Cultural Cringe by country
What makes Argentina such a peculiar case is that it used to be a legitimately rich country recently enough that there are still people alive who witnessed that period. It used to be that the country was actually an exporter of culture. This makes Argentina a peculiar case where not only the place, but also the time make for a genuine case of the Cringe.
Funnily enough, this didn't happen with Australian popular music. Bands like AC/DC grew in the "pub rock" scene of the 70s and early 80s, with many notable Australian artists being phenomenally popular within Australia but virtually unheard of elsewhere. This can also work to partly explain the Australian national fixation with sport, being an area in which Australians also typically excel on the international level.
Many Australians want to distance themselves from the unsophisticated overseas stereotype. There is also a general disgust at the country's politicians - their lies, hypocrisy and, some would say, outdated prejudice and xenophobia. At school, Australians spend more time on the history of other countries than on the history of their own.
Australia's history as a penal colony is regarded with a mixture of pride and awkwardness: the popular (though inaccurate) idea that colonial Australia was built entirely out of Britain's uneducated, criminal lower classes is a significant part of the national inferiority complex. Treatment of the First Australians since European colonisation has also been a source of shame that is difficult to put to rest.
There were attempts to avert this during the Military Dictatorship, between 1964-1985, such as with the famous motto "Brazil: love it or leave it". Ironically, many of the songs written critically by Brazilian artists during that time are seen with a lot of nostalgia nowadays by the previous generation, in contrast with the way younger people tend to despise Brazilian culture as dumb, cheap and unsophisticated, compared to foreign (especially American) mainstream culture. Even music, of which Brazilians are traditionally very proud, has been drowned in the radios by American pop and rock music, and the most popular national music genre with the newer generation, Sertanejo Universitário, is in many aspects similar to American pop music.
In more modern times, a belief has arisen in some quarters that the United States "does" pop culture like television and movies better, with extravagant praise for series like The Wire (which was, of course, highly praised in the States too). The perception is that American movies and TV will always have a bigger budget and glossier production values and British Brevity is a result of having too little money to make 'proper' TV shows (see this bit from Screenwipe where Charlie Brooker shows an American focus group some British TV and can barely contain his embarrassment). note And the long-held belief that Brits have a more sophisticated sense of humour than Americans has been eroded by the importing of shows like The Simpsons and Curb Your Enthusiasm. British actors, directors, musicians and comedians are only really thought to have "made it" if they are known in the USA too. This is one reason why people like John Lennon, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Nolan, Kate Winslet, Eddie Izzard, John Cleese etc. are so beloved in the UK; Americans like them too! Diamanda Hagan note once described the majority of British television as "costume dramas, documentaries about how the United States did nothing to help win World War I, and stories about how great it was to rule most of the planet".
The modern issues with British self-image can be summed up as "We used to be better at this." The United Kingdom used to be a global superpower and sparked the Industrial Revolution during that time. As such, many modern British believe that the United Kingdom once produced the world's greatest art, music, and engineering projects, but no longer is the world leader in any of those fields. It was a British philosopher, Roger Scruton, who in 2004 first repurposed the term oikophobia (literally "fear of one's own household") as a synonym for Cultural Cringe.
That the United Kingdom is still a leading European power in most of the big political clubs, producing notable advances in several academic spheres, acting as a global financial hub and having the world's 6th largest manufacturing industry comes off a let-down when compared to past glories. However, those past glories are themselves a source of Cultural Cringe as the British Empire was formed on conquest, colonialism, violence, and racism. As British comedian John Oliver (of The Daily Show fame) mentioned, it's unpleasant to feel guilty every time you walk into a museum.
Despite all this, the cringe is rarely so potent that a Brit will allow others to join in. Brits will still display their Patriotic Fervor should someone insult the United Kingdom.
There's also the Scottish cringe, which is directed towards England. Even Britons can start to feel that Britain is Only London sometimes. In fact, Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Irish identities all have separate cringe-factors of their own — Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish people can feel powerless and insignificant because of England's political dominance, while English people are often cast in the role of permanent "evil overlords." On the flip side, however, many people exhibit British cultural cringe while being rather proud of their own distinct country.
