alanminlunwu

When East Meets West…

In Becoming ruminative in education on January 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM

3401885-east-meets-west--hot-dog-and-chopsticks-isolated-on-a-white-backgroundAs an international graduate student, I have had my fair share of cross-cultural experiences (some exuberant, some enigmatic and some frustrating) during my years of study in the USA.   When east meets west, there are bound to be sparks of conflict and also opportunities for mutual understanding.  Often times a lot of misunderstandings went unspoken because either party elected to speak up and find out why people acted the way they did.  Maybe some visualization of these cross cultural differences would help.

Visual designer, Yang Liu, did just that.   Over the past couple weeks, almost every friend of mine told me they had the chance to look at Yang Liu’s work on eastern and western cultural differences brought forth in simple shapes, symbolism and colors.  Me and my international graduate student friends pretty much resonated with every comparison of hers.  For a sneak peek, below is one example.

Picture Credit: Google Images

Picture Credit: Google Images

And the theme is “Complexity of Self-Expression” (I practically giggled upon seeing this), with blue representing the west and red the east.  The beat-around-the-bush fashion of self-expression is evident in how eastern culture people tend to talk, behave and write.  I vividly remembered being a junior undergraduate exchange student at Carleton University in Ottawa when I received written feedback from an Canadian professor who taught American literature.  His feedback was “Where’s the beef?” and I was speechless and clueless.  The matter of fact was, coming from an east Asian culture where students were commended for rote learning and trained to follow rules, I simply had no idea what “beef” was (both linguistically and figuratively in this context) and where I could find some, to enhance my writing skills.  After all, knowing how to write beef or beef up on things requires an dominant emphasis on cutting to the chase and critical thinking.  This comparison of Yang Liu’s rang some bells in me.

In my current classroom teaching to a group of young aspiring preservice teachers, I had the chance to share Yang Liu’s art work and expand on them to discuss the relevance of being open-minded, ambiguity-tolerant, and using cultural relevant pedagogy in an increasingly diverse classroom.  When east meets west, there is always a question mark but more importantly there is always room for developing understanding and reciprocity.

If you are interested in Yang Liu’s art work presented in an infographic, please click here.

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