Foreigners: What Does it Mean When You Say That American Culture Has Saturated Yours?

I have been to Europe many times and a few other exotic locations as well. Milan has the most McDonald’s locations I have noticed anywhere. I recently went to Ottawa, Ontario Canada and I’ll be damned if it was only the subtle things that let me know I was in a foreign country. My 5 year old couldn’t comprehend the idea at all.

I hear Americans have no real culture yet our cultural exports are criticized for taking over the world.

My question is what that means in daily life. Do you watch American TV 2 hours a day? Do you watch American movies once a week? How does this fit into your life and what does it mean for the average person in your locale?

I honestly don’t know except that I have seen long lines for American movies in France and a number of McDonald’s in Paris as well.

Is it good or bad to you?

Kripsie Kremes and Starbucks on every corner in Seoul. Plus entire cable channels devoted to American TV dramas. (Not that I mind.)

My undergrad school was know for its nationalistic tendencies, and when Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts came onto campus that was the last straw for a lot of people. (It wasn’t just that though - the building had originally been promised as a study space for undergrads, but at the last minute it was sold to some big corporation, so naturally the students were upset, but the fact that it was being taken over by American companies made it worse.) There were a lot of demonstrations, and someone even shattered the windows. Unfortunately, too many students were thrilled at the idea of Starbucks on campus for the protests to have any real meaning.

McDonalds, Subway sandwiches, and Starbucks everywhere, for one.

Also, American spellings are increasingly showing up here because most people us MS Office to type letters and documents etc, and the default spelling is- you guessed it- American spelling. As I’ve had to explain to some of the juniors at work, a Cheque is an instrument of payment, and a Check is a form of inspection or observation. Similarly, the liquid that goes in your car to enable it to run is called Petrol, not Gas, and that the slang term “Benjamins” makes no sense in a country where the $100 note has a picture of the Australian Light Horse Infantry and a 75mm Field Gun on it.

Most TV here is American- not that I mind, as some of it is very good, and we also get a lot of British TV as well to counter-balance it. :wink:

You know, I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard anyone here complain about American Culture in Japan. There’s general unease about the growing foreign population, but not about cultural saturation, particularly not from America. The closest is when some political figure gets mildly criticized for over-using the latest English loanwords in his official reports, and even then the criticism is “I can’t figure out what the hell you mean” rather than “you’re letting foreign influence swamp our mother tongue!”

For whatever reason, people here seem perfectly comfortable with adopting foods, styles, and other things from overseas without feeling that their own culture is suffering for it. American culture is certainly easy to find: not counting anime or porn, the video store in my neighborhood stocks about 30% Japanese films, 60% American films, and 10% other countries. With cable, it’s possible to watch nothing but American TV all day, although the average prime-time network lineup is all Japanese. McDonald’s, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, 7-11*, Aflac and Starbucks are everywhere. At the same time, there’s still enough of a cultural gulf between the two countries, plus a thriving enough ‘culture industry’ that’s adept at coming up with its own new trends, that getting ‘swamped’ by American culture seems unlikely. If anything, J-culture seems to have seeped quite a bit into western youth consciousness through anime and games, and there’s a general reaction of shock and amusement in the media here whenever something Japanese becomes the new rage among American kids.

What is a concern to some is that American political interests are too influential here. Between all the military bases here and the LDP’s willingness to stretch the constitution’s definition of ‘self-defense’ to the breaking point by sending troops to Iraq, there is criticism from both left and right (valid, IMO) that Japan is the #2 economy and military, yet still acts like a child holding Uncle Sam’s hand on the world stage.

Heck, 7-11 Japan has morphed into a massive financial institution now.

You said it. There are even parts of American culture they value more than we do. Did you know there are reproductions of vintage US products (Levi’s, Red Wing shoes), made by the original US makers in the US, that are sold only in Japan?

