Thursday, May 10, 2007

**** The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille

This book is bold and will probably have you shaking your head both in agreement and in opposition. Of course Rapaille is speaking in generalizations of a large population, and individual mileage may vary, so please keep that in mind. In any case, it is a new lens to view the world. The book should be dedicated to the reptile in all of us.

“The sun” in French is le soleil, a masculine noun… The French perceive the sun as male, and by extension, see males as brilliant and shining. Women, on the other hand, are associated with the moon, la lune. The moon, of course, doesn’t shine by herself; she reflects the light of the sun. We can learn much about the relationship between French men and women through this observation. P10

For Germans, the sun is die sonne a feminine word. Germans believe that women are the ones who bring warmth to the world, make things grow, and raise children. German men are the night, the dark, the moon side. Der mond. P10

OK, if these kinds of gross generalizations make you want to puke, then you should skip the rest of this listing. If they pique your interest, then you’ll have a bit of fun reading Clotaire Rapaille’s (don’t ask me how to pronounce his name) book on his methodology for teasing out the meaning behind what we want and do.

Even the most self-examining of us are rarely in close contact with our subconscious… Therefore, we give answers to questions that sound logical and are even what the questioner expected, but which don’t reveal the unconscious forces precondition to our feelings. This is why polls and surveys are so often misleading and useless. They simply reflect what people say, rather than what they mean… The answers they give now come from their reptilian brain, the place where their instincts are housed. P15

In France, when the first son in a family reaches 7, his father takes him out to the land the father owns and walks him to each corner of the property. At each corner, the father beats the child. While this practice is repellent and probably doesn’t do much for the father-son bond, it does create a very strong emotional connection for the child to the boundaries of the property. The father knows that having this experience will cause the child to remember forever the bounds of the land he will someday inherit. P18

Faisandee is a French food preparation that involves hanging a pheasant (source of the name) or some other gamebird on a hook until it ages – literally until it begins to rot. While most Americans would think this alarming, French chefs utilize this method because it dramatically improves the flavor of the bird. Safety is not nearly as much of concern for them or the people for whom they cook. Of course such culinary explorations come with a price. There are far more food-related deaths in France every year than there are in the US, even though there are 5 times as many people living in the US. P26

American Code for CARS = IDENTITY
Americans want cars that are distinctive, that will not be mistaken for any other kind of car, and that trigger memories of Sunday drives, the freedom of getting behind the wheel for first time, and the excitement of youthful passion…
German Code for CARS = ENGINEERING
German manufacturers pride themselves on the quality of their engineering, and this pride is so ingrained that people raised in that culture think of engineering first when they think of cars. P26

Many cultures act out their rebellion by killing their leaders, after which their period of rebellion ends and adulthood begins. We (the US) never killed our king because we never actually had one. We rebelled against the only king who ever tried to rule us, and threw him ‘out of our room’, but we didn’t behead him. For this reason, our rebellious period never really ended. Rather than moving on from it, we hold onto it and reinforce it when we welcome immigrants to our shores. These immigrants have left a country that was forced upon them at birth. Coming here is a huge act of rebellion. They leave their old culture behind rather than finishing the job by killing the king. Therefore they remain rebels, and this constant influx of new adolescents helps keep our entire culture adolescent. P31

Consistently, participants related their first experience of love to their mother’s care… After all, for 9 mos, our mothers provide us with the most perfect resort hotel imaginable, with first rate room service available on demand, climate control that this neither too hot nor too cold, free transportation, and a musical backdrop (her heartbeat) for entertainment! And even though we ultimately must leave this vacation paradise, our mothers are there to guide us through the transition, feeding us with their bodies, keeping us coddled and warm, and taking us out into the world. P37

Adolescents flit from pressing for independence to acting like children, when they seek succor of their mothers. When striving for independence, the reject home and seek the right to make one’s own mistakes. P38

Losing love is an international experience. Tales of forbidden love and of the consequences when that love dies abound. In older cultures though, the unconscious message about expectations for love are very different than those here in the US. The French consider the notions of true love and Mr. Right irrelevant. The refinement of pleasure is paramount, and romance is highly sophisticated. Love means helping your partner achieve as much pleasure as possible, even if this requires finding someone else to provide some of the pleasure (fidelity is not nearly as important to them)… Italians believe that life is a comedy rather than a tragedy and that one should laugh whenever possible… If love becomes too dramatic or too hard, it is unsatisfying. Their culture centers on family, and to them true love is maternal love. Men romance women, but seek true love from their mother. Women believe the best way to experience love is by becoming mothers… The Japanese call love the ‘temporary disease’ and therefore it is foolish to base something as important as the creation of a family on something so temporary… While Japanese teens might date more often than their parents did, most marriages are still arranged, and few have anything to do with romance. The Japanese divorce rate by the way is only 2%. P39-40

