East Meets West As Shown In Pictograms
Released in German back in 2007, East meets West is a book written by Chinese designer Yang Liu who moved from Beijing to Berlin at the age of 13. And like most people who move from one culture to a totally different one, Liu experienced a cultural shock. It took her a while before accustoming herself with the European way of being, and then she released this book of pictograms, making the difference between East and West. In 2015, East meets West was also published in English.
Right in the beginning of the book, Liu writes about her challenges when she first moved to Berlin, talking in some detail about the challenges of understanding and getting used to different social customs and basic ways of thinking.
“There were countless times when I was variously confused, surprised, annoyed and shocked,” she writes, “or when I simply had to laugh. Only years later was I able to see and understand many of these situations from both sides.”
Over the years, she made sketches that highlighted the biggest differences between the two cultures. She then turned those sketches into pictograms with red standing for China and blue representing Germany. This is where East meets West, literally.
“With my personal visual diary, I hope to help other people avoid some of the stumbling blocks to communication between cultures,” Liu writes, “and make it easier for them to arrive at the essence of communication—the exchange between individuals—as far as possible without misunderstandings.”
It’s interesting to see these differences through the lens of someone who has been part of both cultures. Because, in the end, each culture has its own specific way of interpreting things that happen before their eyes, made that way by the countless of generations that were before. So, many things that a group of people see as ‘normal’, can and will be seen by others as, well, ‘abnormal’. These are the exact types of things that different cultures disagree upon, and showing them through pictograms is really a great idea.
Now, even though these pictograms don’t talk about the details and nuances of the differences between East and West, they do, however, paint a pretty good picture for the uninitiated. In any case, Liu’s work has received countless praise from people living in China, the US, Iran, India, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and many other parts of the world. From places that show “how many people are grappling acutely with the same questions in our global age.”