Books: The Culture Code

The Culture Code : An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do Over the weekend I found an excellent book by an author named Clotaire Rapaille called The Culture Code : An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do.

Rapaille, a cultural anthropologist, has consulted with large companies for years. His talent is finding the cultural “imprints” that exist for concepts or products and helping people and companies alike to use these imprints to their advantage.

The concept of an imprint starts with the assumption that learning does not happen without connected emotion to the experience being learned. The greater the emotion, the more learning takes place. The combination of the experience and the emotion create an imprint, a strong connection between the concept or experience learned, and the emotion experienced at the time. In NLP parlance, an imprint is a very strong anchor.

A “Culture Code” is characterized as “the unconcious meaning we apply to any given thing – a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country – via the culture in which we are raised”. This unconcious meaning is, within the book, distilled to a one to three word phrase to characterize the belief system or meaning attached at cultural level.

Rapaille covers a number of concepts within this book, including things like food, money, love, work and compares the unconcious meanings of these concepts at a cultural level between different cultures like the US, France and Germany. The differences in meaning attached to these concepts is incredibly interesting when you are looking at it from the perspective of comparing cultures, but for me, the most interesting pieces were being able to relate to the meaning that I personally have for things and seeing the accuracy in which Rapaille expresses them in the book.

For example, Rapaille asserts that the American culture code for work is “WHO I AM”. The American culture, overall, associates their identity with what they do for a living. The American culture code for money, is “PROOF”. In this section Rapaille makes the point that work and money are closely related culture codes, as the meaning we attach to the money we earn acts as proof that we are good at what we do. Our commitment to work is to ensure that we “are someone” and not a “nobody”. It is our feeble attempt to create our identity.

These are just two of the codes explained in this book. Overall, I found the explanation of the concepts extremely valueable (and relevant) on a personal level and got a lot of value out of the analysis. For me, it was almost therapeutic, in that it explained a lot of the behaviors that I have had that I haven’t really been sure where they came from. With the very clearly written and thoughtful analysis and explanations of these codes, I wound up receiving quite a bit of self enlightenment out of the experience of reading this book and found it to be totally worth the price of the book.

Whether you agree with the content of the book or not, theres no denying that anyone could find some value in the information communicated in it. I give this one an enthusiastic thumbs up and highly recommend it as a few hours of high quality reading.

2 thoughts on “Books: The Culture Code

  1. I have found some great encouragement in the little anthropology I have read. It is also pretty scary to think about how deep-seated some of our actions are – change may be more difficult than we would like to think.

    Case in point, the coupling of identity with occupation is a bit disconcerting. The second example, however, equating money with “proof” is really scary.

    Some of us are trying to get out of this kind of thinking, but it’s hard when we are bombarded with it every day. This book seems to be a positive influence in the right direction.

    Can I borrow it?

  2. Yup, disconcerting and scary, and in my case quite accurate after I thought about it a bit — and not just with me.

    Sure you can borrow it. I’ll bring it in tomorrow.

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