Elements of Culture

As mentioned before, as the description of culture gets broader, the more accurate it becomes. The definition of culture is therefore better understood when the different variables that define it are studied. In order to get a better resolution on what culture really stands for, it is important to understand the ingredients/ elements that contribute to a culture. Some of these elements include Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Architecture, Climatic Conditions, Philosophy, Technology, Economics, Religion, Literature, Politics, Tradition, Ritual, Custom, Human Biology, Physiological Differences and Natural Resources. Lighting solutions in different cultures carry certain unifying elements, and then there are local variations that may arise due to any of the reasons listed above. To begin by establishing a metaphor for our theory of cultural lighting adaptations, we can take the example of the McDonald’s fast food chain and the many iterations of its standard menu that appear around the world.  While the McDonald’s brand and the connection to its standard American menu is maintained in the style of presentation and with the continuation of certain standard items, regional variations are frequently taken into account in order to make McDonald’s more accessible to cultures with specific dietary requirements and restrictions. 

The signature Big Mac burger, well-known to Americans since 1968, has become a veritable symbol of capitalism, used by The Economist as a gauge of purchasing power parity between currencies in what is termed the ‘Big Mac Index’. A standard Big Mac includes a three-part bun (including the middle ‘club’ bun layer), double beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and special sauce.  In India, however, you will find the Maharajah Mac, or perhaps a Chicken Tikka Burger, instead.  Since local custom prohibits eating beef, both versions of the Mac here have incorporated lamb or chicken in deference to the local population.  In Pakistan, you would likely find a McChutney Burger, developed using a popular regional type of condiment.  In Japan, a Tsukimi Burger (Moon-Viewing Burger) co-opts the appeal of the yearly autumn tradition of moon-viewing and incorporates a fried egg, which resembles the full moon.  Israel’s McShawarma substitutes the commonly found shaved meat composite for beef patties and is served on local flatbread, rather than a sesame-seed bun.  In some cases, the Mac varies so much that it little resembles the American prototype, but adaptations to the local context make the product more familiar and appropriate, while retaining the brand ‘aura’ of the original.

  • Belgium:   Croque McDo
  • France:   French fries are fried potatoes
  • Hong Kong:  Rice-Fan-Tastic, McRice
  • India:   Maharajah Mac, chicken tikka burger, veg burger (no beef)
  • Israel:   McShawarma, barbecued vs. fried beef patties
  • Japan:   Tsukimi Burger (Moon-Viewing Burger!)
  • Pakistan:  McKofta, McChutney Burger
  • South Korea: McBingsoo (Korean shaved ice)
  • USA:  Super-Sizing