The Culture Code –Part 4

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Thoughts on the Culture Code, by Clotaire Rapaille
Part 4: Keep Dreaming: America in the eyes of Europe

So far in this series of thoughts based on The Culture Code, by cultural anthropologist and marketing Guru, Clotaire Rappaille, we’ve talked about Emotional Imprinting and the meaning of “toilet paper”, “sex” and “love” as well as the meaning of “shopping” and “Christmas” in America.

Before we reveal the one word, the “Code”, that unlocks the heart of the American, let’s take a moment to answer the question, what one word or “Code” captures the European view of America?

Let’s start with the French. According to author Clotaire Rappaile, the word that explains France to the French is the word, IDEA. Rappaille explains that the French are confounded by the fact that, while they [the French] see themselves as defined by IDEA, America actually leads the world in the arena of ideas. So confused are the French, says Rappaille, that, during their surveys, they consistently spoke of Americans as if they were an alien race. The Code for Americans, then, for the French is SPACE TRAVELER.

The German stands equally befuddled. The word that describes the self identity of the German is ORDER . They see themselves as superior in education, engineering and creating order, and yet see the primitive Americans doing things on the world stage that they cannot. Their word, according to the Culture Code, that defines America is JOHN WAYNE. A good-guy cowboy who rides into town, saves the day and then leaves with no thought of reward.

The word that unlocks the Culture Code of the English is CLASS. To be born british is to be born to a priviledge given at birth. To the English, the “loud” American lacks restraint and tradition. What impacts them is that America is “supersized” in every sense of the word . The word that unlocks the Code of how the English view the American is UNASHAMEDLY ABUNDANT.

That’s how Americans look to the French, Englsh and German. But how does the American look to himself? What word unlocks the code that moves the American heart? The Culture Code for America is…



Americans dreamed of putting a man on the moon, the founding generation dreamed of a democratic nation, the westward migration of Americans was wet with dreams of land, homes and gold, immigrants dream of a better life in America. America’s role in the world is to keep the dream alive. Pessismism is totally “off code” for America. Maybe that’s why the naysaying, depressed, pessimistic half-angry emerging postmodern pastor may have been an item of recent interest but fell way short of becoming a hero or model in America. He was just jealous. He might as well have been French. Americans are moved by dreamers who do and doers who dream. That’s why the long standing tagline on Niza’s Blog is so “on Code”. She really nailed something good in the American soul, the ability to dream. So in the words of Niza, “keep dreaming.” All of the west and the world need dreamers like you…whether you’re American or not.

See you in the mystic.


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6 responses to “The Culture Code –Part 4”

  1. James Petticrew Avatar
    James Petticrew

    Last year I read HOW DOES AMERICA HEAR THE GOSPEL by William Dyrness in which he points out that some of these national character traits amongst Americans can in fact become major barriers to Americans hearing the authentic gospel. The optimism of American culture has created the gospel of the Crystal Cathedral and Lakewood, basically a positive gospel of affirmation, you can become as good/successful as you think you should be with God’s help. I found it a fascinating read.
    Its been interesting for me to reflect since coming home on how just as over optimism may prevent many Americans from hearing the negative aspects of the gospel, that we cannot deliver ourselves we need saving, that here in Scotland our national pessimism prevents us often from believing that we can change and things can get better.
    Thinking of the UK as a whole (can I make yet another plea not to confuse England with Britain) I think the class thing as the defining national trait is a bit old, it certainly still is a major factor in UK culture, but I think the determining characteristic of the British now is cynicism, we are cynical people, we don’t believe anything can be as good as looks, we believe that everyone has an ulterior motive etc, etc. Perhaps this cynicism has been created by the sense that our national identity as the world super power has been taken from us during the 20th century. We have seen too many promises broken, too many so called good times end, we have discovered much of what we thought was glorious in the British Empire was in fact shameful.

  2. Alex Avatar

    good point, james. the man who thinks he can’t is always right. the man who thinks he can will rarely be right. the question is do we want to be right all of the time or just most of the time?

  3. Glenn Lee Avatar
    Glenn Lee

    I have many thoughts and ideas on this whole idea of Dream. As a natural dreamer myself, I am drawn to any conversation that involves the promotion of and encouragement to dreaming. My thoughts on this, being American myself, is the fact that dream carries with it the ideas of experiencing and experimenting, both of which are rather risky. To dream is to risk. My question and thoughts surrounding this come from the religious slant regarding our American church. Does the American church still dream? Is this a mainstream cultural phenomenon or is it across the board touching every aspect of American. I am fully aware that there are some in the religious circles that dream, but what about the organism as a whole?

  4. Gary Avatar

    Hey Alex, I met you earlier this week in Hickory, NC. I was intrigued by our conversation about Rapaille’s book and also about our discussion of what you called the “desynchronization effect.” Does the “desynchronization effect” have any bearing on how a Frenchman would view America, if he came to live there?

    It seems to me that if a Frenchman came and lived in America for a sufficient time, he might experience “desynchronization” with his former culture and become more “in synch” with the new. Or at least that potential would exist (The French are very resilient in maintaining their culture).

    I heard you say that “the movement of the gospel is not only across cultures to reach the earth but across generations to reach the future.” I don’t know if that’s original to you, but I love it! It blows my mind.

    So, not only does every present culture have a code that puts it out of synch with other current cultures, but every individual culture is out of synch with earlier (and future) manifestations of itself.

    I was reading John Piper’s book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, this morning. On page 99 he says,

    “The glory of Jesus Christ is that he is always out of synch with the world and therefore always relevant for the world. If he fit nicely, he would be of little use. The effort to remake the Jesus of the Bible so that he fits the spirit of one generation makes him feeble in another. Better to let him be what he is, because it is often the offensive side of Jesus that we need most.”

    If Jesus is always “out of synch” with all of the world’s cultures, then perhaps becoming a Jesus follower always involves a desynchronization with our birth culture into a new rebirth culture.

    Having said all that, does that make the apostle Paul a kind of time/culture traveler (I have become all things…)? And does that make those who are the apostles of our age the same? Like culture code breakers, able to desynch and resynch across time and space?

    OK. I’m tired now. My normal circadian rhythm must be kicking in.

  5. Alex Avatar

    Gary, Good to hear from you. Yes, that line is original to me. Glad you resonate with it. About “synching” with culture…that is why for years i’ve been writing and teaching to those enamored with all things postmodern: why would anyone want to be postmodern when we can be from the future.

    btw, if you don’t have a blog, i invite you to get one at

    see you in the mystic

  6. Alex Avatar

    Glenn, Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think that on a spectrum even those who’ve given up on dreaming in our culture are more shaped by dreams than those dreamless organizations that inhabit cultures that don’t dream as much as we do.

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