Culture Shock

As I have mentioned before, once you return to your home country the culture shock abates but never seems to disappear completely.  I’m not sure if it is more-so because I have changed or the culture that I remember has changed.  Perhaps it is both.

As many of you know, I spent a lot of time in Europe and Asia and whenever you spend a lot of time in a foreign country your mindset will definitely change.  What is not discussed as much is that your home culture changes as well.  You come back expecting to find it as you left it but if you’ve been gone for quite a few years then what you return to will not be the same.

This has been on my mind quite a bit recently and before I dive into this post let me tell you the reasons why.

1.  Big purchases

- Recently, I have had to buy more than a few items and have spent more time than usual in stores and with sales people.

2.  The Economy

- The USA is in debt.  In fact, our government is now turning Republican because of it.

3.  American Corporations

- I am a sales person and now understand much more clearly when I go to purchase something how big of a markup and the sales tactics the company is using to get more of my money.

4.  My experience in the 3rd world vs the 1st.

5. Technology

- Using my Iphone, I can simply scan an item and find out how much I am being overcharged as well as any coupons available.  When shopping, it has almost become a game for me to find the best deal.  Perhaps this is left over from my haggling days in SE Asia and I am just enjoying the more sophisticated version here in the 1st world using technology.

Combine all of these things and it will definitely give one an enormous case of culture shock.  (I’m using culture shock as the catch-all) Let’s start off with my experience in stores.

The Store Experience

Before I took off for Asia and had very limited experience with business I was persuaded by the sales pitches, bought the item and was satisfied.  Now, I find myself always looking for the best deal and I must stop myself from getting irritated when I know a corporation is trying to take more money from me than they should.  Perhaps most would not recognize this and the reason being is that we are “institutionalized” to an extent (read my post on institutionalized).

In the USA, it is not our custom to haggle.  Unless of course you happen to be a sales person yourself and understand the company you are buying from is trying to take as much money from you as they can.  Then, every purchase becomes like a game.  Here are a few examples of things that have come to irritate me that I do not remember as being “usual” before I left the USA for a life abroad.

A. Stores

1.  Everything comes in a box

- I’ve purchased quite a bit of furniture lately and I do not remember it coming in a box for me to put together.  Perhaps it is because I never bought much furniture before, but now it all comes UPS, slightly damaged and one has to spend a few hours putting the darn thing together.  This is irritating.

2.  Impolite delivery people

- If the store does have it’s own delivery people, they refuse to take off their shoes when coming into a house.  There is no more “customer service,” they simply want to drop off the item, get your signature and go.  I did complain about this to Comcast and ‘lo and behold the next month they ran a commercial about how they will respect your house and wear booties or even take off shoes!  I would like to think that my message to them caused this change and I half believe it did!

I cannot express how unhappy I become with my “culture” when some idiot just wants to trample into your clean house with their dirty workboots and are rude as well!  This happened to me the first time I called for service and thus led to the complaint.  However, the second time I recognized the technician was Vietnamese and got to talking to him about Vietnam.  He took his shoes off and should I ever need further service I’m going to specifically ask for a Vietnamese as they are more considerate.  It makes me much happier than the standard delivery person response, “Uh, I can’t.  Can I get your signature?”

Yes, You can get my signature if you take the item back and tell your boss I won’t deal with your company anymore.

3.  End of sale sales pitch.

This is your standard “Do you want the extended warranty, buyers protection, customer guarantee etc etc.”

What this says to me is “Can we please charge you more for the item you are paying for?”

4. Store Credit Cards

“Do you want to put this on your “______” charge card?  You’ll save 15%!

The thing is, I happen to know why they want you to use their own card and I also know how every other card works.  What I hear is, “Can we give you a card so you do not pay off the balance and thus we charge you more for the item you’ve just bought which will be much greater than the 15% ($15) you’ve just saved?”

My answer “No.”

Them, “So you do not want to save 15%?”

My answer “No.”

Although at times, I have given them a five minute explanation as to exactly why the company wants me to use their credit card but instead I’ll use my cash back Amex, pay off the balance and have Amex pay me around $500 at the end of the year.  So, No, I don’t want your dumpy little card.

B. America vs the 3rd World

Perhaps the irritants are so numerous because I have something to compare them to.  I understand how things work in other countries and coming back look at things a bit differently.

I have to tell you, my first thought when coming back to the States was “Welcome to America, now GO BUY SOMETHING.”

I expressed this frustration in my post “Coconut Example – Services in America” and my opinion has not changed.  In case you didn’t read the post let me give you a bit of a comparison so you understand where I am coming from.

In Vietnam, I collected my salary in cash and put it in a vault in my room.  When I needed money I took a few bills and used them to purchase something.

In the USA, I go to Bank of America to deposit my check.  I deposit it and they try to sign me up for a credit card.  Every single time they tell me “Congratulations,” and that I am eligible.  Not, once, not twice, but 3984570934875 times!  Well, not that many, but pretty close.

After I finally convince them I’m not going for the credit card they try to get me to sign up for “Identity Theft Protection.”  Yet, being a sales person what I hear is “Can we charge you even more for a worthless service?” As well as, “I may give your money to someone who is not you, but for a *small* fee I will take extra precautions that this doesn’t happen.”

HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE CRAZY????

C.  The Economy

The Economy is in the dumps.  This is, due to many factors but for this post, I’m going to say it is our culture for companies to get us to spend as much as we possibly can.  Many people like to point fingers and change governments when this happens, because, in this culture, there must be someone to blame so long as that person is not yourself.

I for one blame the MBA students and have been planning to write a post on that but have been just plain lazy.  The MBA students are the ones who come up with the plans to get as much money from you as they can for the company.  THAT IS ALL THEY DO!   Sit around all day long, trying to increase that bottom line and it never ends!

Hell, it never ends even in a recession!!!

NO, Cash Call, you suck.  Let me explain in my own terms why in case you are not aware.  They lend you money, charge a huge interest rate and then you are even more broke than before.  I want to say these are just *bad people* but am beginning to think it is simply our own culture to blame.  We are consumers and need money to consume.  If we do not have enough money then there is an MBA graduate nearby to figure out how to get you to spend even if you do not have any money and increase profits for their company.

DID YOU NOTICE THE APR AT THE END OF THE COMMERCIAL??  99.25%!!!!  They charge you the amount you borrowed (principle plus the charge for service  which is the same as the principle = amount borrowed x 2) so that you are now twice as in debt as you were previously!!!!   **Please refer back to the first video!!!***

D. Capitalism

-Now, I will not give you a big long dissertation on Capitalism.  Here is the short version.

Get as much money as you can in any way possible so long as it is not illegal.
(or even if it is illegal – just don’t get caught or buy the right politicians)

That’s it!  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this.  However, most people are not aware they are being taken advantage of, brainwashed and so on, thus they sign up for loans they cannot afford, are taken in by *bad* sales people simply because they are ‘institutionalized’ to do so and trust that what they are hearing is THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME!

So, in theory, no there is nothing wrong with this, just as long as everyone is very shrewed.  But most people are not shrewed, the MBA’s are too clever and thus we find ourselves in the dumps economically.  Anyone who uses Cash call is definitely NOT shrewed and the reason these companies make money.

Therefore, I propose a simple test to determine if someone is allowed to be a Capitalist or not.  There is only one question

1.  Is using Cash Call a wise decision or not?

- HELL NO –  You get to be a Capitalist.  Congratulations.
Maybe – You should be a Socialist
Yes – Sorry, you have to be a Communist,.  It is in your best interest.

Anyway, that is my culture shock for the day.  In a completely unrelated note, I would also like to point out how fickle the media, American public can be.  Please see picture below.

I ran across this picture on my hard drive the other day and it occurred to me that if Michelle Obama was caught in this garb there would be a complete sh*t storm in the USA.

I also remember a picture of when George W. met Hugo Chavez but unfortunately just captured it in my memory and not in my hard drive.

So what is my conclusion in relation to culture shock?  I can never get used to how much companies want me to overspend when I set foot in a store and cannot believe how juvenile politics have become.

I just realized I didn’t touch on politics too much in this post but since there is so much silliness going on with “Muslim” issues and Barack Obama, I thought it would be nice to share this picture everyone has forgotten about and/or never payed attention to.  Now, how can we relate this picture to Nazi Germany?  (Send it to Beck!)

But honestly, I like Laura Bush and have given half a thought to reading Decision Points by her husband.  It is 40% off after all.

I’m not against Republicans or Democrats, just Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and quite a few nincompoops who call themselves politicians.

Yes yes, back to Culture shock.  As you can see, not only have the sales pitches caused me quite a bit of consternation but politics have put me into full blown epilepsy.  Yet, I’ve written enough about politics but true to form the ends of my posts always seem to drift in that direction.

Color me Culture Shocked!

*Yes, this video has nothing to do what so ever with the post.  Yet, the group is “Color Me Badd” and they just popped into my head when I wrote that last sentence.

My apologies.

2 thoughts on “Culture Shock

  1. Yonanu

    I agree with you on blaming the MBA schools. They are totally overrated and their main contribution is usually just hot air.
    Some years ago I read a brilliant debunking of business schools written by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina T. Fong. Pfeffer was head of Stanford's business school at the time. It describes the power or effect of attaining an MBA degree and how research on management relates to both real life and science as such. (Tip: not a whole lot). Go ahead and read the whole thing. http://www.aomonline.org/Publications/Articles/BS

  2. El Guapo Post author

    Thanks for that Jonas, will read! The irony is that Business Schools are also a business and must find new and clever ways to attract more students to increase profits. Yet, the main purpose of business school which is to "increase profits" (the thinking of the students) remains the same. It is a shame we devote so much energy to "profit generation" which directly lead to the economic crisis.

    Some schools introduced ethics classes and Harvard students even have to sign a pledge that they will not be *bad* but the pull of making a lot of money is just too strong any any "ethics" simply go out the window. I cannot see this getting better anytime soon and do not even have a better solution to propose. If making money is not the goal, then what is the purpose of business school? "Bettering the world" does not seem to be very fashionable……

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