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– So…where are we going on week-end this time?

– Try to guess. We are going to a very cosmopolitan city which has a strong economic dynamism and which contains many museums and numerous cultural sights.

– This is an easy question. We are going to New York!

– New York! No. (Said with a Canadian accent) We are going to Toronto.

– Toronto?! I did not think it had all the characteristics you just mentioned.

– Are you kidding? Let me remind you that it is not only the capital of Ontario but also the largest city in Canada and the fifth largest city in North America.

– I believe you, I believe you. But what will we visit once there?

– First of all, to get an overall view of the city, we can visit the CN Tower. Being 553 meters high, this is the highest self-supporting tower in the world. Afterward, if you want to see for yourself Toronto’s economic dynamism, we can visit its city center and its panorama of glass buildings. Alongside the banks, law offices and insurance firms which are legion in this area, there are theToronto-Dominion Centre, designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Royal Bank Plaza, the BCE twin towers, the First Canadian Place and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

– Wow!

– Like I told you. And with you being an architecture fan, you are certainly going to like it.

– Sure. But what about shopping?

– Same. We will certainly find what we want. Our main destination will consequently be Young Street which, being 1,896 kilometers long, happens to be the longest street in the world! Should we walk it to the end, we would find ourselves at the border between Ontario and Minnesota.

– What about museums?

– We will not be disappointed in that area either. All you have got to do is say what you want to see. If you want to see sculptures by Henri Moore and other works of art by European and Canadian artists, the Art Gallery of Ontario awaits us. If you want to admire works of art from civilizations such as Ancient Greece, China or Southern Asia, we can pop round to the Royal Ontario Museum. If you prefer to focus on Canadian art, we can visit the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. If you are more into sciences than into art, our recommended destination is the Science Center of Ontario which strives to simplify the explanation of sciences. Otherwise, if you love shoes, we can go to the Bata Shoe Museum which enables its visitors to see the world and history through shoes.

– All of this is incredible and attractive. I can hardly wait to be there.

Moan’Phisémy

Here are a few links for further reading in English and French:

1) International Toronto (French)

2) Visiting the monuments (French)

3) Toronto’s weather (English)

All humans are disposed to wear clothes. Indeed, the topic of clothing encapsulates many specific cultural and identity-related issues in that it reveals hidden features of social structures and symbols. More specifically, the way people dress is a means of both conforming to and deviating from a same code.

Lipovetsky goes so far as to throw into question Bourdieu’s concept of social distinction: « In the history of fashion, values and modern cultural meanings which elevate Novelty and the expression of individual human identity in particular have been the ones which exercised the greatest influence.”

Thus, the role of clothing as both signifier and signified is a highly relevant topic of inquiry in the field of intercultural and terminological studies, with social groups sometimes referring to themselves and one another using terms related to their clothing and their appearance (goths, punks, chavs, etc.).

Clothing: a signifier and signified for sociology

We are approaching clothing as a particular signifier of a general signified. It is an individual and collective expression of a cultural and social structure and atmosphere.
In so doing, we are appealing to Barthes’ remarkable work in History and Sociology of Clothing, a foundational text for our subject. We will start by clarifying the generic terms clothing and costume.
A semantic distinction is made between these two terms by attributing functional qualities to clothing and aesthetic qualities to costume. Barthes qualifies this dichotomy as a « psychological illusion » which consists in stating that clothing corresponds to the sum total of individual instincts. Sociology sets itself the task of transcending this illusory divide between functional and aesthetic qualities. The belief that there is a « tendency for any item covering the body to integrate an organised, normative, formal system enshrined by society » is particularly relevant to us.

Following this logic, we must conclude that costume deals in axioms which vary according to the culture in question, « both a system and a heritage, an individual act and a collective institution”.
This formulation of the problem is of special interest to linguists working on differences in editorial process as it is expressed with reference to the concept of language. Language and costume, as complete structures consisting of a network of norms and forms, are thus considered side by side, lending our subject a breadth and relevance ideal for the practice of culturally-specific information processing in graphical interfaces.

“Tell me where you are from, I will tell you what you think”. What a revolting sentence! Which of course is wrong. However it is not far from reality, for by only changing one word of it, one could produce a statement that could be verified in many situations and that has always been true: “Tell me where you are from, I will tell you how you think”.

Every culture, if we define it as does Marieke de Mooij in Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes as “the glue that binds groups together”, sets a floor upon which individuals can dance.

