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The difference between the East and the West in pictures

February 8, 2008

yangliu.jpgThe designs in this post are made by a Chinese designer living in Germany, Yang Liu and I got hold of them from Lonnie’s post. He in turn got them from Adino Chang‘s post. These pictures were part of an art exhibition held in Germany in June 2007. The picture captions are in very tiny writing on the top left hand side, and I have mentioned some of these.

I found these pictures brilliant, as they explain the differences between the East and West in a way that words never could. Although Yang Liu orginally made them to show the differences between Germany (where she lives) and China, Germany could easily be the West and China could represent the East. At times I have used the term West instead of Germany and East instead of China, but this may not necessarily be so. Quite a few of the pictures used to represent China could represent the Indian way of life pretty well.

It is important to remember that Yang Liu made it a point to say that these pictures are not meant to show that any one culture is superior to another. They simply show the differences.

Here goes then. Let’s start with punctuality. The Blue represents Germany and the Red – China. We don’t have to think very hard here…we know that in India we are like the Chinese!


The next picture represents how the different societies view the Boss. In China the Boss is all important…and in India too.


This is the different approach to problem solving…


This next one concerns transport. The motor car is the main mode of transport in the West and the cycle is secondary. It’s the opposite in China. In India one can add the scooter/motorcycle as well, after the cycle. During a visit to four cities in China I observed that the common man’s vehicle was the cycle and to a large extent public transport systems like the bus and the train. Here in India too this is the case although we do not have as good a public transport system. The reason why two wheelers proliferate.


This one is on queues and I think we in India definitely fall into the red square! πŸ™‚


How is this for levels of noise in restaurants? I think in India we are in the red square!


The next picture shows the attitude towards the weather. Rain or shine, it is accepted by Easterners with a smile. At the worst accepted in a non-committal manner.


This next one is titled Sunday on the Street and crowds are what we see…similar to India.


Chinese, or rather, most Eastern societies are into strong community ties. The picture is titled ‘Way of Life’.


One’s view of Oneself would naturally follow from the above (way of life)…or is it the other way around? The importance of the Self is what leads to a greater isolation? Food for thought.


This one about social networking is very interesting!


The following picture illustrates the life of the elderly. In the West people tend to spend their old age alone, but in Eastern societies, they have the company of their grandchildren.


In fact in Eastern societies, the child is lucky is the centre of the universe of not just his parents but also his grandparents.


This one shows anger. The picture shows that Westerners (or just Germans?) tend to express their anger while the Chinese don’t. I think India is different from China here. Indians tend to express their emotions freely, whether it’s anger or joy.


The next picture shows what the West thinks of China (blue square) and what China thinks of the West (red square). China’s view of the west = cowboys (?), sausages and beer!


I put together some random pics to illustrate what the West thinks of India (blue square) and what India thinks of the west (red square).


Related Reading: Cultural Differences between the East and the West

41 Comments leave one →
  1. wishtobeanon permalink
    February 8, 2008 1:32 am

    Nice one! The last one added by you is interesting too! πŸ™‚

  2. February 8, 2008 2:09 am

    @Nita: You forgot elephants and snake charmers. And this is not an urban legend. Someone has actually said this to me! (I am unsure if it was his idea of being witty).

  3. February 8, 2008 2:11 am

    These are brilliant, Nita – so thanks for posting them.
    I find it quite close to the truth – in your last illustration of how Westerners think of India, and how people in india think of us. Very instructive! G

  4. February 8, 2008 4:19 am

    Interesting Nita.

    Punctuality – Only Europeans are the best. Best example would be their public transport.

    West (Pommies, Aussies and Americans)- Just a bit better than India and China.

    In the street picture representing India, we need to have some cows and elephants. πŸ™‚

  5. February 8, 2008 5:40 am

    this is damn interesting
    having someone close in europe and seeing their life
    i think u have done a good job and pretty much nailed it
    on the adsl n stuff chk ur mail

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    February 8, 2008 5:52 am


    Very interesting; though I agree with DD. The elephants and snake charmers stereotype still persists. The social networking diagram seems a bit too charitable to the West. Of course this is the perception of a person from Oriental roots.