I lived in Denmark for two years and it is arguably the most Americanized of European countries (saving Netherlands, perhaps). I’ll give you the rundown on the extent of the “damage”

Television: Majority of programming is in English with Danish subtitles. I’d say it’s at least 60 percent english-speaking if not more. Vastly more American stuff than English, except for soccer. Oh, also, American football is becoming a big deal in Denmark. Many Danes are interested in this.

Movies: As you might guess, movies are even more exaggerated. At any given moment 80 percent of the movies will be American. For a country of 5 million people, they do produce a lot of quality films, and a significant amount as well, but they simply can’t compete in terms of sheer quality. They are always in English, unless it’s an American kids movie, which would be dubbed. The Danish movies are obviously in Danish.

Food: This is an area where Americanization hasn’t really made a huge dent. Sure you can get hamburgers in loads of places, but they aren’t really hamburgers after the Danes get done with them! Probably similar to the transformation that a cream-cheese Danish underwent to come to America. As far as fast food is concerned, Copenhagen doesn’t have so many McDonalds or other things. It isn’t like in other European capital cities that I’ve been to. Stroget (the main area of town) has three, all within 10 minutes walking, but once you get outside of the center of town and to the other areas, they become less common.

Also, McDonalds seems to be a class thing. I normally only see more working-class kids eating there. It’s very popular with teenagers but not so much with older folks. Starbucks doesn’t exist in DK (Yes! it’s true!). Or at least I’ve never seen one. I’ve been around that country quite a bit too.

There’s a few Burger Kings and a KFC there too.

But I think food is probably the least likely area in which anything is to ever make a difference. People learn to have certain tastes as children, which is the point when your parents are usually going to be cooking traditional-type foods. American food is no more popular than Italian or Turkish, etc.

Music. This is really interesting in that American music is probably less popular in Denmark than in most places. Obviously there are different types of genres, but there is a thriving Danish music scene with a lot of great bands. Of course people will listen to international bands, but really there’s no threat of that displacing the Danish stuff.

What you will see a lot of in Denmark is Danes appropriating “American” stuff. Rap has really gotten huge in Denmark. This would be by Danish artists too.
The funny thing about Denmark is that it is very open to these new things, but at the same time very insular. I wouldn’t say that the Danes are protective of their culture so much as they are really just fond of it. They find it so hygge that they wouldn’t understand not liking Danish things.

Well, I might get beat up for saying this but English speaking Canada is really just an extension of the U.S. There really is not a lot of distinction between the two.

French Canada, mostly Quebec and perhaps some of New Brunswick, definitely has a distinct culture, with TV shows and radio personalities who are unknown outside of the French culture.

The main difference here is that hockey dominates the sports pages. It amazes me when I go to the States and have to rifle through womens’ basketball and high school football before I get to the hockey scores in your newspapers, and this even occurs during the playoffs! Crap, playoff scores make the front page in Canada! (And rightfully so!)

Apart from “Corner gas” (which is an absolute gem of a sitcom) we all watch “American” TV. For the most part the CBC does a good job with news and documentaries, but that’s about it. CTV has produced some good Canadian shows (Corner Gas again , for example) but we can’t compete with the caliber of shows coming from the U.S.

Fast food, music, movies, and T.V. are all U.S.-centric. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

You also drive our cars… but some of those cars are also made in Canada. I was a UAW member… sorry for the plug.

For your next act, you go down to a harbor in Sydney and try to sweep out the incoming tide.

Japan has a very long - thousand plus years - of assimilating cultural influences from other countries and making the item(s) Japanese. Off hand, I can think of tea, Chinese writing elements, paper, silk, and European firearms.

I find our attitude highly ambivalent - for example, on the one hand, I don’t aesthetically like the massive industrial conformity of McDonalds food, on the other hand, it’s terribly convenient to be able to just drive through a car park and pick up an incredibly cheap, filling, energy-packed meal with a toy for my kids once in a while.

But at the same time, I suppose there are probably people who have completely embraced the arrival of McDonalds and hold none of my reservations, and other people who despise it, hate the inevitable trail of litter it had brought, and think we, as a nation, deserve better.