- Q: How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All of them, because no one wants to go first.
The Canadian Cultural Cringe was observed by Canadian playwright Merrill Denison, in his 1949 address to the Empire Club of Canada, That Inferiority Complex. He noted that Canadians gave little attention to domestic media, instead putting American or other foreign works on display, and observed that Canadians believed they had no culture or national identity worth expressing. This also extended to inventions or contributions to industry: "In the United States, such contributions to material progress would have been proudly recognized as national achievements and made part of the lore of every school child—in Canada they remained unknown or ignored." Many Canadian actors, comedians and voice actors, such as William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Maurice LaMarche to name a scant few, have gone the majority of their careers without acknowledging their Canadian heritage, as they moved to the United States and had their careers take off there.
During the 1970s, Canadian legislation tried to force a break in the Cultural Cringe, requiring radio and television broadcasters to air a percentage of domestically produced content, or content that is culturally Canadian. For radio stations, this is known as the MAPL system. While it was intended to promote Canadian cultural awareness and self-image, a number of radio stations sectioned off the required airtime with disparaging labels like the "beaver hour" or "beaver bin", with contributions by French Canadians being relegated to odd hours between 3 and 6AM outside of Québec. As Canadian music grew in commercial popularity, this practice faded and to some degree the situation has reversed, with Céline Dion, Alanis Morissette, deadmau5 and Drake emerging as huge international stars.note Due to most major Canadian metropolitan areas being located near the U.S. border, the end result of that Americans tuning in to Canadian stations end up listening to Canadian music (which is famously how Rush's career started, with American fans at first thinking their music was new works by Led Zeppelin.) note
Historically, Cultural Revolution was an extreme manifestation of China's Cultural Cringe. The Revolution saw the country's teenagers being swept up into a grassroots anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement that targeted the people closest to them - their managers, their teachers, their parents - for their supposedly archaic and anti-societal values. We don't have figures for the numbers of people interrogated, tortured, and beaten to death in the so-called '(Revolutionary) Struggle Sessions' by mobs of angry kids but we do know it was at least a few tens of thousands. Less important but also targeted were symbols of feudal and imperialist society - books, plays, music, art, religious and archaeological sites and artifacts. At one point, out of a potential/'feudal' repertoire of several thousand, precisely eight plays could be legally performed. In the time since, the Revolution has become a new source of the Cringe in China and it is one of the very few instances in which the Chinese Communist Party admits it made a mistake.
Many local and regional Chinese governments are renowned for a healthy undercurrent of corruption and nepotism which comes at the expense of the taxpayer (if not their physical safety, if not their very lives as in some of the food-safety scandals). The central government isn't too cuddly either with a constant low level of repression to go around which hasn't spilled over into anything big or public since Beijing's Tiananmen Square stuff in '89, but never truly goes away. Embarrassment toward the government in China has gotten so strong that when US Ambassador Gary Locke arrived in China, he became an instant celebrity simply because he carried his own things rather than having an entourage of assistants do it for him. The Chinese are used to seeing their government officials, even minor ones, being rich and able to get away with whatever they want. This also goes for their children. It's gotten so bad that when Zhang Xuping murdered a corrupt Communist Party official, he was widely hailed as a hero.
China has a very big inferiority complex about native media works, especially the ones done entirely on Mainland. Firstly, the Chinese government has the power to censor any media considered inappropriate, which stifles creativity. Foreign films and shows often outperform their domestic competition and have created a thriving video-pirating industry. As the government will not allow itself to be portrayed negatively in any way, creators find more freedom in setting their stories in historical periods. However these stories, especially those set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, are becoming viewed as cliched and propagandistic because the party's requirements are a bit inflexible (The Paragon / Inspirational Martyr and dedicated Communist Party Member fights the Japanese) and so few true stories meet themnote .
