Names in a globalized world

by Fei Long Yu

During the latest weeks, we spoke about globalization in class and about how some people taking on a new name during their life. This is a really interesting topic for me and I would want to give you readers my view point on this topic.

A given name is something that your parents usually give you and call you by; it’s rarely changed during the life time. Instead, many people can take on other names, such as nicknames or pseudonyms in their daily life when they communicate with other people or friends. The question that rises is; why is that? Why do some people (e.g. Asians) take on nicknames and not use their given names? I have noticed that many people with Asian parents often take on two names; one from their own language (e.g. Chinese name) and one English sounding name. In some cases, if the child doesn’t “receive” a second name (English one) they may very much either choose one later on during their life or receive one from friends or teacher. Why does this happen? Why do some children receive an English sounding name when they enter school or mingling with new people?

The reason behind this can be many; one reason can that the child doesn’t want to be bullied in school because of their not-English-sounding name. Another reason can be that the name is too hard to pronounce and therefore receive an English-sounding name. Another reason, which can be considered as a big main reason to why many Asian people take on English sounding name, is because English is the most spoken language around the world.  Asian people may want to be more integrated in the world of business and therefore take an English-sounding name. E.g. can the name decide if you’re called to an interview or not, and the chances is better if you have an English name (see for example what names is most frequent at the higher positions within the companies).

But, one thing I have noticed is that Asian children outside Asia are more likely to be given two names: one Asian name and one English name (or names that are common the host country, like in my family). The Asian name is often reserved to the family and relatives, which means it’s only used by the family when they speak to the children, while the English name is used by friends and colleagues. This may, as argued earlier, be because it’s usually much easier to pronounce English sounding names than Asian name. Or that the parents feels like the child should inherit two names, one from their home country and one from the country they’re living in.

The name can also be used to describe the identity, which also means that if one person has English name can be considered as more international person than a person with Asian name. For example, it’s easier to introduce yourself with an English name, since the listener may have it much more easily to pronounce the name than an Asian sounding name.

Another interesting thought is that this mainly applies to Asian people. While most foreigners use their given name, Asian people do the opposite when they enter a new country. This is also very visible in school or among new friends that doesn’t speak an Asian language.

The question is if this is a sign that the world is getting more international? Well, the world language is English, it’s the most widespread and spoken language around the world. And therefore many people have it easier to pronounce an English sounding name. But what would happen (or when it happens) if another language would surpass English? For example, Chinese, would the names in Europe and America be changed to the Chinese language when they’re studying or working abroad?

Globalization of Names

by Aki Yamada

Have you ever heard English names for non-English speakers? Or, have you ever introduced your friends like “Here are my friends, Christine, John, Sophia and Mason. They are all from China!!” Actually, this was my experience when I studied abroad in America and I wanted to introduce my friends to other friends. I did not feel strange about their names at that time, however, now I think it was greatly impacted by globalization. Globalization is the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries. As one of its influences, globalization has made huge impacts in cultural areas in countries, such as music, movies, radio, books, and also people’s and companies’ names. Therefore, I want to discuss why people (especially Chinese) can change their names to English names, and to compare to the Japanese case.

Firstly, in Japan, it is quite rare for Japanese people to change their names by themselves because Japanese names are so simple and easy to remember for English speakers. Thus, they do not feel necessity to change their names. In addition, if you want to change your name, it is possible, but you need to go to a domestic court to get permission for that. However, usually it is difficult to go through these processes because you need a clear reason to change your name. As another reason why Japanese keep their name is that they have own pride and honor of their names. We think this name was given from my parents so we should keep our name carefully.

On the other hand, in China, there are some reasons that why it is easy to change their names into English names. First, for English speaker, it is really tough to read and pronounce Chinese names such as Yeo Wern Xin and Yanxiao. Second, changing their names is a right and duty of Chinese people, which is defined by the Chinese constitution, article 99. They only require doing some paper work to change their name. So, I can say it is much easier and carefree things to change their names. Third, people change their names for their job hunting, which is deeply related to the tough pronunciation of their names. Above, those reasons, compared to Japanese, it is quite common to change their name in global society. And, possibly, it is good way to change their name to get used to global (English speaking) society sometimes. However, as Japanese, to know real name is most important thing to communicate other culture in global world.

