Cultural standardization: the effect of globalization on culture

The transformation of the world into a global village has consequences in all aspects of people’s lives. Of course, culture is not alien to these changes.

Through these lines we will see what is known as cultural standardization, we will broaden the perspective about the mechanisms that affect local cultures and cause them to experience alterations and sometimes radical changes due to the globalization process.

What is cultural standardization?

Cultural standardization refers to the hodgepodge that all cultures suffer with each other when they connect, due to the permeability of the borders of the territories. In an increasingly connected world, both physically and digitally, it is increasingly difficult to establish cultural boundaries. The uses and customs quickly spread over a multitude of territories, sometimes very far from the place where they originated.

One of the factors that has had the most to do with cultural standardization is the mobility of people. On the one hand, through migratory processes, which have historically developed in waves and to very specific places, but which in recent decades occur in a more diffuse way but in all directions, have encouraged people with a certain culture to mix. with others of different customs, experiencing an exchange between them.

It is not only the migratory processes, but also the ease of traveling, the interconnection of all the places in the world, being able to cross the ocean in just a few hours and return shortly after.. Although of course the nations with their borders still exist, today they are much more permeable than in the past. In addition, going one step further, it is not even necessary to move from home to mix with cultures from far away places and it is thanks to the Internet and global connection.

It is easy to talk to people from different countries through our digital devices, another factor that has facilitated cultural standardization. We can play online against opponents who are thousands of miles away, we can participate in forums or social networks and exchange opinions with individuals from very diverse nations. Even through cinema, literature or music, we can soak up the culture of remote and exotic places.

The effect produced results in a homogenization of all cultures, as a result of the mixture of all of them, giving rise to the cultural standardization of which we spoke. Logically, the majority will make most of their traits prevail over other less widespread ones, although on certain occasions some traits of a lesser culture (in the sense that fewer people share it) may become popular for various reasons and be absorbed by a larger culture.

Pathways to cultural standardization

We have mentioned some of the ways that can favor cultural standardization. Now we are going to delve into some more.

1. Gastronomy

Effectively, gastronomy is a fundamental part of culture. Every territory, every country, and even practically every region or town, has its typical dishes. Some of them become so famous that they rise levels to become part of the gastronomic culture of the country. But sometimes this phenomenon goes further, going beyond borders and even reaching extremely remote places.

You just have to walk around any central street in a big city to be able to choose between typical menus from really diverse and far-away countries. Without leaving cities like Madrid or Barcelona we can taste Italian pizza or pasta, Mexican tacos, Japanese sushi, American hamburgers, Turkish kebabs, etc. Some of these dishes are so assimilated that it is common for them to form part of the usual diet of many people.

Of course, big brands and multinationals have a lot to say about this, especially fast food, which have extended their domains to practically the entire globe. This example shows that cultural standardization has its advantages, such as the possibility of trying foods from far away places, but at the same time it has a risk.

And it is that sometimes these new gastronomic options can become so powerful that they can progressively weaken some of the local culinary traditions. Similarly, when exporting new fast food options, eating habits are also being promoted that may be very appetizing but are not particularly healthy, which can trigger nutritional imbalances.

2. Audiovisual entertainment

We mentioned earlier that one of the most powerful ways of cultural standardization has to do with cinema, music or books, among others. All of this includes audiovisual entertainment. Regarding the cinema, traditionally the predominant culture has been that of Hollywood, in the United States, which year after year provided the world with blockbusters that viewers around the globe eagerly awaited.

Although they are still the kings of the box office, more and more countries are exporting high-quality feature films, even going so far as to oust local productions at the Academy Awards, the popular Oscars, as was the recent case of the film Parasites. , from South Korea, which won the statuette that awarded it the award for the best foreign-language film, but also the best film, the main category. An example of cultural standardization.

It’s not just about the cinema, well This phenomenon is also observed with television series, which are increasingly abundant thanks to television on demand content platforms. Today, the episodes of the most important series are premiered at the same time in almost all the world, becoming a global phenomenon that keeps viewers from any continent glued to the screen.

Literature is another catalyst for the mixture of customs and also one of the oldest, since since the printing press was invented in the 15th century, the expansion of works has been facilitated, both in the original language and in its translated version. any other language, thus opening the way for anyone to access the knowledge but also the cultural traditions that each page contained.

The case of music is also another form of expansion and mixing of customs that can favor cultural standardization. The big groups and the superstars have followers all over the world, so they represent a nexus between all of them, who have assimilated that particular musical style as part of their culture. That is why on the big tours the repercussions of the concerts are always the same, regardless of the specific place where the group plays each time.

3. Sports

Sport is another part of the culture that has managed to jump all borders and expand globally. Sports such as football, basketball, tennis or Formula-1 are a spectacle with hundreds of millions of followers around the world. A championship final can have half the planet on edge, as is the case with the Olympic Games or the World Cup.

The case of this sport in particular is especially important in cultural standardization, since footballers acquire the status of idols for many children around the world, who proudly wear their shirts, comb their hair like them and are their reference in many ways, for better or for worse.

4. Fashion

Everything related to fashion could not be missing from this list. The way of dressing is also an axis of the culture that is becoming more and more global. As with restaurants, it is easy to find stores of any international brand near our homes. What’s more, with the boom in sales over the Internet, we don’t even need that closeness, since the products of our favorite brands come directly to our homes.

Due to this form of cultural standardization, it is common for the inhabitants of opposite regions on the globe to wear the same garments, since the offer is practically similar in many countries, so it does not matter if we go to the Paris, Shanghai or from New York, since we can find identical products.

The dangers of cultural standardization

We have reviewed the characteristics of cultural standardization and various ways in which it can take place. Thanks to this mechanism, cultures change, grow and mix, but this also has its risks. Mainly, the greatest danger that we find with the advance of this phenomenon, is the loss of local customs and traditions, which can be buried by others of more predominant cultures.

It occurs at all levels: typical dishes of gastronomy, as we have already seen, more localized forms of art, or even festivities that are relegated by other much more powerful thanks to the commercial interest behind them. Therefore, although cultural standardization is a way to learn about other lifestyles, it is advisable never to forget the roots of each place, as they are equally enriching.

Bibliographic references:

  • Hopper, P. (2007). Understanding cultural globalization. Polity Press.
  • Jensen, LA, Arnett, JJ, McKenzie, J. (2011). Globalization and cultural identity. Handbook of identity theory and Research. Springer.
  • Mirrlees, T. (2013). Global entertainment media: Between cultural imperialism and cultural globalization. Routledge.
  • Tomlinson, J. (2012). Cultural globalization. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization. Wiley Online Library.


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