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Cultural Cringe

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"It's impossible for me as a British citizen to go into any museum in any nation on the planet Earth without, within five minutes, starting to feel guilty."

The Cultural Cringe is an internalized inferiority complex which causes people in a country to dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries. A person with a cultural cringe will tend to discount a lot of their own culture, and embrace another country's 'better' culture instead. In fact, it's common for people suffering from Cultural Cringe to disavow that there is a national culture at all. Cross-reference How to recognize that you're an American and the various spin-off lists for other countries.


The Trope Namer and Trope Codifier is Australian literary critic and social commentator A. A. Phillips, who coined the term in his 1950 essay "A.A. Phillips on The Cultural Cringe," where he observed this behavior - specifically Australian feelings of inferiority towards Britain - in rampant abundance among his contemporary fellow Australians. (This is also why it's a part of Australia's Useful Notes, along with Tall Poppy Syndrome.) This trope is at least Older Than Radio, though, enough so that among the people Gilbert and Sullivan felt "would not be missed" was:

"The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone / All centuries but this, and every country but his own."

This isn't necessarily the opposite of Patriotic Fervor, nor is it necessarily the same thing as Boomerang Bigot. Someone with the Cringe may love his/her country and national heritage despite its supposed inferiority. As one may put it, their own culture may suck, but it's still their culture.


The flip side of (and often combined with) a Foreign Culture Fetish. Compare Internalized Categorism, where the character starts hating themselves for being a part of a culture perceived by others as "bad," rather then merely seeing their culture as inferior to other cultures. See also Boomerang Bigot, where the character might feel anything from their ethnicity to their species is inferior, rather than feeling their country and its culture specifically is inferior, in comparison to another country and its culture. See also Cultural Rebel, who may or may not suffer from this trope. Also compare Cargo Cult. Compare Stop Being Stereotypical, as something unique to a specific culture can end up being viewed as a stereotype by members of that culture. Contrast Cultural Posturing.


Changes in the Cringe

This survey conducted by the Reputation Institute shows how Cultural Cringe among nations has changed in recent years; it appears now that Canadians and Australians lead the pack for those who have the most Patriotic Fervor for their country, while Americans (who are traditionally mocked for having "a flag on every building") are actually in the middle of the pack, near Russia in terms of national pride. Japan, it seems, is the country that now suffers most from the Cringe. Further details on the study can be found here.

It's important to note that none of the counties in that study put themselves below 50, suggesting that even with the cringe, on average most people everywhere have a respect for their country.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • The Hidden Blade portrays Bakumatsu-era Japan as turning its back on traditional Japanese culture in favor of the new European style. The general perception among the samurai is that Japanese culture is being proven inferior time and again to European technology and customs. One Westernized Japanese man even organizes a footrace to prove the superiority of Western-style running over the Japanese style.

    Live Action TV 
  • This clip from The Newsroom in which an American gives America a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • The Kids in the Hall: This sketch. Scott Thompson transfers this trope to Canada (where KITH is produced) saying that Canadians burn their flags all the time—to keep warm. He then proceeds to pull a tiny Canadian flag out of his pocket and blow his nose into it.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:
    • The English Oliver says in this video that Prime Minister David Cameron, a posh Southern Tory, "embodies all the things I hate about England and I'm English."
    • In an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, on the topic of American World power, Oliver said, "You get blamed for everything when you're number one" and most of the world's problems can be traced back to a British man drawing a line over a map.
  • The Americans: Philip and Elizabeth cozy up to a Soviet defector in the fifth season who almost constantly lambasts the USSR in favor of the US. This annoys not only them (privately) but also his wife, who didn't want to defect.
  • Sense8: Mahendra hates Indian food, almost gets assassinated due to his efforts to ban Hindu ceremonial rites, and is never seen wearing traditional Indian garments. One of the Hindus who has a hand in his assassination attempt says Mahendra wants India to be like America.
  • The Man in the High Castle: In an Alternate History where Germany and Japan won World War II, Childan often disparages American culture in favor or German or Japanese culture. When a Japanese man asks him about rock and roll, Childan says he dislikes "negro music" and prefers Wagner. He also says that American idioms are stupid in comparison to the more elegant Japanese. When living in the neutral zone, the only place where American culture isn't dominated by Germany or Japan, Childan gripes about not being able to get any sushi.

  • "American Idiot", a song by American band Green Day. The title says all you need to know.
  • "America (Fuck Yeah)", the theme song to Team America: World Police, lists several "American" things including porno, fake tits, McDonald's, and slavery.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Dominican Boy of WWC is so named because he hates admitting to being Puerto Rican.

    Stand-up Comedy 
  • During his stand-up special, comedian John Oliver quips that it's "impossible for me as a British citizen to go into any museum in any nation on the planet Earth without, within five minutes, starting to feel guilty."

    Web Original