Your culture brainwashes you


You’re brainwashed. You’re a product of your environment and your culture.  Where you grew up totally shapes everything: from how you relate to people, to what you desire and what you fear.

Very British Problems started as a Twitter page.

It broadcast the unsaid rules and absurdness of how British people act. We avoid expressing emotion at all costs. We never say what we mean. And we carry a heavy burden of embarrassment wherever we go.

Very British Problems has just been turned into a TV series which is fantastic.

My aim here is to say the unsaid. I want to point out the ridiculous things we take for granted and accept as normal.

Why? Because I think cultures can be very oppressive. And if we are to be happy, healthy, free-flowing people we need to understand ourselves. Therefore we need to how we’ve been influenced by the culture around us.

So you have some respite, I’m going to move the spotlight to the French.

The French typically only have two emotions. Melancholy and love.

These are the cultural staples.

French melancholy, ennui, silent suffering – is tragically beautiful. Just watch this clip.

Then there’s love. When I did the French Exchange at 13, the French girls were huddling and fighting over which boys they’d marry.

When I worked in an estate agency in Spain, there was a french man who was going to buy his wife a Spanish holiday home. For the main purpose of being able to shag all his wife’s friends in Paris.

Americans on the other hand, have a different scale of emotion. This ranges from optimistic to bullishly optimistic to manically deranged optimism.

As an American man you are supposed to BE THE MAN.

You’re supposed to be a super-alpha, incredibly successful, talented and handsome . You’re supposed to drive an mammoth sized SUV from your palatial McMansion. As the Senior Vice President of Packaging you’re an important important man with a very important job.

As an American woman you can never age. There is not a single american woman over 46. You married a very successful man who pays for your tennis lessons and boob jobs. Your packed-out schedule of beauty appointments, lessons, cooking, mothers meetings, would put the Kardashians to shame.

Ultimately this leads to a great sense of inadequacy and insecurity in Americans. Because you’ll never be as successful as those on TV and films, you’re left with a constant sense of failure. You overcompensate for this by bragging and exaggerating your success.

Any sadness, grief, worries and fears can never be expressed among Americans because people will judge you. You hold up a mirror to the things they don’t want to see in themselves.

Then there’s the Spanish who are, well… wonderfully simple.

I don’t mean that in a negative way. But I mean they’re very straightforward. They’re very direct and immediate.

While Americans want to prove their success to you, the British want to avoid anything with any emotional content, French old men want to get you into bed – the Spanish are comfortable with themselves.

It seems the only agenda here is: to live well. Friends, food and love are the most important things in the world. There’s an honesty and directness.

You’ll be in a shop and they’ll say “Dime!” – Speak to me!

At first you interpret it as rude. But then you realise they’re very blunt. The Spanish are very clear about what they want, and ask for it. There’s no timewasting. No beating around the bush.

So what does this mean for you?

My agenda here is to share what I’ve learned, distill it and then entertain and inform you. Therefore empower you to live a happier, healthier life.

  • 1. Your country’s culture can be quite oppressive, so take it with a pinch of salt. People have expectations and “boxes” to put you in. To be accepted and fit in: you can only show a certain amount of yourself.
  • 2. Your desires and shaped by the cultural norms. American chase success. The French chase love. Brits pursue being liked and not offending others.
  • 3. Because of these cultural norms. You never really get to know yourself. So you might be better off living somewhere else in the world?
  • 4. Therefore, travelling is one of the best ways to understand yourself. Because in the unfamiliar you discover who you really are and what you really want.

Then again, I think Brits feel most comfortable with disappointment. Tim Henman, rainy summers, delayed trains and unhappy marriages – this is what gives many British people a sense of security and comfort.

It has it’s charms too.

But that doesn’t work for me though. I find it stodgy, dull and claustrophobic. Which is why I’m happier in Spain.

Your culture brainwashes you. To travel is to see.

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