KFC and Christmas cake – Christmas in Japan

by Michelle Liebheit

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„Let’s make a reservation for the best Christmas.“ (KFC Christmas advertisement, 2013). Source: http://www.kfc.co.jp/xmas/?utm_campaign=xmas&utm_source=kfc

It is December and like every year this means that Christmas is coming soon. The city is more crowded than usual, packed with people looking for presents. The shops downtown are playing Jingle Bells endless times, and from everywhere Santa Claus and his reindeers are smiling at you. A giant Christmas tree is displayed in the central station and when it turns night, all the Christmas illuminations come to light.

So which city do you think this is? New York? Berlin? Or is it London?

No – I happen to be in Kyoto, Japan. However, this description could easily suit all major cities around the globe. You might say: This is globalization! But what is this word actually and what influences does it has on Japanese culture? In the following I want to analyze this question with the example of Christmas in Japan.

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, although the 23rd of December happens to be one, as for being the present emperor’s birthday. While there is only around one percent Christians living in Japan, Christmas has received great approval. However, since Japanese Christmas does not consist of going to church, listening to the sermon and watch a nativity play before having dinner with your family, Japan has developed some unique elements itself.

Due to a clever marketing campaign dating back in 1974, KFC successfully established its fried chicken as the perfect Christmas dinner in Japan. Nowadays for Japanese people, Christmas equals a bucket of fried chicken from KFC just like New Years is associated with the especially prepared and in boxes presented food called “o-sechi ryôri” (おせち料理). Promoting this idea, even KFC’s figurehead Colonel Sanders, whose lifelike stature stands in front of each Japanese store, will be dressed in a Santa costume around Christmas time. Due to its popularity, people even need do reserve their KFC Christmas dinner at least a month prior to the event. KFC makes twice as much profit in December than in other months.

Another unique Japanese Christmas dish is the Christmas cake (クリスマスケーキ), its most typical type being a sponge cake decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. It is usually picked up by the father of the household. By the 26th prices drop immensely and shops are trying to get rid of their left stocks.

Even though Christmas became a “big hit” in Japan, other Christian holidays like Eastern remain rather unnoticed. Japanese have been picky in choosing what to borrow from foreign countries – apparently most, when it comes to holidays. In class we talked about how some movies are successful around the world, whereas others are not. In this case, action movies seem to be the most “translatable”, since they usually do not have a lot of talking and shooting with guns unfortunately seems to be universally understood. Converting this to our look on foreign holidays in Japan, is it simply a failure of marketing that Eastern has not been as well received as Christmas in Japan, or what are the factors for successfully making a society celebrating a non-native holiday?.

As Millie R. Creighton writes, a holiday successfully promoted by Japanese department stores needs to “accord with Japanese ideology, or serve a particular function in contemporary Japanese society” (1991, p. 683). So even though Christmas came from a different religious background, it still transports a deeper meaning Japanese can relate to: Christmas is all about love and giving. These are values that are universal throughout different societies and Japan is a living proof for this. The holiday has been domesticated and the important male figure is Santa Claus and not Jesus. Of course, this is not a Japanese phenomenon only. On the other hand, Eastern still concentrates more on the historical figure of Jesus and therefore might not seem quite appealing to people with different believes. Other examples of successful holidays in Japan are Mother’s and Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

This example shows that globalization is not about making everything the same. Societies adopt particular parts of foreign origin and create a version that suits them best. Through globalization ideas, things and people can easily spread and move from one place to another on earth, but what is being accepted and what is being rejected is still up to society and its values.

References

CREIGHTON, Millie R. “Maintaining Cultural Boundaries: How Japanese Department Stores Domesticate ‘Things Foreign’”. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 25, No.4, 1991.

HODKINSON, Alan and STRONACH, Ian. “Towards a theory of Santa. Or, the Ghost of Christmas Present“. Anthropology Today, Vol. 27, No. 6, 12/2011.

