Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blog # 9 East vs. West, South vs. North.

World Map, English Version

World Map, Chinese Version
 Can you tell the “surface” and “hidden” difference between the two world maps above? Of course they are in different language: English and Chinese, but the in-depth implication of these maps is the different ways we view the world based on where we are.

The entire childhood, I was exposed to the second map, and used to wonder why Asia is called the “east” or “orient” when obviously in the map, we are in the central part of the world!  (The name “China” literally means “the central kingdom” in Chinese language. Ethnocentrism!)   In high school and college, along with the learning of English as the second language, I started to tap into more topics and discussions of “East & West”.  I learned that the west and east cultures differ in so many ways from greeting, conversation, eating habit, dressing style, facial expression, to the social norm, political opinion, religion, and the value system, that when east meets west, there is a “culture shock”.  For example, China has a collectivist culture which emphasizes the benefit of people as a group, when necessary, people choose to sacrifice the individual for the group goal.  However in the U.S., individual freedom and rights is the main focus of the culture, any harm to individual right is the violation of “human rights”.
“South” and “north” is another pair of interesting concepts. We assume people from the same country are identical, but within this country, there is always regional diversity, in which “south” and “north” are commonly involved.  In China, although the geographical divide between south and north is Qinling Mountain and Huaihe River, the definition of “southerners” and “northerners” could be relatively different, I, as a Beijinger, was referred as “northerner” by people from Shanghai, but “southerner” by people from northeast China.  The “northerners” and “southerners” have all sort of stereotypes and prejudice to each other, just like in the United States.  I used to have 2 Indian families as my neighbors, from them I learned there is “south” and “north” in India too.
Geography encompasses with ethnicity and race, language, religion and socioeconomic status.  “Where are you from” decides your accent, lifestyle, religion, as well as your understanding of other regions and cultures.  It is easy to cross the geographic borders of north, south, west and east, but hard to pass the borders across people’s minds.

1 comment:

  1. Xiaoyan, Another wonderful post. I'd say not only where one comes from, but also where one has been, determine this person’s thinking, mannerism, lifestyle, religion, etc.