Diamond peddlers deal with the consequences of false expectations in a clever manner: by highlighting the investment and resale value diamonds, and by emphasizing the eternal quality of the diamond as well. This addresses the underlying belief in the permanence of romantic love and providing a useful benefit when that belief fails to pan out. P41

Unlike American women, who try to change what nature gave them though plastic surgery, liposuction, endless hours at the gym, etc., French women seek to enhance their NATURAL appearance. In France, a woman will spend 2 hours in front of a mirror trying to appear as though she hasn’t spent any time on her make at all. In fact, if a French woman appears obviously made up, there a good chance she’ll be mistaken for a prostitute… The French word ‘negligee’ comes from neglect. Even though French woman might look especially appealing in a negligee, her intent is to appear as though she doesn’t care at all about what she’s wearing. P42

English men have a remarkably strong bond, and they truly believe that only other men can understand their feelings, all of their meaningful friendships are with other men… This leads to a real disconnection from English women, who feel left out of the party… Because they feel unnoticed and unacknowledged, young English women prepare seduction in a way almost precisely the opposite of French women. They dress outrageously to gain attention. They’ll wear miniskirts barely bigger than a belt, they’ll expose their midriffs adorned with navel jewelry, they’ll dye their hair often with a variety of colors at the same time. Yet English men remain detached. This simply cause English women to ratchet up their efforts. Given the direction this is heading, one can only imagine what the fashion trends will be in London a couple of decades from now. P44

Italians see seduction as an elaborate and joyous game… The men are more in touch with their feminine side than any other culture. In fact, the men spend more time beautifying themselves than the women. They use cosmetics, baby shampoo to make their hair soft, apply creams, and take tremendous care in the way they dress. Because of this feminine side, they connect with women easily, and Italian women love them for it. In fact, foreign women respond differently to Italian men than they do to men of other cultures. While in their home country, women might be offended if men whistled at them, but they are often charmed if the same thing happens on an Italian street. This is because Italian men make it clear that their attentions are in fun and neither threatening nor salacious in any way. P45

Because arranged marriage is so common in Japan, seduction takes on a different meaning. Men go to bars where they pay ‘hostesses’ huge amounts of money to pour whiskey and listen to them while they get drunk, and maybe even have sex with them when they’ve become drunk enough. They seem utterly incapable of courtship. This comes directly from a culture that teaches that love is trivial and is even a dangerous ‘temporary disease’. P46

There is a negative association with seduction. When American think of it, they think of being forced to do things that they don’t want to do or that they believe they shouldn’t do.

American code for SEX=VIOLENCE
This illustrates the extremist thinking of an adolescent culture. Since we are uncomfortable with sex, we equate it with the extreme opposite of pleasure, something that causes pain and death. It is also clear that as a culture we are more comfortable with violence than with sex… The FCC fines TV stations for a 1 second glimpse of a breast, but on any given night those same stations will broadcast simulations of murder and mutilation without penalty… Our culture is filled with the sex/violence connection… How many times have we seen that film cliché where couples fight and slap each other before falling into each other’s arms?.. Men talk about ‘banging’ and ‘nailing’ a woman. Women joke about castrating a man if he cheats. We refer to singles bars as meat markets. P52 And Lorena Bobbit was an all American woman after all.

Americans may abhor real violence, but we find simulated violence enthralling. This is another offshoot of our cultural adolescence: we feel immortal, indestructible, and we are drawn to violence to test our invincibility. When marketers use sex in advertising, they connect with this fascination of violence as well. P53

The French way of life is aristocratic: the notion that working is bad and beneath any person of worth. Though there are few aristocrats left in France is no matter, the undercurrent of privilege still exists, as exemplified by as system where your receive more money in unemployment benefits than you can in many jobs, and where they strictly enforce a 35 hour work week and 6 weeks of vacation. P56

An American judge decided a rape victim provoked her attacker with her appearance, or the slashing of a model’s face because her assailant thought she was too perfect; American women navigate an axis of between beauty and provocativeness… One of the reasons why Victoria’s Secret is so successful is because it offers women an easy way to navigate this axis; they can be as feminine and sexy as they want underneath their clothes. P57

Men are programmed for sex; the average man is willing to have sex with just about any willing woman. But if a man stops to notice a woman’s beauty to admire her physical magnificence, rather than simply throwing her over his shoulder, his soul his elevated to another level. If a woman can impress her beauty upon a man permanently, if she can stay beautiful in his eyes, she can make him a better human being. The Code for BEAUTY= MAN’S SALVATION. P60

In Arab nations, if a woman is skinny it suggests that her husband doesn’t have the means to feed her, therefore Arab men want their women to be obese, the better to serve as walking billboards for the men’s wealth. P61

Nearly 1/3 of French women are overweight, though that is still dramatically less than the 62% rate of overweight American women, it is a far cry from the title “French Women Don’t Get Fat”. P65