Yes, if people didn’t want it, they wouldn’t buy it and the market would have decided it wasn’t coming here, but the market doesn’t always get us what we really want, because we’re not all brilliant at making short-term decisions that reflect our long-term goals.

I don’t have a better idea, before anyone brands me a communist.

Is it McDonalds itself that bothers you, or the idea of a McDonalds-type fast food industry and the associated cultural changes that it brings? And are there any local fast food chains (where is the Kingdom of Butter, anyway?) that compete with McDonalds, or has the clown swept away everything in its path?

Don’t believe a word Mangetout says. We Britons all still live in thatched cottages, drink tea, eat gristly beef and vegetables that have been boiled for 4 days, and sit around the Bakelite set watching At Last the 1948 Show. There were a few loud American types over here with their fancy “nylons” and Virginia tobaccy some years back, but I think we sent 'em packing.

Not gonna disagree with what the meat of what you posted, except the title of ‘most Americanised’. I gotta say England, and the parts that are being the most Americanised are the least attractive parts of America IMO - gangster culture is being adopted here at breadkneck pace, and a bunch of other horrible parts of America. Add to that the fact that a lot of people in England actively want to emigrate to the US, whislt knowing nothing about it, and you’ve got a problem.

All (or at least most) of the things you said about Denmark also apply to the UK…

UK, I think. Most fast food is American: BK, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway…the usual suspects. You really have to, um, “step up” :smiley: a notch to the Applebees/Ruby Tuesday type level to find British chains. Of course, as far as I can tell, all the British chains tend to ape similar facilities in the US.

There’s one important exception - Indian food. Some good, some bad, but ubiquitous.

I think we have become open to more foreign cultural influences in general, not just American. In some things, of course, language matters, so we do consume a lot of American film and TV. But you also see, for example, chain stores from European countries that you never used to see here.

I don’t think there is a contradiction between disliking American culture and enjoying it because, you know, not everybody in the rest of the world has the same opinion about things. I suppose some people wouldn’t be seen dead eating fast food, others practically live on the stuff. Anyway, Italy only has about 300 McDonalds compared to the US’s 12,800, so McD’s hasn’t quite reached American levels of ubiquity there yet! Or maybe they’re all in Milan…

They are. My friends and I had the exact same impression of Milan as Shagnasty. We were incredulous at the sheer number of McDonalds there. Who the hell wants to eat at McDonalds when you can eat authentic Italian food in Italy? Bizarre.

Anyway, last month I spent a couple weeks teaching at an English immersion camp. All of the (high school aged) students were from non-English speaking (and mostly SE European) countries. In one of my classes, I explained the concept of “Canadian Content” and asked them if they thought it was a good idea, and would it improve their countries’ arts if they adopted similar laws? I was, frankly, shocked that none of them did at all. They all thought Canadian Content was stupid, and they would much rather watch American TV/listen to American music than watch or listen to homegrown stuff foisted on them by the government. Keep in mind, unlike most Canadians, none of them were even native English speakers. Surprising.

I’ve had it with the Frenchification of everything here in America.
The worst is “au jus”, or as it almost always says on the menu “with au jus”.
I want my meaty American extracellular juices back! You can have your fancy with au jus with your French fries and canards, I’m not buying it even if it’s included.

Thing is though, most people I know in England don’t really associate McDonald’s, BK etc with “Americanness”. I certainly don’t. I mean, I know they’re American chains, but when it comes down to it, they’re just places to grab a burger, they’re British-owned franchises, and they’ve been part of the British landscape for 30 years or more. I don’t feel like I’m “absorbing American culture” when I buy an Egg McMuffin, any more than I feel like I’m absorbing Japanese culture by driving a Mazda. Besides, the pre-McDonald’s burger alternatives, as anyone who has ever been to an Aberdeen Steak House will know, were none too hot.

The really pernicious aspect of creeping Americanisation of the UK, as other Brits have pointed out, is the way today’s kids ape US gangsta culture.

Similarly, Heinz Baked Beans, Kellogs Cornflakes and the like have been staples for so long that no-one thinks of them as being American products (or, I’m guessing, even being American companies).