Cultural Cringe


When I grew up in the UK in the 60s and 70s, I remember British people complaining about the spread of American culture. In those days, we said “Hello” not “Hi”, we were corrected from saying “Yeah” instead of “Yes” and only the most rebellious kids got away with wearing baseball caps! Former Beatle, Paul McCartney tells a funny story of singing “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” for the first time to his old fashioned Dad who said he liked the song but complained about the invasion of Americanism into UK popular culture and suggested he change the lyrics to “She loves you, yes, yes, yes”! 50 years later, American culture is so ingrained into everyone else’s culture that we hardly notice. 

In the 1980s, western corporate executives read books about Japanese business culture and studied the management techniques of Japan’s largest companies, Sony, Toyota, Panasonic and Canon, for clues as to how to make friends and influence people in a foreign Asian culture. Much of this was forgotten when Japan’s economy crashed in the early 1990s.

And now we have the rise of China, and the spread of Chinese culture (not just business culture), which seems to attract the worst forms of xenophobia and fear despite being based on the teachings of peaceful and thoughtful scholars like Confucious, Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu whose book “The Art of War” has been a best selling book for over 2,500 years. We have such short memories these days!

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