But even without ideology-based censorship and Executive Meddling, there is an increasingly strong awareness and resentment of Chinese works' appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. Movies that run on gaudy idol marketing with poor story and acting reap the box office for weeks straight, cashgrab games manufactured upon pay-to-play and win mechanics gain loads from willing players, TV shows that recycle cliched scripts or rip off other works without any input of its own dominate the cables. This pandemonium of capital-directed media runs itself endlessly, earning tons of money that give producers incentive to produce more of the low-quality work, flooding China with works that run on Viewers Are Morons.
As if that's not enough, the international critical or commercial success of neighboring medias like Japanese Media, Korean Media (at least the regionally successful Korean Wave), and even Indian Media, are frequently cited to contrast with the failures of Mainland Chinese media. And it's just Mainland Chinese - Hong Kong and Taiwan media are excluded from the cringe due to commonly being seen as better alternatives.
China is also heavily polluted and overcrowded. Many of its people work in intolerable sweatshop conditions. Chinese parents are also starting to turn against China's Education Mama culture. The book A Good Mom is Better Than a Good Teacher spent quite some time on the bestseller list.
Despite (or perhaps because of) 19th/20th Century Neo-Confucianism's emphasis on harmony and politeness, many Chinese view their countrymen as rude and selfish, embodying the most extreme forms of Asian Rudeness. Check out this article in which Chinese citizens marvel at how Japanese Politeness kept things orderly during the 2011 earthquake and wonder how much worse things would be if a similar earthquake had happened in China. Even the President of China has asked his countrymen to be more polite while traveling overseas.
Much of China's Cringe is exemplified in this satirical essay that went viral on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.
There are also divisions by region and language. A viral video of a subway argument illustrates the disputes between the people of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese. Some Hong Kongers see mainlanders as rude, unrefined "locusts" who come to the city in droves to take advantage of its resources, not leaving enough for the locals. It is becoming increasingly common for people from Hong Kong to identify themselves as Hong Kongers rather than Chinese. Some mainlanders believe that Hong Kongers are snooty, unpatriotic, "unfilial children" because they often speak poor Mandarin and are "running dogs" who follow British cultural norms leftover from their days as a colony.
There is also resentment between the wealthier, urbanized coastal regions and the poorer, rural interior regions. Some coastal Chinese view rural areas as the place where the embarrassing parts of old China, such as superstition and sexism, persist. In return, rural Chinese resent the coastal Chinese for their prosperity and perceived preferential treatment by the government.
Taiwan is much the same in attitudes toward the mainland - even more so, thanks to Patriotic Fervor, as nationalism gets tossed into the usual stereotypes. It's not uncommon to see internet flame wars between netizens of the two - though Taiwan also struggles with an identity of its own, as the younger generation slowly takes on Japanese and other Asian trends. This is a holdover from World War II, as Taiwan was much, much more accepting of Japanese rule, taking on dialects from Japan.
Finland was part of Sweden until 1809, when Russia invaded Sweden (and thus Finland) and annexed Finland. Finland declared independence in 1917, when Russia was too weak to interfere. After independence Finland was invaded by the USSR twice (1939 and 1941), and lost a lot of land - including a region that was central to Finnish culture - but the USSR didn't manage to occupy Finland or to pick the sort of government Finland would have after the war. They did, though, get to have massive influence on Finnish politics that didn't end until the USSR was dissolved.
Because of this, Finns feel that they've existed between various larger regional powers, and consequently been invaded and ruled by them for most of their history. This is probably why they're often quite scared of getting invaded by Russia.
As a culture Finns feel that they're depressed and afraid, and constantly worried that they're entirely unremarkable and insignificant in every way and will soon disappear completely. While Finns take great pride in the achievements of famous and important Finnish people (and these days companies) and especially in the justice and welfare that their society has generally been able to build, that pride is largely a reaction to their perceived insignificance. Finns ask foreigners who visit Finland if they liked it, and suspect that they didn't but they're too polite to tell.
Finland is considered one of the Nordic welfare states, but Finns have a massive inferiority complex with the other Nordic countries because they're perceived as more wealthy, educated, and "European". (Probably better looking, as well.) Finns view themselves as basically a small tribe of natives that has barely been able to assimilate into European - or Western - culture.
