It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here and I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to besides spending time over at Social Media Examiner.
Over the last year I’ve been bouncing back and forth between my home in France and the United States. Although I grew up in the Bahamas with American radio and television and traveled there quite a bit when I was younger, this is the first time I’ve really experienced the American lifestyle for over 20 years.
And several things stuck out since I’ve become accustomed to the European way of life. What’s funny is that most of the cultural differences I first noticed are related to being “green”. Here they are.
The first thing I noticed was obviously the sheer size and the number of big cars and vehicles. Of course I knew this. But it still took some getting used to.
After a couple of months the size of the cars became “normal” because everything seems to be geared towards it. There are parking spaces of course, but it also now seems logical to jump into a car to get to the next place on your list.
But still, the percentage of big vehicles feels strange when the press you’re used to talks about the world’s oil supply not being indefinite and the constant increase in the price of gas.
If I had a company here and picked up international clients from the airport, I’d probably give careful consideration to the type of car to use if this was their first (second or third) time in the US.
Lots Of Plastic
Here’s the second thing that took some getting used to. I am dumbfounded by the use of plastic in everything I buy at American supermarkets. I’ve opened cardboard boxes to find plastic wrapped in yet another layer of plastic more than once. It seems like there’s a competition on how much plastic manufacturers can use to package their wares and how creative they are with it.
And ziploc bags are definitely a hot trend.
This makes me wonder how businesses adapt their packaging for American markets? And will this trend in using lots of plastic and more than two layers of packaging spread to other countries?
I’m definitely rethinking all of the packaging I use to send to American clients now.
With this use of plastic and sometimes even multiple layers of packaging you’d think there would be a variety of recycling containers. But there isn’t.
I have seen separate bins for cardboard boxes and similar materials. But that’s it.
When I lived Switzerland almost 30 years ago I knew several people who even recycled their tubes of toothpaste and the tops from their yogurts in separate recycling bins. That’s in addition to the one for cardboard. And they cleaned everything before putting them recycling. That was commitment!
After seeing that level of green recycling so long ago, I still feel things are slow in the small village where I now live outside of Paris. I have 3 different garbage cans. And I’m expected to use my vegetable waste to make my own compost in the garden, carry my empty bottles and newspapers and magazines to the special containers down the road.
And you know what I noticed… The garbage can I use for cardboard and plastic in France would be filled in about 3-5 days based on what I throw away when living in the United States. But when I’m at home in France this garbage can is only picked up once every 2 weeks, and it’s rarely full.
I’m sure the packaging industries are up to speed on these cultural differences in how too much or too little packaging is used. But I think this is something all international marketers need to take note of.
Short Washing Machine Cycles
It’s not all bad for the American way of life. I did find something that I’d love to have back home.
The average length of the washing machine cycle I use in France is about an hour and there’s even a two-hour cycle on my washing machine. But in the United States all of the washing machines I’ve used so far have twenty minute cycles. And that’s the longest cycle I’ve seen.
I definitely like the shorter washing machine cycles. This is so practical!
And speaking of washing machines… this reminds me of a great article in Interactions Magazine on cultural differences when adapting your products to international markets. It’s well worth the read!
International Marketing Insights
These little differences may not seem like much, but they can help you with your international marketing more than you think. They highlight:
- Just how important it is to understand how your international clients live
- How small assumptions can quickly lead to failure
This is why you need to get beyond the differences you see, scratch beneath the surface and try to understand the reasons why the differences really exist. Then you can apply this understanding to your particular markets for insights into how to begin adapting your marketing to different countries.
Now over to you.
Those were the top three things I noticed most. What about you?
- What cultural differences do you notice between the American way of life and the European way of life?
- Have you become so used to the cultural differences that you don’t question them any more?
- What cultural differences have impacted your business?
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Marketing
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