    Obsession with punctuality is really a Germanic (and to some extent English) rather than a pan-European characteristic. The rest of them — particularly in the Mediterranean cultures, are not too different from the Chinese or the Indians.

    I find your own contribution a bit too simplified. And the way I perceive the average Indian’s perception of the west, The colour scheme of the girl’s bikini vis-a-vis her skin needs to be flipped πŸ™‚

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    February 8, 2008 6:03 am


    After posting the above I visited Lonnie’s and Adino Chang’s posts. They have a couple more which you seem to have excluded. And one of the responses to Chang’s post has a photograph of the original exhibition, where there are apparently no captions. I think your adding captions was a good idea. Some of the graphics would be incomprehensible without them (e.g. the one about noise levels in restaurants).

  8. February 8, 2008 6:21 am

    I like these a lot. Yours at the end too. πŸ˜€

  9. Guqin permalink
    February 8, 2008 7:33 am

    I like the transportation one the best! It shows the delusion of “progress”!

    Good job Nita!

  10. February 8, 2008 7:53 am

    Thanks everyone! Actually I did consider the snake charmer bit but I thought the perception was changing. Looks like I’m wrong! πŸ™‚ Perhaps like Prax said, I should have at least put in cows and elephants! Btw, Viivek, the girl is white, not black. The graphic was made like that but I know, it appears as if she is brown/black. I couldn’t get any other small enough picture or decent enough. πŸ˜‰
    Yes, that point about Germanic punctuality is right.

    p.s Vivek, the pictures do have captions (which I have now mentioned in the main post) on the top left hand side but they are not readable.

  11. Guqin permalink
    February 8, 2008 8:51 am


    You may have mis-intreprated the “Transport”. Notice the years under the objects? In 1970, the west has cars while China has only bikes. In 2006, China finally has cars, yet as an irony the west adopts to bikes for environmental reasons!

  12. February 8, 2008 9:18 am

    Gugin, True, China has cars, lots of them, but if you take it as a whole of China, where are the cars? We have to see the country as a whole, including rural areas, and bikes do predominate.

  13. February 8, 2008 9:41 am

    Brilliant stuff Nita… Did i Mention i agree to
    these depictions. Well after spending ten years in West from Australia to UK, US. I agree whole heartedly .

  14. Guqin permalink
    February 8, 2008 9:53 am


    The picture is about fashion but reality. Chinese people want cars today (what westerners already had for ages while Chinese people had only bikes), yet westerners have already moved one step ahead motivated with environmental conciousness and leisure (symbolized with bikes). It is like the west is already building green concious houses, yet China is FOOLISHLY buiding sky scrapers that are already cursed in the west.

    The picture is meant to be a self-criticism with a sense of humor to show how China is always one step behind.

  15. February 8, 2008 10:09 am

    Got this as a fwd mail…but it is so true!

    A pity isn’t it! One of the reasons I don’t like these forward mails is because they use material without giving credit where it is due. I just hope that if anyone ever forwards this to anyone, they mention Yang Liu!! – Nita.

  16. February 8, 2008 12:30 pm

    that was priya

    yes cows and elephants r imp also the kind of money the govt is spending on their india tourism campaign it would also be prudent to add some temples and coconut palms

  17. ulag permalink
    February 8, 2008 1:58 pm

    Wonderful post Nita! I really dont know what to say. Thanks for showcasing these pictures. Theyre so simple yet so effective in conveying the message it wants. In your own picture of how we perceive the west I think a pic of a sports car would have been appropriate. Most guys will tell you that one of the main things they admire are the cars there. Especially the sports cars zipping around at high speeds on their wide freeways/highways/autobahns, something thats still a long way off in India.

  18. February 8, 2008 1:59 pm

    Really nice one.. touching.. seriously no words to explain.. πŸ™‚

  19. Raj permalink
    February 8, 2008 5:24 pm


    Great post !
    But I disagree about the weather part though…I can accept rain and shine…but definitely not the swelter !


    Speaking about punctuality,let us not forget the one exception in the East . . . Japan !

  20. February 8, 2008 5:49 pm

    wow, this is interesting. I liked the last one too.

