There are many differences between China and Western cultures, from overall lifestyle to individual demeanor. The comic artist Tiny Eyes, aka Siyu, is chronicling them in her ongoing series of sequential art that highlights some of the things that she, as someone born and raised in Beijing, has experienced when communicating with people in the United States, France, and England. Through simple line drawings and a biting wit, she illustrates the impressions that the different cultures have of one another and their idiosyncrasies.
The comics about China and Western culture focus on the likes of food, familial relationships, and the assumptions we make about one another. In one two-panel drawing, Siyu highlights just how complicated French cutlery is when compared to Chinese utensils. In France, there are no less than eight forks, knives, and spoons needed to enjoy a meal, but in China, a pair of chopsticks will work for every course.
Another illustration comments on the dramatic differences in dorm life between England, the U.S., and China. Comprising three individuals, the British student is appalled that the American would have to share a dorm room with one person, while the Chinese student is amazed that the American only shares it with a single roommate. Of this comic, Siyu writes, “This lack of privacy must be shocking for some of you, but in a country with 1.3 billion population, space is always a problem.” While inconvenient, sharing a room with five other people helped her learn about “communication, responsibilities, and tolerance.”
Although originally from China, Siyu has spent the last 10 years abroad, through studying, working, and simply traveling. “Many people that I met were curious about China,” she explains, “but their impressions of China would end up with words like ‘communist,’ ‘pollution’ and ‘no Facebook.’ While many facts are true, the contemporary, living and multifaceted Chinese life [are] rarely heard of.” The Tiny Eyes comics are her way of sharing Chinese culture through the lens of everyday life. “To me, learning about other cultures has always been a fun experience, and I want to pass this feeling to people who are curious about China.”
In comics about China and Western culture, artist Tiny Eyes, aka Siyu, shares her observations between them. (Including writing.)
Some are related to food…
“Chinese people love their food, they spend lots of time savoring and enjoying their meals. Food is not just “fuel” for the body, but a pleasure, an art, and a way of socializing. If you want to make friends, go eat. If you want to close a business deal, go eat. If you want to pursue a romantic relationship, go eat. Since ancient times, food has been considered priority in Chinese culture. The government’s goal was to make sure that each person is taken care of and “has enough to eat”. From another angle, it also suggests the realistic character of Chinese: food goes before ideas, and this life is more important than the afterlife.”
… while others point to overall differences in demeanor.
“I’ve experienced student dormitories in three countries: In the U.K. I have my own private room with shared public space; In the U.S. I shared my dorm with one roommate; In China, I used to live with 5 girls in the same room. This lack of privacy must be shocking for some of you, but in a country with 1.3 billion population, space is always a problem. While there are many inconveniences not having enough private space, on the bright side, sharing a room with someone also makes you learn quite a deal about communication, responsibilities, and tolerance.”
“‘Beijing Bikini' is a term used by non-Chinese to describe a grownup man who rolls up their shirt and reveal their bellies in summer. (warning: what you see is usually bulging tummies instead of a six-pack. ) Even though it's frowned upon by many people, these men are not ashamed of it at all. For them, it's just a practical way to get cooler when you don't have air conditioning, so what's the big deal?”
“It's hard for Chinese to directly express their love to their families and friends. Instead of saying love, we show care to the health of people we love, ask them if everything goes well, and buy nice things to make their life more comfortable. In history, Confucius enforced social orders by putting people in different relations/obligations, but the expression of personal feelings was never encouraged. Emotions need to be under control. How do you show people that you care about them?”
Tiny Eyes: Website | Instagram
My Modern Met granted permission to use images by Tiny Eyes.
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