Some ramblings on culture

Confused of Calcutta had a great post on cultural differences some weeks back. In it JP references this post: http://www.adinochang.com/archives/chinese-culture-versus-german-culture.html. Follow the blog comments and you’ll find a similar lighthearted comparison of Italy and the EU (by which presumably they mean Northern Europe) http://www.lifeinitaly.com/flash/

Do check these 3 links out – they are fun and can teach you a think or two.

In my case I am half English/half Greek. I was born and grew up in England with the exception of a few years in Greece. Though when I say “half Greek” I should clarify: My mother grew up in Alexandria in Egypt and moved to England in her late teens. So her (and therefore my) view of what it is to be Greek is based on a version of Greece that probably diverged from mainstream Greek culture a century ago. Still – growing up in England in a household that frowned on going to the pub and getting drunk (in some versions of Greece, young people will stay up all night eating ice cream, seriously) made me feel like something of an outsider for a great part of my life.

Which is why I enjoy these cultural comparisons so much, I suppose. Because they help teach me about my own culture(s) as much as about other culture(s). For example I identify with a lot of the “Chinese” cultural elements in Adino’s post, particularly around the significance of the family, but in other respects I am much more “German”. These kinds of jokey stereotypes help crystallise some important cultural points.

So far so rambling, but there is something here about technology and business.

To date, “globalisation” has essentially meant the spread of North American firms and culture. But there is no way that this flow of globalisation can continue one-way. According to the BBC here it is expected that within 2 years there will be more internet users in China than in the USA. So not only does it make sense for westerners to make more efforts to understand cultural differences, but westerners shouldn’t be surprised if what passes for “normal” on the internet in China becomes more dominant globally. Perhaps the next generation of internet sites will look more like TaoBao than eBay.

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