A woman might stay thin in the early years of the marriage, but after her second or third pregnancy does not lose the weight. Why? Because she’s unconsciously disconnecting from her husband in order to concentrate on the children. A man who struggles at work as a middle manager, then puts on 30 lbs while complaining that he has been passed over for a promotion. People balloon up after a bad breakup, the loss of a job, or the death of a family member. The Code for FAT=CHECKING OUT. Getting fat is the most common available unconscious way to check out of the rat race, to adopt a strong identity without having to fight for it, to move from active to passive… Fat is not the problem, it is the solution… We unconsciously think if we get fat enough, perhaps others will take care of us as they did when we were [fat] babies. P68-9

Americans believe that if they are strong enough to act, then they are healthy. Their greatest fear about being sick is the inability to do things. The code for HEALTH=MOVEMENT. Why do we fill up our free time? Why do retirees begin second careers? Why do we become devastated if we lose our license when we become elderly? Movement makes us feel healthy, confirming that we are alive. P81

The Japanese view good health as an obligation. They feel a powerful sense of guilt if they fall ill. Japanese children will apologize to their parents for getting sick, for they know that illness may cause them to fall behind. You wash your hands and cover your coughs as a servant of the culture to prevent someone else from getting sick because of you. P82

The code for DOCTOR=HERO. The code for NURSE=MOTHER. Therefore, we must have a positive impression of every component of the medical field right? The code for HOSPITAL=PROCESSING PLANT. Hospitals inspire a sense of foreboding by filling their halls and rooms with scary equipment in a sterile, impersonal environment, with antiseptic air. Hospitals inhibit movement (stay in bed). P83

When one calls GMAC insurance after an accident, the first question is, “can you move?” The next is, “how do you feel?” And the 3rd is “Tell me the details of the accident.” The unconscious connection between movement and health is strong, so if you can move, you’re probably not too badly injured. P84

The code for HOME=RE[Experience]. Home is where we want to experience our lives again, surrounded by people who mean the most to us… In the American home the kitchen is the central room where the family gathers. The kitchen is the heart because an essential ritual takes place there; the preparation of the evening meal. This is a ritual filled with repetition and reconnection that leads to replenishment… In France, houses are designed differently. The biggest rooms are the stage areas: foyer, living salon, and dining room. The guests will never see the kitchen. P100

GMAC discovered that people will pack a box of stuff during a move, put it in the basement, and then move that same box – never opened – from new home to new home. The content of the box is not important – and is often unknown. What is important is that the box contains ‘stuff’ and ‘stuff’ has a great value in making Americans feel at home. P102

Americans put little premium on gourmet quality or on long preparation time, even though the evening meal is very special to them. Pizza, take out, frozen food, etc. eaten while the family gathers together and the TV is off (or on perhaps) is on Code. P109

The code for WORK=WHO YOU ARE. What do you do? In essence when we ask this question, we want to know what they do for a living. Why are unemployed people often depressed? Because they are unsure how they will pay the bills, certainly. Also, at a deeper level, it is because they believe that if they are doing nothing, then they are nobodies. P116

Since the code for health is movement, this extends to professional health. Our job has to present new challenges and promotions, otherwise we think of ourselves as stuck in a rut. P118

A common mistake by employers is looking at a team as a homogeneous group that rise and falls together. Offering a group bonus or a vacation trip to a team is off code because it fails to acknowledge who an individual is. While teamwork is important in a corporation, the team should be regarded as a support group that allows individuals to become champions… Sending an entire team to the Bahamas for a job well done actually blunts an employee’s efforts to do his best work. He only needs to perform well enough to help achieve the team objective. If on the other hand, the employee knew that individual rewards were possible, he would be more likely to strive to outperform expectations. P121

The code for MONEY=PROOF. Money isn’t a goal, but we rely on it to show us that we are good, that we have true value in the world. Money is our barometer of success. Americans find it nearly impossible to feel successful if they are underpaid… Because we money as proof, we see a very strong connection between money and work. Money earned via hard work is proof that you are a good person. We have little respect for those who inherit money. We see interest income and capital gains as ‘bad money’ because we didn’t earn it ourselves, unless we take an active role in managing our money. P125

Americans expect their most fortunate to share what they’ve earned… Studies show that Americans are the most charitable people in the world. We have an entire system of laws in place for giving one’s money away. P127

It is off code to preach profitability to one’s employees. Money is the proof of goodness, but not the goal. Instead, management must inspire employees to be the best they can be, and to make the company as strong as it can be. If done effectively, this will lead to profitability. P127