QUIGLEY, J.T. “A Kentucky Fried Christmas in Japan”. The Diplomat, 12/2013. http://thediplomat.com/2013/12/a-kentucky-fried-christmas-in-japan/

Fast food and globalization: between export and adaptation of flavors

Japanese McDonald's fast food as evidence of c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marin Enault

Every 3 hours a new McDonald’s restaurant opens in the world. This simple figure allows us to glimpse the power of the fast food chains, a pure product of the globalization. To study the influence and the development of these restaurants allows us to see most clearly the face of globalization. If we understand this concept as “the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries”, it is interesting to notice that at the same time as they ignore national barriers, these multinationals also adapt themselves to countries’ specificities. It then seemed interesting to me to study these restaurants. First of all I shall concentrate on the creation of the fast food as a consequence of globalization. Then, the opposite viewpoint will be examined, that is how fast food owes or wishes to adapt itself to local frames.

Globalization in the culinary domain is the export of a food and its specialities towards foreign countries. More particularly, in the field of the fast food it is necessary to notice the major origin of this export: the United States. In the post Second World War Era, the United States has exported its culture massively, in particular its culinary culture. So the first one McDonald’s outside the United States opened in 1967 in Canada, before arriving in 1971 in Europe (the Netherlands). Since then, the burger has continued to see growth in popularity.

Nowadays the chain McDonald’s possesses more 31,000 restaurants in 120 different countries. This increase in importance comes along with a standardization of the tastes. The plurality of the tastes is questioned by these multinationals, creating a unique taste, intended for mass production. Acculturation for some, the superior power of the industry of the fast food exports its idea of  food. So, the “Big Mac” is known all over the world and acts like an ambassador of American cooking, to the detriment of the rich local cooking, passed from generation to generation. Through the globalization, fast food proposes a standardization of the cooking and export the same culinary standards everywhere around the world.

Nevertheless, if the fast food is well and truly a product of globalization, it remains dependent on the host country’s culture. If globalization allows a distribution without barrier, it is left by standards which do not fade. To conquer new markets, restaurant chains have to adapt their product. The unique taste does not any more succeed in seducing only by its exotic image. The first adaptation that fast food have to make concern the product in itself, that is its taste. McDonald’s very early understood this necessity, so the examples of “glocalization” are not lacking. This neologism born in Japan proposes a new definition of the globalization. It is a concept allying the global trends to the local realities: think global but act locally.

So, to seduce the French consumers, fervent followers of their national food, McDonald’s proposed burgers with real French bread (McBaguette) and with real cheese, benefiting from a label checking their French origin (AOC: controlled designation of origin). Outside Europe, this strategy has a lot of success, particulary in Asia. So, Indonesia possesses a burger with rice (McRice) whereas Japan possesses its own teriyaki burger. This glocalisation of products is a new fact entering in a global protest movement of the permanent Americanization of fast food. Firms are no more content with exporting the same product but begin to analyze the real demands of countries, in particular to mitigate a lack of novelty.

The second adaptation also establishes itself on a deeper request of the consumers but in another domain: religion. So, Indian McDonald’s burgers do not possess pork but chicken, to not hurt the faith over this animal. Globalization also pulls a plurality of the religions mixed within the same country. North Africa mmigrants’ strong presence in France, often of Muslim faith, brought the chain of fast food Quick to propose burgers with hallal meat. This adaptation made for the various religions proves well that globalization creates its own limits. A unique product is not exportable any more in the same way everywhere around the world.

Globalization thus allowed the fast food industry to develop. Nevertheless, if during numerous years, fast food meant Americanization of the tastes, things changed. It is necessary to see from now on this phenomenon between globalization and glocalization: export while adapting itself to the local cultures. This movement was impulsed by the customers, not being satisfied with an unwavering uniqueness of products.

What is interesting with the study of the fast food in touch with the globalization is that it does not concern only the food, but much more the culture. The phenomenon of globalization cannot break all the barriers to create a homogeneous international culture. To convince yourself, you just have to eat sushi outside Japan. If the taste is different from the original one, it remains that we eat them with chopsticks. So the export of the cultural codes is often easier than that of the tastes, that what explains the new importance given to the glocalization in fast food restaurants.

