In Conversation with Siyu Cao
My name is Siyu, a visual designer who also likes to write. I was born and raised in Beijing, and I’ve lived in the US, the UK and currently in France for the past 10 years. I started drawing Tiny Eyes Comics two years ago as a way to explore and share Chinese culture through everyday stories.
What absolutely excites you right now? — Thinking about the Chinese hotpot I’m going to share with my friends this evening.
When you get home, what’s the first thing you usually do? — Boil water.
What does it mean to be an ABC? — To me, it means to be someone who identifies with multiple cultures, understand the “cultural codes” in each context, and be able to switch perspectives between them.
How does being an ABC shape the way you think of your relationships?— It allows me to have more empathy and less judgement towards people that I meet, the experience of living in multiple cultures allows me to see things from others’ perspectives, thus being more “understanding”. It also makes me realise how we tend to consciously or unconsciously take the arbitrariness of our own culture as the “standard”, against which we judge others.
What are some of the blessings that come with being an ABC? — It’s been a very rich experience for me to have lived in multiple cultures. Sometimes it feels like living multiple lives. Being an ABC also allows me to be more flexible and adaptive in new environments.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced as an ABC? — Not able to fully express my multiple identities in one place. Moving from places to places makes it harder to maintain long-lasting relationships.
Cultural identify and upbringing is a great way to start deeper conversations. Why do you think most people engage or disengage with these topics? — Most people that I’ve met enjoy talking about their upbringing and tell their stories (unless they have a tragic past that they try to avoid bringing up). One in every thirty people now live outside their country of birth (data from 2017), and the topic of upbringing and identity has become increasingly relevant to lots of people. It’s also a more personal and interesting way of introducing oneself. Everyone has a story to tell, and every story is different.
What is the driving force in your life? — Curiosity. Creation. Connection. I found endless joy in learning and discovering, about cultures, people, places…which then inspires me to create. Since I started drawing Tiny Eyes Comics, my biggest motivation has come from making connections with my readers. I love sharing my stories and listening to theirs. It’s almost like we get to meet each other through these stories. I’d love to continue building bridges between cultures so that we can visit and talk to our “foreign” neighbours without fear.
What is a book, tv show or podcast that you think people definitely need to get into and why? — “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin. I wrote a recommendation on my Instagram account (Tiny Eyes Reads No.3). Even though categorized as science fiction, this book touches upon so many subjects: civilizations, humanity, politics, religion, anthropology, sociology, morality…It makes me rethink about culture on a different scale and our position as human in this universe. It’s really mind-blowing.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your previous self? — Remember why you are doing what you are doing, and keep showing up.