That floor is made of thinking patterns and intellectual styles which are often very similar among people belonging to the same culture.

The Gallic intellectual style is the one in which French children are raised. It is the one of Descartes and of all the great French thinkers who produce concepts that are theoretical frameworks intended to help us think. Theory and principle work as a superior authority that can be referred to when demonstrating a point.

The Teutonic style has produced a massive number of major German thinkers (Hegel, Kant, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Goethe, Schopenhauer…) who deduce things from what they observe.

The Saxonic style, as exemplified by St Thomas, demands proof and evidence.  A fact is a fact, and can hardly be discussed.

The Nipponic style revolves much more around a general feeling about a situation. Logic is less valued in Japan than it is in France or America. The Japanese trust instincts and intuition (as do the Saudis).

 Warning! One can still object that Kant (Teutonic style, “reasoning and deduction”) was a specialist of abstract theoretical concepts and that Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” (Gallic style, “theoretical arguments”) is a master example of reasoning and deduction. Thus this theory of styles cannot be generalized or applied to any thinker or any demonstration.

Still, one can easily observe that an American tends to demand “facts and evidence” and base the reasoning on this sole requisite. It is interesting to notice that the noun “accumulation” is used a lot in American books, which shows that American people tend to quantify things even if they are speaking about something abstract, like knowledge or skills.

In Asia, people tend not to think by following a logical chain of deduction based on solid facts, but rather by considering that A can lead to B but Z could also lead to B, because everything is interdependent for them.

In Western schools, critical analysis and deduction are encouraged. In Asia, pupils have many things to memorize. We could deduce from this that this memorization learning system accustoms people to associate events and facts quite freely and to capture information without especially putting it in a logical chain.

An interesting observation to end this article now: the Russian language uses a lot of negative forms (“There will never not be nothing” etc.), which has an influence on the way people think. Therefore, Russian-speaking thinkers have a very different approach to life than English- or French-speaking ones. It would be interesting to wonder if the language is responsible for this mentality or if it is the other way round (Russia and its surroundings have suffered a lot from conflicts, in which you need to be able to say no…).

Interesting references on the subject :

Marieke de Mooij’s website

A book : The nature of intellectual styles (Li-fang Zhang,Robert J. Sternberg)

Nowadays, marketing and advertising sectors use values in order to differentiate and position their brands with regard to rival brands. Values are at the heart of many segmentation and positioning decisions. Nevertheless, consumers’ and marketers’ values vary depending of their culture, and marketing and advertising will be effective only if these values match. Indeed, the only way for a marketing program to become a success, is to do everything possible so that the marketing mix of the product corresponds to the values of the consumer.

A strong brand is a brand whose values match the consumers’ values. Marketing consists in adding values to products, and advertising is the instrument used for achieving this. Values play an important role in consumer behavior. Adding values to a brand creates associations of ideas into people’s minds, and help them distinguish the products between them. Values associated with brands provide consumers with standards for making comparisons.

But currently, the predominant tendency seems to be that every consumer is the same, whatever their culture, and wherever they live in the world. Moreover, it can be noted that this tendency is widespread in Western countries, which have already been swallowed up by American hegemony.  But what do Western marketers and advertisers believe that the same strategy fits every cultural group?

A mere assessment is sufficient to understand the origin of this mistake: anywhere in the world, students in marketing and advertising are taught the same theories on values, elaborated most of the time by American, or at least western authors. We can quote for example Rokeach’s “Value Survey”, a study of values and lifestyles taught and applied worldwide, although the values studied are typical for American culture.

In reality, people are socially determined by the group they belong to: as there is no universal culture, there are no universal values. Indeed, when they are translated into other languages and within other cultures, values sometimes become meaningless. People’s values vary by culture, as well as researchers’ values. If there is no match between the culture on which a research model is based and the culture of the country where it is applied, the outcome will be meaningless.

It is important to understand that the values of one culture cannot be used indiscriminately in another one. Values are so diverse that marketing and advertising strategies can no longer use American values as a basis for applying the same strategy to all cultural groups. Several new models are currently being developed, to help international companies to develop global products and to differentiate them by using the core values of national cultures.

Some interesting links in English for further reading:

What Is Values-Based Marketing?

Steve Jobs lesson on marketing: Values and belief

Some interesting links in French for further reading:

Les grandes marques en campagne sur leurs valeurs

Les valeurs : éthique ou marketing ?

