to do is just to adjust to the enviroment

  39. I was just wondering what is the exact year you’ve been in China, and I do think the manner and situation has been grately improved in China. It is a tough task since you have never lived in a country of 13 hundred million population , you would never know how hard it is.

  40. totally nonsense !i was born in au,at the moment living in beijing , reckon the author just take a guess.

  41. This information is very useful for spoken. I usually use this every term to different groups of students. The comparison is good except to other perspectives. As one of the Asians, WE do not use chopsticks in our country. Since 2 western countries colonized my country hundred years ago, people in my country are well-influenced by the western culture. First, we use chopsticks in Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants only. Second, we take a shower every morning or during daytime, we drink beer and sausages. Third, we always have queue every time like in fast-foods, paying bills even in the toilet. Elders do not abuse being one of the elders because there is special queue for them. Fourth, we dont eat with loud noise, this is disrespect to the food on the table. Last but not the least, we love soda or softdrinks, there are 4 different cola company in my country.

  42. It’s cool, but some of the blue points are very German-centric (e.g queuing or puncutality) and wouldn’t apply to other western cultures at all (e.g. Italy or France).

  43. this just explains the big diffrences and it’s obvious it may vary for each country just because it doens’t aplly for you country doens’t mean it’s nonsence

  44. Wow, thanks for sharing these. I’m an American living in China. These are quite accurate of US and China Culture. I’m leaning to accept that the people here don’t get in a line to order food or other items. I’m going to share these differences in my classes.

  45. Hello…. It’s the reason of many documentary… however I think there are mistakes on the “punctuality” and on “queue when waiting”. It should be opposites…. did you hear about “British punctuality”? and what about the episode which took place in Japan involving nuclear energy and earthquake? That time people was waiting religiously in line, in queue… not as we have in the American continent, for example…. Anyway, congratulations for this job of study our differences… I believe it is interesting and can help us to learn more about the people and about ourselves.

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