The Spotlight’s On Asia..!
After World War II, Japan underwent an economic miracle which had given the nation a brand new opportunity to reconstruct its public persona and rebrand itself. From their highly successful and brilliant use of soft power through prime-time broadcasts of anime, Japan came out the other end and led the world into a new digital era, filled with mass productions of digital television, radios, and many branded electronics. Today, a similar pattern can be seen with Korean popular music or K-pop. South Korea has brought the K-pop phenomenon all across the globe; and at the same time, reintroduced Asian culture appreciation by proxy.
Now, you may be thinking that Asian culture appreciation is nothing new… We know what Asian culture appreciation is – the respectful borrowing of elements from another culture with an interest in exchanging and diversifying ideas. And you would be right. Well… half-right.
Asian culture is nothing new to Asians nor is it something new to the West. We have been doing trade and maintaining a relatively good diplomatic relationship for the last couple of decades. While Asian cultural appreciation is ubiquitous in Asian countries; the same cannot be said for the Western countries. On the flip side, many Western cultures have been integrated and infused into many contemporary Asian cultures whether it be in the food they consume or celebrations that were predominantly non-secular to them.Fig.1: "Merry Christmas" Outdoor Display At Sogo, A Japanese Department Store (Philippe Yuan on Unsplash)
Did you know that Christmas is HUGE in Japan? And that Japanese had made it their tradition to visit their local KFC every Christmas to get a bucket of fried chicken as part of their preparation for the occasion? Or how the Japanese loved Valentine's Day so much that they came up with ‘White Valentine’s Day’ a month after the actual Valentine’s Day? Although KFC is not necessarily eaten during Christmas and White Valentine is totally Japanese, they embrace the culture and put their own spin on it. That’s cultural appreciation.
The Asian wave is hovering over us as we speak and the Western world is beginning to acknowledge this with Lunar New Year gaining more and more recognition and bubble tea can be found almost everywhere. But you know what? It can be better. We can do better. Of course, it is impossible to translate every authentic, unfabricated, and traditional element of a certain group of people, a certain tribe, or a certain country and transport them to a completely different country. But will this wave of Asian culture appreciation stand the test of time? If we join forces, then there’s a chance that the world will be very happy to try out new food and shift their lifestyles.
Now, take another sip of your bubble tea and follow me on this little thought experiment. Imagine you’re in your favorite convenient store… or supermarket, if you will. You’re now walking down the confectionary aisle. Now, what do you see? Sweets. Chocolates. Kit-Kats. Yum… Chocolate and cocoa were never a thing in Asia, right? Not until they were presented to them by the Europeans in the 17th century. You then spy a lovely packaging of some Kit-Kats on the shelves. Of course, you pick them up and read the label: ‘Purple Sweet Potato’ - this could play out one of two ways: you might find that every word in that name sounds wrong to you or you could be ecstatic to have Purple Sweet Potato Kit-Kats in your hand! If you’re Team ‘This Is Weird’, then you are probably not so familiar with Asian food culture just yet. And if you’re Team ‘This Is Awesome’, you know who you are! But let’s face it whichever team you’re in, you’ll still pick it up and pay for it anyway. Why? Because it’s Purple. Sweet. Potato!! And nor some old boring Potato Kit-Kat, you wouldn’t pick that up, would you?
No. Of course not.
My question, then, for you is: why not? Why wouldn’t you? The answer is rather simple. Regular potatoes are not sweet or purple. They are not exotic enough! They don’t give you those endorphins. You don’t get those sparkles in your eyes when you see a Potato Kit-Kat because they are plain, old, and flat out boring. What if I tell you that you can find even more bizarre flavors in Asia? Not just Kit-Kats but sandwiches, breads, and anything you could ever dreamed of and more! Brace yourself, because you’re in for a ride!
You can’t grow in the same environment! Sure, listening to K-pop music, binge-watching anime, and munching on Chinese take-outs could help create that Asian experience for you, but you are still largely influenced by certain ways of doing things. You are still comfortable in your own skin. What better way to discover you, yourself, and the world around you than putting yourself in situations that will force you to adapt and acclimate yourself to the ever-changing world! To put icing on the cake, you might as well benefit from your experience in Asia. Have some fun while you’re at it! Add another language to your already long lists of skills and talents! Gain those unique skill sets that are sooooo difficult to find at home! Scout the global market! Set yourself up for success! Intern Abroad!
Maybe you’ll find new aspirations. Maybe you’ll make friends for life in Japan, in South Korea, in Singapore, or Taiwan! Maybe this experience will be one of a lifetime! You know what they say, adventures await you! If you’re adventurous, fun-loving, or simply someone who is looking for a change, hop aboard and be a part of AIP’s international family! For more information on our internship opportunities, check out our website here. Or contact us at: [email protected]