I would like to consider myself a world traveler. And only being three land masses short of the 7-continent claim, I would also like to say I am close to achieving my traveling objective. In the summer of 2011 I spent some time in Accra, Ghana and in Ecuador – hitting up both Quito and the prestigious Galapagos Islands. Previously I have lived in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and have traveled extensively throughout Europe. Ask me my favorite place in the world and I would answer Mykonos, Greece. Ask me where I’d like to go next and I would reply Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And if you were to ask me if I’ve snorkeled with penguins, I just might say: “Yes, yes I have.”
The point of all this country talk is to illustrate my passion for culture. I get a rush from being in a new place and being surrounded by new and interesting faces, languages, odors and cuisines. Attempting to blend into the surroundings is a sort of challenge for me, one I gladly accept as I inch away from my parents’ painful obsession with guided tour groups and megaphones.
Being on my own in Ghana for six weeks allowed me to flex my independence muscle – I hit the streets of Accra solo and willingly accepted rides in tro-tro vans and forced myself to devour every last morsel of fufu and spicy groundnut soup. I kept a blog the entire time to document my experiences – something I will always appreciate looking back on as a reminder of different times. A common theme in my writing was the differences between American culture and Ghanaian: the way of living, the styles, the foods and even the media.
For instance, here is one example a typical Ghanaian TV spot:
Aaaaand here is an American TV spot for a similar product:
The production differences between the two are obvious. On another note, the Ghanaian ad depicts a group of men, one wearing a Ghanaian flag shirt, working together to start a car – something they can only do once they have had their ice cold FanYogos. The American Yoplait ad focuses around one woman who is eating yogurt to lose weight.
The undertones of these two commercials are blatantly obvious once you take a moment to look a little bit deeper. Ghanaians advertise mostly to men and use camaraderie and national pride to advertise their product, while Americans target women and use the idea of weight loss. Very similar product, very different message, very different cultures.
This just goes to show that, to some extent: “We are what we eat.” But let’s think about that for a second. In our fast-paced culture today – and in a lot of places around the world – I think this saying is more applicable: “We are what we see.” Advertising is everywhere, whether we like it or not. What we see everyday affects our everyday choices, attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. Through the transitive property that would mean that many cultures, no matter how different they are from each other, are in fact driven by advertising, are they not? Think about it.