Distortion or evolution of culture?

by Anna Dreveau

In our globalized world, information is transmitted, exchanged and shared throughout a big part of the planet. As information is shared, so is culture. Movies, TV shows, books and even commercials from different counties would be known across the world and deliver a certain reflection of its country of origin. However, this image of the culture do not get the same treatment as it is used to in its own country: should we be talking about “distortion” of culture and condemn it?

If the distortion of culture is considered as negative – as the choice of the word “distortion” clearly conveys – what about the evolution and mixing of cultures? Being exposed to other cultures has inspired local artists in a different way than if they would have been without globalization. Music is mixing genres with Da Arabian MC, as they took Black-American Hip Hop and Arabic poetry. They revitalize what Hip Hop has been – a music of protest – and while letting aside what it became – merchandised music –, mixing traditional Arabic poetry and Palestinian way to write songs to convey a message that is fully them, but similar to Hip Hop messages used to be.

This mix of cultures thus enrich every single cultures involved and create something new, part of a more globalized culture.

Nevertheless, the fear about distortion can be real. Steve Derné have written an article about culture globalization in India. He describes the attitude of middle-class Indian people towards Western views about gender roles. While being exposed to a culture promoting women liberation and love marriage, they refuse those same principles, as they would rather stick to the traditional gender roles and arranged marriage. However, they are more than accepting toward the image convoyed by action movies as they stress male domination and violence, which find echoes in Indian culture.

By only taking a part of what American culture proposed about gender role, India get to stick with its traditional values, reinforce them and does not change in any way while America values get impoverished in foreign soil.

Those thus are extreme reactions; one is understanding and adapt the culture and its own to create something new and even more striking while the other is closing its understanding of other cultures to only select what suit him best. The biggest difference between Da Arabian MC and those middle-class Indians is not only open-mindedness and also their feeling of closeness with the other culture. Da Arabian MC choose to work with Hip Hop music because they feel that Black-American back then suffer from the same fate they are currently coping with.

Yet, middle-class Indians do not have the means to stick to love marriage, as parents still play a very important role in young couples’ life and thus see those egalitarian ideas as completely foreign. However, as Steve Derné mentions in his article, give them the means (i.e. high income class Indians) and even Indians will be more than willing to accept those new ideas, as they convey something that can find echo in their economic and living situation.

Transforming a culture while it is sent overseas seem to be the fate of those undertaking globalization. Whether it is just a interpretation restriction, an evolution by mixing cultures, culture changed for the people who will receive them. When you think about it, it is not so different from interpretation of books. As books are written, the author was hinting a certain message but the readers can not see it. It can interpret it in a completely different way, but can you say that it is the wrong way to interpret it if it makes sense with the content of the book ? Umberto Eco stresses something though: do not ignore parts of the book to make it suit your own message. This criticism can transposed to middle-class Indians way of interpreting American culture, which is too restrictive to bring the positive effects of being opened to others cultures.

Curiosity, slow down!

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(Photo credit: doviende)

by Sheena Sasaki

Curiosity is one of the important phenomenon to how individual acts. I believe that sharing of culture is not taking place only to understand each other for world peace, but also with curiosity towards things which you are unfamiliar with. With curiosity, people are attracted to unknown cultures of the communities outside of theirs.

When I lived in the United States, I saw many non-Japanese having tattoos of kanji (Chinese/Japanese word character) as part of their fashion. One of my friends also had kanji tattoo as well. He told me that he had strong interest in Japanese cultures and traditions and would like to major in Japanese practices in the future. His curiosity was the base of his view of what he wanted to do in the future.