Bibliography:

Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes, Marieke de MOOIJ, Sage Publications

The Nature of human values, M. ROKEACH, Free Press

Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values, G. HOFSTEDE, Sage Publications

Advertising worldwide, Marieke de MOOIJ, Prentice Hall International

Let us be clear: German gastronomy is more than just bier and sausages. If you are in Germany for a few days and decide to eat out, you might end up feeling completely lost while reading the menu. So, here is a short explanation of the main German courses. And who knows, you might want to learn how to cook “German” afterwards!

The most well-known dishes

Sausages (Würste). There are over 1,500 different kinds of wurst in Germany. Among them, the “Rindswurst″  (with beef meat), the « Leberwurst » (liver or blood sausager), the « Weißwurst » (boiled veal sausage), the « Bratwurst » (pork and veal sausages), and the sausages  from different German cities and areas such as Nuremberg, Frankfurt or from the Free State of Thuringia.

The Currywurst (a sausage with curry).The fast-food dish from Berlin consists of hot pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup. It can be served with French fries or bread.

Pretzels. A type of baked food made from dough in savory flavors in a unique knot-like shape, covered with coarse salt.

Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various  lactic acid bacteria. It should not be mistaken for dressed sauerkraut, that is to say sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes, and which is from Alsace (if you want to try this dish in Germany, order a garniertes Sauerkraut).

What is to know about German Beer?

Beer is a major part of German culture. Many events and places are dedicated  to beer, like Biergärten, where German enjoy having a drink when spring is coming, and beer festivals, the Oktoberfest being the most famous of them. Brewing exists since Middle-Age.

Dark, stout, or lager: there is a beer for every taste. And indeed, there are 5,000 types of beers. They are classified by density and by their types of fermentation: low fermentation (Bock, Dunkel, Lager) and high fermentation (Berliner Weisse, Weissbier). The pils (also Pils or pilsener), which is a type of pale lager, is very popular and accounts for 70% of the beer market.

Imbisses

They are small food stands, and small street food shops. This is where anyone can eat fast, cheap and meet some friends. Imbisses serve everything from the standard currywurst, pizza, or  döner kebab to the more exotic food. There are thousands of them around Berlin and they are to be found everywhere in Germany. Each neighborhood has its own Imbiss.

German and Austrian specialties

Knödels. This Austrian specialty can be found in South Germany. They are large round poached or boiled potato or bread dumplings and can be stuffed with bacon or cheese. They can be served as a dessert, when filled with plums, for example.

Schnitzels. Tradional Austrian dish made with boneless meat thinned with a mallet. In Germany, they are called Schnitzel Wiener Art or Wiener Schnitzel.  It originally comes from Milan, Italy.

Spätzle. A type of boiled egg noodle of soft texture.

Schweinebraten. “Pig roast” is a traditional dish from the Bavarian Kitchen, which is served with a dark beer sauce. When served hot, it can be prepared with red cabbage, sauerkraut or cabbage salad and bread. 

German desserts and cakes

The Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte). A chocolate cake with several layers, with cherries and whipped cream. It is sprinkled with chocolate savings.

Lebkuchen.  The texture is very similar to gingerbread. It’s a traditional biscuit. Many Lebkuchen hearts are sold in Germany. They can be given to a loved one or hanged in the house.

Berliner. They are big doughnuts stuffed with jam.

The Stollen, or Christstollen. It’s a loaf-shaped cake containing dried fruit, stuffed with marzipan, and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is a tradition during the Advent. It is a Christmas cake. The tradition first appeared in the 14th century.

The Apfelstrudel.  A Austrian layered pastry with an apple and raisin filling. It is generally served hot, with some cinnamon and some cream.. You can also savour it in Alsace, in the North of Italy and in Central Europe.

The different meals of the day

As a whole, breakfast is made of cooked pork meats and cheese.

In general, lunch is quite substantial. The Germans like to eat meat of sausages with potatoes or vegetables and prefer to take a dessert around 3 PM.

The evening supper is rather light. It’s a cold meal made of bread, cooked pork meats and cheese.  It is thus similar to breakfast. The Germans dine early: around 6 PM.

German places in Paris:

  • The Stube

A German Imbiss restaurant where you can German specialties (savoury and cakes).

Price range: a Currywurst is 4.90€ and a Sauerkraut 9.50€.

31, rue de Richelieu 75001 Paris

http://www.lestube.fr/

  • Der Tante Emma-Laden

It’s the only German grocer’s shop in Paris. Here you can find a wide range of German and Austrian products and specialties, as well as books, and decoration accessories. You can also order online.

