Japan, Holland and why the whole world is not American

Gary at Zandvoort beach

Gary at Zandvoort beach

One of the coolest things of the world we live in, is that it is changing really fast. And it is changing in ways we do not really foresee.

My friend from the States was over for 2 weeks in Europe. Gary works as creative event director for the Apple stores in SF. Only 20 and doing two master studies simultaneously. That is already a big difference with the average ambition of youth in Holland.

He realized how different things are here. In Amsterdam you go to drink outdoors and all seats are directed the same way. You should be able to watch all those passing by while you are having a drink. In the States that is called spying on people, he said. Here in Amsterdam, it is the reason why people dress up, even though it seems like they made no effort. We all are aware that we are being watched when we pass a terrace. Perfect for flirting etc.

When my friend and former colleague of KaZaA, Sahoko, was over in spring from Japan we talked about what I was doing with Respectance. She thought it was a very open way of communicating and thought it might be difficult in Japan. Unless we would change it. To me that sounded reasonable.

She also told me about what sites people used in Japan. Of course, anything is mobile in the land of the rising sun. Way ahead of Europe and even further ahead of the States.
Facebook was not a big thing in Japan. The big thing in Japan is Mixi. It was hard for me to understand why that was so hot. You become a more or less anonymous person in this community and talk about big issues or daily things. You take a fake identity and then you dare to show/type your feelings on matters. It matches the Japanese culture.

Now I see that also Facebook is discovering that they have cultural problems. Not everybody in the world is American. What’s underneath the visible culture might shock you.

Eventually, I think that a concept like Mixi might become really popular in quickly changing societies like the Dutch society. Lately, the freedom of speech has been attacked by the Dutch authorities. This does not go well together with the opening up the internet brings. But then, what can you do if the authorities are watching your actions online, and you still have the need to say what you like to say? You do it anonymously. Mixi might be a solution for this trend in Holland.


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5 Responses to “Japan, Holland and why the whole world is not American”

  1. Svetlana Gladkova - Profy Says:

    Very good opinion, it is definitely true that international brands have hard time trying to enter international markets (at least I know this is true in Russia as well as in Japan). But it is not only because of cultural and mentality differences, it is also due to the fact that local players have established brands and local marketing/PR teams that work to promote their networks and are not happy about international invaders.

  2. virginbrain Says:

    Thanks for adding this, Svetlana! In Holland it is the same. Hyves is the leading community. Facebook has little meaning in this market. FB is trying now, after a year they will buy Hyves. That is the semi-open strategy.
    The same happened with marktplaats and ebay. Ebay had to buy marktplaats to get a position in this market. The people got educated and used to marktplaats already.
    What are your experiences in Russia in this respect?

  3. Satoshi Says:

    I agree with you. Mixi is much better service than Facebook or MySpace. As a Japanese living in United State, I am learning a lot from mixi and other activities in Japan, and has just launched a social networking application for iPhone users (it’s called Big Canvas PhotoShare).

    Interestingly, this application became very popular among iPhone users in Japan quickly (probably the #1 social networking application for iPhone at this moment), but not in United State yet (we are way behind MySpace or Facebook).

    As far as I can tell, Japanese users are much more familiar with “always-connected” lifestyle, while American users are much more slow to get the full benefit of it.

  4. Richard Derks Says:

    So how can we have the perfect combination of always connected by phone and by often connected by computer? they call for different experiences…

  5. Martha Mihaly Says:

    So it comes back to the same problem everytime! It’s really hard to to take our ‘ethnocentric’ glasses off and look at the world through someone else’s perspective.

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