He also proudly said that he chose by himself the kanji he asked to have tattooed on his body. What he wanted as his tattoo was “ogre.” In kanji, it is written as “鬼 (oni)” My friend did not know the kanji for the word, but the tattooist told him that he knew. The reason my friend was interested in this kanji of oni was its definition and meaning behind the single word. The word does not simply mean “ogre” or “monster.” It also refers to ghosts and souls of dead people, something hidden and invisible, something of abnormal physical characteristic, and something which curses people. All of this definition combined created the monster of oni. Although I am not the person who deeply knows and practices my country’s culture, I felt proud to some extent. However, at the same time, I also felt some uneasiness when I took a glance at his tattoo. As I wrote, the kanji for oni is “鬼,” but what was tattooed on his arm was “豚,” which means “pig” or refers to some who is very fat.

This type of small misunderstanding is seen often. I have also seen people walking around in kimono with right side crossed bottom which is how dead bodies wear kimono. I remember my kimono teacher saying, “I am very happy that many people outside of Japan began to hold interest into kimono, but I feel sad at the same time when I see wrong practice of kimono wearing is widely known.”

It seems that some people fulfil their curiosity just by touching or experiencing only the atmosphere of the unknown culture. I believe the wrongly mimicked cultures make people uneasy or to some extent sad since to them, it may mean to them that foreigners do not really have interest and understanding to their culture. Mimicry may be a first step to knowing the new culture; however, stopping at the stage of mimicry strikes people as incongruous. This sense is similar to when your name is wrongly remembered. You know that the person did not purposely misremember the name, but you still feel some uneasiness. Curiosity helps people to hold interest into cultures they have never practiced. Meanwhile, small curiosities may lead to misunderstanding or wrong practices of certain cultures.

Sharing Culture

by Alexander Austad

As a globally intertwined society, what would be different if entertainment didn’t spread across borders in such a huge way as it does today? This question struck me after having discussed the export and import of media like movies and TV shows in sociology class.

I’m a Norwegian living in an international dorm in Japan, where I communicate with people of various nationalities every day. When I came here I was astonished by how easy it was to get along with everyone, as we quickly started joking around with this and that, often involving references from commonly known shows, music or what have you.

In Norway, a huge part of what is broadcasted on TV is from English speaking countries, and ever since I was little I have been playing video games in English, as most games do not get translated to Norwegian. I have always been grateful that I have been able to understand English from a young age thanks to this, but there is a cultural aspect to it as well that I had not thought of before.

If I was perfectly able to speak English, having learned it in school without any help from the media, chances are I couldn’t as easily had a lighthearted conversation with my friends here in my dorm, and I would most certainly feel slightly out of place if everyone around me was talking or sharing laughs about stuff that I had no idea what was.
With the huge flow of media comes the aspect of inclusion, and this on a different level than what we get from sharing for example intelligence and research across borders.

So does this mean less culture or more culture?

Norway is a small country, population wise, and we cannot really compete with the big dogs in the media industry, like Hollywood. This means that people like me will be kind of Americanized, if you will, and I have even been told here that I am “pretty much an American”.

Chatting with English native speakers here, while I feel like I may be lacking a cultural identity of my own at times, it is merely just that other people don’t see it as much, as I am adapting to ‘them’ when I’m here and not the other way around. I have my own set of references which I can only share with my Norwegian friends, and quite frankly I think that’s enough.

You shouldn’t just learn the language, because with it comes a culture, and I think the entertainment industry, although not necessarily the best source for portrayal of accurate culture, is a very important source, as it is about having shared common experiences with other people, and shared experiences is often what carries conversations.

Filmmaker Dave Boyle talks with Ritsumeikan students

by Robert Moorehead

Dave Boyle’s films (Big Dreams Little Tokyo, White on Rice, Surrogate Valentine, Daylight Savings) blend English and Japanese languages, and American and Japanese cultures. In this video, he discusses “Big Dreams Little Tokyo” with a class of International Relations students at Ritsumeikan University. Boyle talks about the roles of language, culture, race, and stereotypes in the film, and the choices he made as an actor and a director.

Mixed Cultures In South East Asian Countries

by Satomi Tanaka

This spring I traveled around South East Asian countries and I was surprised at a lot of different cultures from Japan. We Japanese judge which person is in a socially high position by their belongings or behavior. The skin color does not matter in Japanese society among Japanese. However, in other countries have each mark to judge class. I’d like to describe about my opinion and experience, and then figure out how culture and common sense are created and changed.

