Eight Great Stories of the Shrinking Planet

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

04.28.09 | 10:08 AM ET

Photo by c a m i l o via Flickr, (Creative Commons)

The idea of a shrinking planet—of cultures colliding and mixing in new ways—was so intriguing to us when we started World Hum that we made it part of the site’s tagline. From the beginning, we published stories that spoke to that phenomenon, like “Home Alone,” in which writer Aaron Paulson explored how moving to rural Japan and working at home aroused suspicion among his neighbors. Since then, we’ve explored how Starbucks has affected global travel, how Cantonese food found its way to Greenland, and even U.S. politics in Pakistan. We also identified our own Seven Wonders of the Shrinking Planet. Here are eight shrinking planet favorites from our archives.

Seven Wonders of the Shrinking Planet
Jim Benning and Michael Yessis unveil World Hum’s seven wonders: places, things and people that embody ways the planet is shrinking and cultures are colliding

A Very Long Way to the Hong Kong Cafe
In Ilulissat, Greenland, Daisann McLane found one righteously good Singapore curry chau mihn. More surprising, though, was the man who emerged from the kitchen when she shouted, “Hai go douh yauh mouh jung gwok yan a?”

The Gospel According to Michael
Disappearing native culture. Vanishing tradition. Abbie Kozolchyk was appalled by the impact of missionaries in Papua New Guinea. But not for long.

Confessions of a Born-Again Cowboy in France
At home in the United States, Peter Wortsman is more Woody Allen than John Wayne. But to his adoptive French family, he is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

The Distance From Dachau to Darfur
Peter Delevett recently visited the Nazi-era concentration camp in Germany. Afterward, he wondered: Why wasn’t he doing more to stop the genocide occurring right now in Sudan?

Audio Slideshow: Starbucks vs. the Traveler
Starbucks has 15,000 locations worldwide. Six new shops open every day. Are local cultures doomed? Jim Benning ventures to Tijuana, where Starbucks recently arrived, to find out.

Home Alone
While his wife taught at the local middle school, Aaron Paulson worked at home. To his Japanese neighbors, that made him one of the girls.

Walking Off the Karakoram Highway
On a winding route to Pakistan’s Rama Lake, taunted and ignored, Jeffrey Tayler learns the truth of the saying, “All politics is local”

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