Tag: Shrinking Planet

Translating Respect

In Italy, visiting Nigerian students asked Lenore Greiner to explain a classic American song

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The Halibut Taco is Alaska’s Unofficial State Dish. Discuss.

Photo by supafly via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

I spent nine days traveling in Southeast Alaska last month, and as I went from one panhandle port to the next, and from bar to pub to restaurant, I noticed something: the halibut taco is everywhere. It’s even outstripping such traditional Alaskan standbys as king crab legs, beer-battered halibut fish ‘n’ chips, and seafood chowder. It’s the new normal.

I’m not World Hum’s designated taco expert, by any means—Jim’s the Mexican food addict around here—but I’ve been intrigued by unexpected Mexican-in-the-sub-Arctic offerings before. And I’m no less intrigued by the halibut taco seemingly conquering the last frontier.

Alaska isn’t a state that most people associate with cutting-edge cultural fusion (though if you spend much time there, you’ll see there’s more to the place than the Discovery Channel lets on), and it seems to me that the taco’s dominance there is just one more sign of our ever-shrinking planet. I say, bring on the tasty and fascinating cultural variations.


Mother Jones Goes to ‘Culture Training’ at an Indian Call Center

In the latest Mother Jones, Andrew Marantz has a fascinating story about his brief stint as a worker at a call center in India. Here’s Marantz on the mandatory “culture training” that workers undergo before they hit the switchboards:

Indian BPOs work with firms from dozens of countries, but most call-center jobs involve talking to Americans. New hires must be fluent in English, but many have never spoken to a foreigner. So to earn their headsets, they must complete classroom training lasting from one week to three months. First comes voice training, an attempt to “neutralize” pronunciation and diction by eliminating the round vowels of Indian English. Speaking Hindi on company premises is often a fireable offense.

Next is “culture training,” in which trainees memorize colloquialisms and state capitals, study clips of Seinfeld and photos of Walmarts, and eat in cafeterias serving paneer burgers and pizza topped with lamb pepperoni. Trainers aim to impart something they call “international culture”—which is, of course, no culture at all, but a garbled hybrid of Indian and Western signifiers designed to be recognizable to everyone and familiar to no one. The result is a comically botched translation—a multibillion dollar game of telephone. “The most marketable skill in India today,” the Guardian wrote in 2003, “is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.”

(Via Where Am I Wearing)


Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Chinese Artist

Lovely piece in The Smart Set about Chinese artist Xie Zhiliu’s renderings of Yosemite National Park, which are now part of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Xie visited Yosemite in 1994, a few years before his death.

There, he produced a series of paintings that are a testimonial to cognitive dissonance. He paints the mountains and trees of Yosemite, but they look vaguely Chinese. The vegetation looks sparse, like in the drawings that accompany Chinese calligraphy. The stones of Yosemite rise up with the stalagmite abruptness we expect of Chinese art.

Cognitive dissonance at work on a canvas can be a beautiful thing. I’m reminded of these impressionistic West-meets-East paintings by Van Gogh.


Taco Bell to Indians: ‘Visit Mexico for 18 Rupees’

Yes, Taco Bell is invading India, offering such classic Mexican delicacies as “Potato & Paneer Burrito.”

The offerings, with an Indian twist designed to appeal to local tastes and vegetarian diets, sound genuinely intriguing in an Indian-Mex-fusion kinda way.


Will ‘Globish’ be the 21st Century’s Lingua Franca?

What’s “Globish”?

It’s a boiled down version of English, Robert McCrum explains, comprising “1500 essential words for international communication, and the idiom-free turns of phrase in which they might be expressed by the world’s two billion non-native English speakers.”

McCrum makes a case for its rise in this intriguing essay, as well as in a book coming out this year, “Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language.”

Among the essay’s intriguing passages:

There’s also a sense in which the narrative of Globish makes some important cross-cultural connections. Here, I pay tribute to Magna Carta and Bob Marley, VS Naipaul, Shakespeare and the Founding Fathers, but also The Simpsons, Coldplay and the author of Dreams from My Father. Globish analyses Twitter, Iran’s green revolution and Slumdog Millionaire, and places them all in a new context: a Globish-speaking society.

(Via ALDaily.com)


The Flame of Hope in the European Union

European Union Flag Photo of EU flag by rockcohen, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Don't take it for granted. Eric Lucas explains why the EU matters to travelers.

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The Two Sides of Tenerife

The Two Sides of Tenerife Photo by Tom Swick

Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel

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An Aging Continent Grapples With Immigration

Exploring Europe, exploring travel as a political act

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American Flag in a Shrinking Planet

American Flag in a Shrinking Planet Photo by goldberg via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

Images of the the Stars and Stripes around the world.

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It’s a Reality TV World, After All

It’s a Reality TV World, After All Photo by Aaron Escobar via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Aaron Escobar via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is reality television a viable conduit for cross-cultural understanding? It’s an interesting question now that the world has gone reality TV-mad.  Global versions of “Big Brother” have sparked discussions on everything from racism to AIDS, and wacky game shows continue to fascinate foreigners trying to understand Japan.

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Eight Great Stories of the Shrinking Planet

Eight Great Stories of the Shrinking Planet Photo by c a m i l o via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

To mark our eighth anniversary, we've collected stories from our archives that speak to ways people and cultures are mixing and colliding

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A Half-Century Ago: Let the Jet Age Begin!

A Half-Century Ago: Let the Jet Age Begin! Photo by Marcin Wichary via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Marcin Wichary via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This past Sunday was the 50th anniversary of “the first transcontinental commercial jet trip”: American Airlines Flight 2 on a Boeing 707 on January 25th, 1959. The New York Times has this great story.

An interesting detail from the piece: “The earlier flights were not just cushier but faster: 4 hours eastbound and, because of headwinds, 5 westbound. In today’s stacked-up skies, New York-to-Los Angeles flights typically take an hour longer in each direction—if they land on time.” The article also quotes an onboard correspondent for the L.A. Times who wrote of that original flight, “The shrinking effect of the jetliner upon geography distorted the earth’s face.” Beautiful. (Via Airline Biz Blog)


Xeni Jardin in Benin: ‘Do Not Taunt Happy-Fun Elephant’

The latest installment of BBtv WORLD—“first-person glimpses of life around the globe”—centers on an “ambient exploration” of Benin’s Pendjari National Park. It’s not quite Battle at Kreuger, but an interesting “little experiment in trying to convey what this place feels like, first-person, without too many words,” writes Jardin. 


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