|Not your familiar McDonald's...|
English class seems to be winding down a bit early in the game, with attendance dropping sharply. Students are stressed with papers to write and internships to complete. This has not, however, halted some fantastic presentations over the past two weeks. My education on American culture continues as ever it could…
Perhaps the most striking lesson of the week came from a project on the film The Social Network about Facebook and its illustrious founder. I watched this film, half drugged, on a flight back from
this Christmas season. I liked it. I found it insightful if not scathing. I really liked the presentation by my fellow French students, who revealed two major points on American culture that I never really reflected upon. Philadelphia
First, I got schooled on socialization in American schools. It is, apparently, a universally accepted position that nerds cannot talk to girls. I guess nerdy girls are condemned to a life of silence, in that case. But the ultimate social lesson was that “getting punched is typically American.” Spot on. I opted for contacts exactly for that reason.
Secondly, the students theorized about Facebook and its effects on the world. One student said that we have to think about the “Americanization of culture” and no longer the “spread of American culture.” I thought about it, and he had a good point going for him, here. I thought about the fact that nearly everyone in the class had a Facebook account and how they don’t really think of it as “American.” It’s in French, they communicate with their French friends, the applications are in French, etc. What about it would scream “American” to them?
When I see McDonald’s or Starbucks, I do think about the spread of American culture. But a closer look reveals that, honestly, McDonald’s and Starbucks are not the same here. It’s an oft-remarked observation by tourists. These institutions are not promoting the American portions or the same American flavors that are available in the
, for example. US
Ever try to find a pumpkin-spiced latte in November in
? Impossible. Paris
Instead, the local culture in these examples has been Americanized. But is it a French spin on American culture or an American spin on French establishments? Is Starbucks in
a “French café with an American twist” or an “American coffee shop with a Parisian twist”? It’s probably a mix of both. But it’s interesting to consider how thickly that veneer of American culture is applied over foreign cultures. Paris
While the influence of different cultures can be seen everywhere in Paris – German cars, Egyptian obelisks, Japanese sushi, Roman columns, British tea rooms – American is the superpower today that is nearly synonymous with globalization. Still, I always wonder if back in the first century A.D. if “Romanization” could have been coined for the same effect…
I often walk by the American Apparel store in my neighborhood and realize that I rarely see French girls dressed like girls in
who shopped at American Apparel. French girls go there, they buy things, but it’s not pure consumption of American culture. Are they Americanizing their Parisian wardrobe or Fenchifying a bit of American style? New York
Again, it’s a hen-or-the-egg question. I’m thinking, however, of how much influence
America does have culturally over other nations like . We always think that Americans are shoving culture down French peoples’ throats. But I sometimes wonder if the French are secretly hiding in their cheeks and then, when we’re not looking, they spit it out and cut off the fat to consume carefully and stylishly the parts they deem most worthy. France
After all, Parisians go to Starbucks but rarely take it to-go. Maybe they just like to change it up and have a caramel macchiato from time to time, but they still sit and enjoy it in the typical French fashion. Who can say?
Facebook is just another invention in the long history of inventions that has international appeal, but it doesn’t necessarily come with the same sort of force that
did after World War II. No one is forcing the French, this time, to embrace a bit of American culture, but they are consuming it and making their own. Hollywood
Is that still Americanization??