Marché de la Porte Saint Martin – 31/33 rue du Château d’eau – 75010 Paris

http://www.tante-emma-laden.fr/

  • The Café Titon

In this café, you can have a drink and choose among many cocktails. You can also eat a snack. The currywurst with French fries is 5.50€ and a Bionade (an organic Lemonade) 3.90€. Parisians who love Germany will have the opportunity to come to some Germany related events.

34, rue titon
75011 PARIS

http://www.cafetiton.com/2008/11/concept.html

Links :

Learn more about beer in Germany (English)

Learn how to cook German recipes (English)

The German gastronomy (a French website on Germany)

Learn about the regional specialties in Germany (English)

Sarah, 24, comes from Lippstadt, between Cologne and Hanover, in Germany. We met last year in Paris. Now she studies in Preston in England. Despite all those trips, she never forgets the German traditions for Christmas and she explained them to me.

  • How do you prepare Christmas in Germany?

Every Sunday before Christmas (4 Sundays), we light a candle of the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath is a tradition in Germany. The Advent wreaths are often home-made.

We also have the Advent calendar. It starts on 1st December. Each day, a new window is opened and you can find something inside to wait until Christmas. There thousands of different calendars, and there are often home-made too. Some are filled with little gifts, other with more expensive gifts. But the traditional one used to be filled with chocolates. You can find Advent calendar from September in the shops.

  • Is there typically German tradition for Christmas?

We buy the Christmas tree only few days before Christmas. In general, all the family decorates it but you can pick one person in charge of the decoration.

On 24th December, the day starts with a breakfast with all the family, and then everybody helps for the cooking of the Christmas dinner and for the afternoon tea.

Before dinner, you can sing, go to the Midnight Mass or go for a walk.

Children have to leave the room before having their gifts. When everything is ready, someone rings a bell and the children can come in. Candles and Christmas songs create a Christmas atmosphere.

  • What are the typical German decorations for Christmas?

You can have fairy lights, Christmas baubles, the Advent wreath, a Christmas tree and other Christmas ornaments.

  • What do you eat for Christmas?

It depends on where you come from Germany. For example, you can have turkey with red cabbage, potatoes knödel or pear, or typical German sausages with potatoes or carp fish.

We also eat Christmas cookies, gingerbread (Lebkuchen) or macaroons.

  • Do you also celebrate Santa Claus in Germany? What is it? What do you do? Is more important than Christmas?

On 5th December, we put a boot in front of our door. During the night, Santa Claus comes and lets sweets and little gifts in the boot. But it is not more important than Christmas.

  • What would you like to add something about Christmas?

Today, traditions are not so strict. For example, the Christmas meal does not have to be very elaborated, you can cook something different if your want.

I would like to thank Sarah for this interview.

Why not celebrating New Year’s Eve in Spain?

Not only will it be an opportunity to celebrate the New Year’s Eve with friends but also to attend a great nationwide event.

In Spain, the 31st December’s evening, called the Nochevieja, is a unique event celebrated until dawn. In order to celebrate the New Year, the Spanish, with their relatives or between friends, finish their dinner with twelve grapes, eating one grape every time the clock strikes midnight. According to the Spanish tradition, the people being able to swallow the twelve grapes on time will enjoy a happy and prosperous year.

In many cities of the country, people will meet in front of a church or another symbolic place where a clock stands, in order to eat the grapes and to enjoy the end of the year.

However, the greatest symbol of this tradition is the Puerta del Sol, in Madrid. Every year, thousands of people will meet in front of the clock of this symbolic place to celebrate the New Year’s Eve. This event therefore becomes nationwide. The campanadas (when the clock strikes) of the Puerta del Sol are broadcast on TV throughout the country.

People will show a happy outburst and drink some cava, Catalonia’s sparkling wine. Then the streets are full of young people, music and cars that hoot their horn to celebrate the New Year.

But this is not the end of the celebration. The country’s bars, pubs and clubs open all night long and many hotels and restaurants organize special evenings including the dinner, the grapes and other activities.

So, if you do not have any plans for the New Year’s Eve or if you wish to celebrate it differently, do not hesitate!

Go to Spain!

Moan’Phisémy

Here are a few links for further reading in English and Spanish:

1) The origins of the Spanish New Year’s Eve (English)

2) Planning one’s New Year’s Eve in Spain (Spanish)

3) Going to the Puerta del Sol (Spanish)

New Year’s celebration in Madrid (in Spanish)


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