Cultural differences have become a part of our lives and are constantly discussed both in everyday life and in the business world. Globalisation accelerates the need for international and intercultural understanding. Be it in daily life, in schools or in business. These cultural differences frequently hide in the background of interesting scenes in today’s popular TV series and Sitcoms and can give businesses indications to consumer behavior in a new market with a different culture. The fondness for particular characters, their lifestyle and their actions provide an insight into the behavior of people in another culture.

For example, we can look at the popular US sitcom “2 Broke Girls”. In the first scene, an Upper East Side girl walks into a cheap fast food restaurant in Brooklyn wearing Christian Louboutin heels and asks for a job as a waitress. The Producer, Fred Savage, surely didn’t count on this typical American story becoming so popular in China. The fan base is huge and these fans often take to social media to discuss this series:

“The two girls are so courageous and Max is such a great friend. I wish that I also had such a close friendship as her and Caroline.”

“Max is so pretty and I really like her laidback character. Also how she speaks and acts. She is just so funny.”

Interestingly, the comments from American viewers on the media platform International Movie Database (IMDb) are not so positive:

I don’t want to hate the series, because I really like the actresses, but the show is terrible. Every other sentence is a joke about “How small Han is “, “how poor the girls are ” or ” How much sex Max has.”

The different perceptions of the series cannot be overlooked. The average rating on Souhu TV is „almost 9“ and is therefore really popular in China! However, on IMDb the show only achieves a 7 and the rating is continuing to decrease.

Another American TV series, however, shows a completely different effect. The Big Bang Theory splits the Chinese audience. They love the main character Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), the super intelligent and somewhat clumsy nerd. In contrast, his partner Amy Farah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) is not as popular with the viewers in China. The reason being, she is Sheldon’s girlfriend and therefore those fans enamored by Sheldon don’t want to accept this. “Hate comments” circulate the internet such as, “I hate Amy!”. The American audience sees things quite differently and they wish all the best the couple. Also, Mayim Bialik is the only actress from The Big Bang Theory to be nominated for the Emmy for Best Actress 4 years in a row!

The different perceptions reflect the different cultures. This can easily be seen on 2 Broke Girls. The racially tinged jokes and the subject of sex are no longer shocking for the western society. As the producers almost exclusively focus on these aspects, the US audience finds it rather boring, particularly when the actresses don’t deliver the best performances. In China, however, the sitcom enjoys great popularity, precisely because of the content. Firstly, the young Chinese audience wants to learn authentic American English and absorb the phrases and jokes in order to improve their language skills and take in the American culture because they think it is “cool”. This is still the case despite the jokes being inappropriate and actually racist. But it is precisely this sense of humor which impresses them as it reflects the American culture and way of life. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the two main characters are very attractive girls who are always perfectly styled and dressed. This is the main topic of discussion on social media platforms. In contrast, Amy from The Big Bang Theory is not so typically pretty and styled in such a perfect manner, but she is very smart. That’s boring for the Chinese audience. They think she is old-fashioned and the fans do not like the fact that Amy talks so openly about her sexual feelings for Sheldon as they don’t want a woman to form an intimate relationship with Sheldon.

Cultural differences are not only significant in the media. With the globalization and internationalization of the economic world, the understanding of different cultures is becoming increasingly important. A global thinker observes the impact of culture on his business. The culture may have existed for hundreds or thousands of years, but the market is new. For companies operating on an international basis, it is important to explore the global market in order to both optimally set up business strategies and perceive the differences in cultures not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity. If a company wants to create an international brand, the relevant employees must understand the different customs in other countries in order to survive in the market. For example, in some Asian countries, consumers do not buy products that bear the number 4 as they believe it brings bad luck. This is because the number has a similar pronunciation to the word death.

The success of a new business in another country heavily depends on cultural factors. A better local understanding provides the company with a clear competitive advantage. A culture cannot be seen and felt, it needs to be understood. A global thinker knows the market before he enters it. He follows the rules and responds to the needs and desires of the consumer. It is almost impossible to successfully establish a brand in two different countries with just one concept without responding to the needs of the local market.

So, what do you think? Do you like Amy Farah Fowler?

This blog article was created in cooperation with our Chinese intern Zhiyi Yin.

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