The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

East Doesn’t Meet West …
November 14, 2007, 6:45 am
Filed under: Comment

A client sent me some wonderful pictures [which I’ve knocked up into a bit of a preso] that demonstrates some of the fundamental differences between Western and Asian culture.

Unfortunately I don’t know where the images originate from so can’t acknowledge copyright – however all the icons were created by the talented Liu Young – a Chinese born, German educated designer!

Admittedly there’s alot of generalisation, but it’s still bloody great and I’d be interested to hear from anyone in the West about what things surprised or shocked them in this cultural comparison.

27 Comments so far
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Hey, everything alright, matey?
The graphic is nicely done, really like it. Though I can find nothing that really shocks me but some things that surprise me. I would have thought that punctuality applies to the Asian culture as well but that’s maybe the problem of the generalisation. I think that as in the Western world there are differences between countries. The people in Germany and Japan may be punctual whereas people in France (sorry, any French around here) or Thailand may find time not that appealing.
The contact (or networking) bit I think is not a cultural phenomenon but depends on the character of each individual.

Nonetheless in many things I find something that I really like about Western culture (and that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Asian culture, the opposite, I find it amazingly interesting). That you have an opinion and you can tell it straight, that you don’t smile when everything is bad or going wrong, that you don’t try to navigate around problems but handle them and that you don’t take fucking pictures of everything (that’s a joke actually).
Though I really like the high status of the family and old people in Asian culture (but again, if you look into Italian or Spanish culture you can find the same).

And for the streets on a sunday, that guy has never been around Oxford Street. Nonetheless it’s charming. Like it.

Sorry for the f-word Mrs. Campbell and happy belated birthday from London. 🙂

Comment by Seb

Hello Seb – how the hell are you? Hope all is tops.

As I said in the preso, there’s quite alot of generalisation – and of course there are exceptions to the rule as well as cross country variants – however having lived outside of Europe for a few years now, I can see the differences far more clearly and obviously than I otherwise would have.

That’s not saying you’re wrong obviously, but maybe because I have a frame of reference from both sides of the ‘global fence’ they are more pronounced to me than memories garnered from media and limited exposure.

God I sound a prick there don’t I … sorry Seb, I don’t mean it that way at all …

Comment by Rob

No, no. As I said on flickr, you are a muppetish prick. By the way today the lovely people at Wieden+Kennedy told us that we can stay one month longer if we like (to finish our ongoing projects). Nice, huh? By the way, know if you’re coming to UK?

Comment by Seb

Hello Rob, what a wonderful presentation this is. To be fair to Seb, I didn’t find too much too different to what I expected but that could be because you’ve told me all about it rather than me being an incredibly Worldly person 🙂
The charts that did surprise me were the punctuality, party and contacts but all for different reasons. And can you tell me if the “problem” chart means they overcome issues or simply ignore them.
Thanks for this, it’s really good and I’m going to test it on a few of my friends and clients to see how small minded they are 🙂

Comment by Pete

great graphics but they missed another massive difference between east and west

western women

asian woman

bet that gets the chicks knickers in a twist 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

I shouldn’t laugh – I should call you a sexist bastard who deserves a good kicking – but that is fucking hilarious!

Comment by Rob

Oh and Pete … the answer – well the generalised answer – is that when major problems or issues occur, many of the people in Asia simply ignore them [or just carry on regardless] as opposed to trying to fundamentally overcome them.

That is an incredibly generalised view though – and certainly certain countries are worse offenders than others. If I take somewhere like Vietnam, the reality is that culturally they are one of the most ingenious in the World [hell, they came out on top after 1000 years of war against amazing odds] whereas somewhere like Singapore tends to not have as much ‘inbuilt’ ingenuinty driven by both the cultural development of the last 40 years [a fear society where you do as you are told] and a one dimensional education system where you ‘remember’ rather than ‘learn’.

Does that help?

Finally Seb – I’m waiting on some dates but I hope it’ll be before Christmas and I can assure you when I know, you will too. And congrats on the extention of your WK assingment – it’s nice to see you’re continuing the advertising trend of not delivering on time, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

I like the idea of elder members of families being given more respect and involvement. Doubt we’ll ever get there though, with the young usually thinking the least of the elderly, while also being the people everyone listens to.

I swear the government makes a bigger effort to hear the opinions of the kids on Newsround than anyone else.

Comment by Dave Mortimer

Sorry Dave, I’d love to take on this “respecting the elders” issue you’ve raised but my boss has just made the best blog comment ever and he needs praising before his wife kicks him in the balls.

I wonder if its coincidence that the “O versus .” could also represent the size of Andy versus the average man 🙂

I’m so fucking dead now 🙂

Comment by Billy Whizz

Great presentation Rob! And the only things that surprised me were the Party and the Weather, only ‘cos I never really think about those things as a way of ‘categorising’ people.

It’s funny, when i was in Europe, I didn’t realise how much my life and my way of thinking is influenced by the Asian (especially south east) way of thinking until I didn’t really have it and I craved it.

It’s interesting that humour isn’t represented in that list of things, because I think it’s certainly an important aspect of cultural identity and the warped Asian sense of humour is one that I definitely missed while being away.

Comment by lauren

Theres something really nice about having a meal with my (new) family. The way things are all shared rather than individualised seems a tiny difference but it actually makes things very different.

The respect for elders is something kids are taught from a very young age; they learn to respect them. It doesnt happen here because kids are very rarely taught that.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Andy, wash you mouth out with soap.


Comment by Marcus Brown

Oh yes, lovely way of delivering this. Can’t say I’m too surprised by most of this…BUT

I got interested in some stuff about differences in men and women the other day. While SOME of the generalisations apply, there’s a growing consensus that the differences WITHIN the sexes sort of make the generalisations redundant. I wonder if some of that thinking may apply to west and east.
Maybe I’m just saying that to convince myself I can’t have anything in common with a US republican…or an Aqua fan.

Comment by NP

Well yes, it would be naive to think every person from the East or West fits rigidly with these ideas. But as an overall consesus they are very useful.

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thinking about hot to get the word “toptastic” into the copy for the Christmas card of a big German fashion company I am freelancing for to be able to pay London.
What do I get if I actually manage to do this?

Comment by Seb

You get lynched Seb!

Comment by John

David Lynched?

Comment by Seb

Okay. Has been send to clien.
Let’s see what happens…

Comment by Seb

Oh and Andy, actually there is a comparison between Western and Asian women. As you can see on the first picture on the website. Obviously Yang Liu did a whole book about it.

Comment by Seb

Isn’t it just their reaction to him?

Comment by John

No I think it is about the beauty ideal of the Western and Asian women. Western all want to be tanned, Asian pale. Really?

Comment by Seb

I was shocked to see face whitening cream in HK.
Supposedly its because dark skin implies you work doing manual labour in fields in the sun.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

You’re right Rob Mortimer, having skin that isn’t white in Asia signifies you or your ancestors worked in the fields which roughly translates to coming from peasants or secondary class citizens.
In a region that survives on legend and subliminal meaning, it’s a terrible trait to be burdened with which is why “skin paint” is such an enormous business.

Comment by Lee Hill

It is a shame, so much of Chinese culture is truly fascinating. It is really useful having a wife who I can ask all these questions to though.

It is amazing how much a culture can truly crave luck and lucky symbols as well.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

how come i dont find all this cultural stuff a load of wank when one of my clients is saying it?

after much consideration lee, i have decided george was right, it is best you dont come back here. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

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