The code for QUALITY=IT WORKS. This standard falls quite a bit short of zero defects (the Japanese code). The code for PERFECTION=DEATH; something that defines the end of a process, after which no further movement is possible. Americans understand the concept of getting it right the first time, but deep down they don’t want to do it, and might even fear doing it. We want to discover things and learn how to do things our own way… Learning from our mistakes has helped us grow into a powerful and successful country. We were rewarded for our ability to pick ourselves up and do things better the second and third times… Perfection is boring. You’re stuck with it for life. We want a new car every 3 years, a new TV every 5, and a new house every 10. Perfect would be useless because we wouldn’t have the alibi that our item doesn’t work well enough anymore and we need to change it. We want things to become obsolete so we have the excuse to buy something new. P137

Because QUALITY=IT WORKS, we expect our products to break down, but we expect problems to be resolved quickly and with a minimum of disruption. We are far more responsive to good service than we are to perfection. Crisis is a great opportunity to create loyalty. If a customer comes to you with a problem and you solve that problem quickly and minimize customer inconvenience, you will likely earn that customer’s dedication. Ironically if your product never breaks down, you never have the opportunity to develop this relationship with the customer. When the customer seeks to replace the product, he is likely to look elsewhere because he hasn’t formed a bond with you. Bottom line: Great service is more important to Americans than great quality. P138

Though we are the richest country in the world, at the reptilian level we consider ourselves poor… Poor people eat as much as they can when they can, because they don’t know whether they will have the opportunity to eat the next day… We do same. While our higher brain tell us that the food will be available at the buffet all night, our reptilian brain aren’t taking any chances. In this battle between the brains, as in all such battles, the reptilian wins. P143

The avg American spends 6 minutes eating dinner. The code for FOOD=FUEL. Americans say “I’m full”. Their mission has been to fill up their tanks; when they complete it, they announce they’ve finished the task… One might argue that fast food isn’t particularly good fuel to put into one’s tank, but then again, how many of us put regular gas in our cars even the manufacturer tells us to use premium? P147

Forbidden to drink alcohol as children, and learning little about it other than that it is bad, Americans end up imprinting alcohol at a rebellious age. When they gain access, usually underage which enhances the taboo, they nothing of its pleasures, subtleties, role as an enhance of food, but they quickly discover its intoxicating qualities. What matters is that this substance can get you drunk. P151

The code for ALCOHOL=GUN. Alcohol has a very powerful effect with the ability to change circumstances and alter lives… When we drink to excess, on some level we feel as though we are toying with a loaded gun. We abhor drunken driving because we fear what can happen if the gun goes off. Teenagers are fascinated with alcohol. At that age, flirting with danger is especially appealing because you feel invulnerable. What better way to prove your invincibility than to play with guns? P151

The code for SHOPPING=RECONNECTING WITH LIFE. Shopping (for women) is a social experience. It is a way for us to get out of our homes and back into the world. It is a way for us to encounter a wide variety of people and learn what’s new in the world… We all want to ‘go out and play’. P158

The code for LUXURY=MILITARY STRIPES. We show our rank in society through our luxury items. Americans attain proof through money, and they use luxury items to show it off. P166

The French code for AMERICANS=SPACE TRAVELERS. The French see us as intergalactic voyagers because they can’t relate to us, or understand our motivations… In their minds, we’ve landed on their world and are trying to impose our culture and values on them; and because we’re travelers, we don’t have the same commitment to the well being of the planet… The German code for AMERICANS=JOHN WAYNE. We’re a strong, friendly stranger who helps save a town from trouble, and then moves on with expectation of thanks or remuneration… Our actions in Iraq are off code to the Germans, because John Wayne never shoots first. P173-4

The English code for AMERICANS=UNASHAMEDLY ABUNDANT. The English see us a big, loud, powerful, extreme, determine to win at any cost. We lack restraint, tradition, and class, while they admire our confidence, passion, track record of success, and can-do attitude. Their first imprint of America spoke of vastness – size of the country, skyscrapers, huge influence on the world. P176

French Code for FRANCE=IDEA. French children imprint the value of ideas as paramount and refinement of the mind as the highest goal.
English Code for ENGLAND=CLASS. They believe that they are of a higher social stratum than other people, and they get this message passed down to them from generation to generation that being English is a special privilege that one receives at birth.
German Code fro GERMANY=ORDER. Over many generations, Germans perfected bureaucracy in an effort to stave off chaos that came to them in wave after wave. Children dutifully reach for instructions while Americans toss them aside and dive in. p177

The American code for AMERICA=DREAM. The dream of explorers finding a new world, the dream of pioneers opening the west, the dream of founding fathers creating a new nation, the dream of entrepreneurs forging new industries, the dream of immigrants coming to a new land of hope… We are the product of dreams and we are the makers of dreams. P195


jbl said...

This is awesome; thank you for posting this. I'm running out to buy the book ASAP!

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for the break down I was just watching the persuaders for the third time, and really wanted to know the code for luxury...thanks for nerdin out!