In Cambodia, most of all women are attached to lighter skin. When I went to a village, many Cambodian women envied my skin color and it happened again and again.  At first I was surprised because I don’t mind about getting a tan so my skin color is darker than other Japanese. But my skin color was accepted as light skin by them. I didn’t know why they were stuck to lighter skin. I asked a woman about it through an interpreter. She answered “Because light skinned woman is beautiful.” I thought that they are affected by TV shows. Actresses, singers and models in Cambodia have lighter skin tone and they are known as socially high position people. Their skin color is completely different from women in the villages but they are also Cambodian. Because they use skin lightening products and foundation. In short, lighter skin tone means not only beautiful but also high class in society.

This idea is almost the same in the Philippines. Tanned skin means labor class and light skin means high class. I think this phenomenon is unconsciously related to colonial history and mass media carried the idea from European countries to other region countries. It plays a big role in every country’s standard of beauty or common sense. I guess globalization make the world smaller and more complicated because each culture affects each other and creates new one.

In Vietnam there was an interesting trend among young people that is thickly dressed fashion. The weather in Vietnam is hot and humid throughout the year. Sometimes it is chilly but wearing a short-sleeved shirt is fine. However, a down jacket and a knitted sweater were sold in many shops. I couldn’t understand why it is sold and who wears that one. My friend taught me the reason of it. “The reason why is that wearing a down jacket or a knitted sweater means high class or rich,” she said. Because wearing thickly dressed means you work in an office with an air conditioner, so young people think that being thickly dressed is seen as rich and cool. I thought they are very sensitive to appearance. They want to be treated and accepted as a high positioned people. So not only skin color but also cloths can be a mark in Vietnam.

In conclusion, a lot of countries are affected by European culture but today’s common sense were added each countries’ standard and created new one. That’s why more and more culture or common senses were born and it will be changing in the future.

The Impacts of Immigrants in Japan

by Yurika Chiba

The number of foreigners is small in Japan compared to other countries. Basically, it is said that Japan is mono-cultural, homogeneous and monolingual society. For example, all of my classmates in high school were Japanese who have black hair and speak Japanese. We did not have opportunities to interact with foreigners in Japan. When we see foreigners, we feel they are “different” because they do not look like Japanese. It is hard for foreigners to live in such a society, I think. For instance, there was an international student in my high school. She was from America and had gold hair. I mean her appearance was completely different as Japanese. We saw her as “gaijin.” We did not know how to communicate with her although we wanted to get along with her. Finally, she could not fit in our class. One of the reasons why Japan has few foreigners is that Japanese society is said to be homogeneous. Therefore, Japanese people tend to refuse foreigners and different cultures. However, it is time to change Japanese society to make comfortable society for foreigners because globalization has been expanding. I mean that Japan needs foreigners in order to lead to economic growth.

The number of immigrants would be increasing if Japan became comfortable place to live for foreigners. Immigrants are important to solve some problems in Japan. In particular, the problem about the declining birth rate and a growing proportion of elderly people. For example, immigrants come to Japan in order to work and marry Japanese people. Their children probably will also work in Japan. This will help increase the population long term and help to solve Japanese population crisis. Immigrants have an important role in Japan.

However, Japan has difficult problems to solve in order to absorb immigrants. There are strict rules of immigrants in Japan. In addition, the rules are different from their countries. It is said that the crime rate will go up if immigrants increase. Japan might not be ready to receive immigrants. Japan should make new laws about immigrants. For instance, new laws to allow immigrants to live in Japan easily. The laws suitable for immigration should be established. Besides the laws, Japanese people need to change values like understanding different cultures. For example, Japanese children should be educated in English since a kindergarten. They can go abroad more often and communicate with foreigners easier if they can speak English well. I think English has a important role to accept immigrants.

Japan has some difficulty of absorbing immigrants. Japanese government and Japanese citizens should be aware of and solve these problems. Of course, things cannot be changed soon. It takes much time to make better society for immigrants. Japan has to do what it can do for immigrants immediately. I hope that my children or grandchildren would be free of prejudice and live in multinational society in the future.