  21. iamvisheshur permalink
    February 8, 2008 7:22 pm


    east or best india is the best…lol πŸ˜›

  22. February 8, 2008 9:09 pm

    great stuff nita. I was initially surprised to see so many similarities between the portrayal of china vs. what I know of the indian culture. But then when you look at it as a “eastern” thing, maybe it is not that surprising.

    Btw, noise level in certain restaurants in US can be quite high.

  23. February 8, 2008 9:18 pm

    Wow, these are interesting. Thanks for sharing, Nita!

  24. February 8, 2008 9:40 pm

    kind of goes with the idea, grass is greener on the other side..for the east, west is the ultimate place to live in, great standard of living, great jobs, beautiful places.
    For the east, west is the next big thing, people stealing their jobs, full of people who can work for any amount of time, intelligent, and totally fit for a call center

  25. February 8, 2008 10:46 pm

    Thanks to all of you for your appreciation! And your suggestions! And let’s hope that all of us wherever we are try to give foreigners a holistic view of our country.

  26. February 9, 2008 10:57 am

    Great post. Perhaps the differences are because of the philosophy behind each.

    In eastern religious belief says everything is eternal,one has many lives, where eastern belief that there is not re-birth. So easterners have lots of time, where westerners have limited.

    Western philosophy say , be witness , just step out of the problem and problem is no more. Whereas the counterpart believes problem can be solved by finding its root.

  27. February 9, 2008 11:25 am

    Nita thanks a million!! They are just amazing, well u see lifezamazing!!
    thanks a lot for bringing them to us and yeah not to mention my highest regards for Yang Liu. Great work and very apt !!

  28. February 9, 2008 7:31 pm

    Canadians think only of two things – Booze and Sex. That B.S.
    btw this has been going around on emails for an year I guess. Always refreshing to re read it πŸ™‚ Have you see this video?
    Its the same about Italians, you’ll love (so similar to India)

  29. Raj permalink
    February 9, 2008 7:53 pm


    Thanks.That was a laugh riot πŸ˜€ After watching that,I think Italians belong to the sub-continent rather than Europe! πŸ™‚

  30. Ani permalink
    February 11, 2008 5:01 am

    Nice!! But i think the transport one represents how the west drove in cars in 1970’s but use cycles now, whereas in the east they rode on cycles in the 70’s and they drive cars now .. judging by the numbers underneath each pic…

  31. Padmini permalink
    February 11, 2008 5:56 am

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Nice pictures Nita. Like most readers, I liked the last one the best. Short and succint!

  32. February 11, 2008 3:21 pm

    Very interesting Nita.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  33. axinia permalink
    February 12, 2008 12:05 am

    I really enjoyed a lot!

    I used to work as an expert for Intercultual Communication and I can tell you – these pics are 100% true. Simply brilliant!!

    I also like the way you composed your own set of random pics – very true πŸ™‚ Would be intresting to make a new one in 5-10 Years, may be something will change?…

  34. February 12, 2008 8:02 am

    JV, MInal, Bland Spice, Padmini, Rambler, thanks.
    Priyank, thanks for the video link. πŸ™‚
    Axinia, I think some things have changed (Infosys pic wouldn’t have been there 10 years ago) and I do hope more will change! In fact I am sure it will.

  35. axinia permalink
    February 12, 2008 5:02 pm

    Nita, I have no doubts that thing will change with the Image of India (may be Bolliwood will come up big on the intrenational stage? πŸ™‚

    But actually I would be much interested in changes of the western Image among Indians…

  36. eetkreef permalink
    February 12, 2008 5:28 pm

    This is brilliant – i live in the middle east, and these images are very apt here too

  37. arlaede permalink
    February 16, 2008 2:05 am

    I really enjoyed this! Especially the part about the lines. I first visited India a few weeks ago and the line issue (and line jumping) surprised me!

  38. February 16, 2008 8:28 am

    Axinia, I am sure we are all moving towards a flatter world, which means more travel and a better understanding of other cultures. Stereotypes hopefully will fade,

    eetkreef, Arlaede, thanks. πŸ™‚

  39. February 16, 2008 7:35 pm

    cute design, also true! at my office people talk a lot about these differences, i am going to forward your post to them. thank you Nita!

    You are welcome Roberta! – Nita


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