Depending on who you ask, French people will also find their own country too statist/xenophobic/socially conservative/not well governed compared to their neighbours, with incompetent/irresponsible/corrupt politicians (or even sportsmen, or entire media) and inconsistent/bureaucratic institutions.
In particular, the country tends to be sharply divided politically, and any kind of political reform seems always surprisingly hard to implement. Though many, if not most, French people accept demonstrations and strikes as a part of national culture, even they find that sometimes, too much is too much.
These are some of the reasons French people seriously fear the long-term decline of French culture ; ironically, much of this fear is also a reaction against government efforts initially intended to promote French culture, as many French find these efforts to be ill-advised in some way or another ; for example, French people often find they have much unoriginal music, and fictions of deplorable quality (especially less than stellar TV series), with an overabundance of pseudo-auteur films aimed at an urban upper class audience and bad comedies aimed at uncultured people.
Other sources of the cringe may include a bad/unoriginal sense for everyday fashion, general conformism, or the fact that their country is populated by too many French Jerks yes, they're conscious of that stereotype, and they deplore it.
Once again, the USA an France share several causes of cringe : politically, a left-wing that thinks France is being too corporate and sees Nordic Countries/Socialist Latin American Countries as better examples of socialism, versus what they see to be a xenophobic/reactionary right and far-right ; culturally, among geeks, seeing British and Japanese (and, in the case of France, American) pop-culture as superior to their own.
More broadly, this same gentleman and his actions almost permanently ruined patriotism in Germany. Germans can be proud of the Dichter and Denker, but in the same way that one is proud of a famous person from one's home town who went elsewhere: they are considered great people for the world, who happened to be from Germany, rather than great Germans. Flag-waving outside a sporting context is a particular no-no, and overt patriotism gets the same reactions as in America (i.e.: viewed as ignorantly nationalistic and xenophobic). Within the last decade or so, however, Germans have gradually begun to be prouder of Germany for Germany—but it's still far less than most other countries.
There's also a massive Cringe among some Russian Israelis who claim that Israel is an uncultured barbarous land; however, this is a subversion, as those Russians dont associate themselves with Israel but with Russia. As with far-left Americans, there is a culture of refusniks - far-left draft-dodgers, usually radicals or peace activists - who view Israel as war-mongering.
Aside from this there are also ethnic groups in Israel with this sense of cringe regarding other groups, notably with Mizrachi Jews who associate their own heritage with barbarous Lower-Class Lout behaviour and Azhkenazihood with civility. In return, Mizrachim, who were semi-officially treated as a political underclass up to the late 1970s, often view the disproportionately Ashkenazi entertainment industry as excessively apologetic and enamored of European culture. The current Minister of Culture, the Mizrachi Miri Regev, famously greeted said industry with a gleefully antagonistic "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
Other major causes of cringe are the dumbness of Italian shows, always getting to the Lowest Common Denominator and the general inability of "sell" Italy abroad. Italians think Italy care so little about its cultural heritage they don't deserve it.
You may notice that USA and Italy share several causes of Cringe (mainly, the "It's all Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll now damn it!" vs "It's all racist bigot redneck scum damn it!"). Actually, another typical feeling in Italy is that it's culturally and politically (not to say linguistically) an USA colony and can't think originally anymore.
Another source of the cringe is the 6+ million people who died in faminesnote resulting from the Japanese Army's destruction or theft of their food-crops, the c.5-10 million Chinese refugees who died of disease and exposure after fleeing the Japanese occupied zones, the million or so civilians killed during anti-partisan actions throughout East and SE Asia, the hundreds of thousands of POW worked to death or murdered out of hand, the tens of thousands enslaved by the Army Recreation Centers to serve as outlets for sexual frustration among their troops ('Comfort Women'), and the several thousand used for biological weapons research and live human experimentationnote . Some Japanese school textbooks pretend the numbers of dead were lower or that some bad things that Japan did didn't happen at all - though only a handful of schools have actually bought and used these books. Most of these books, though, do try to make the whole 'killing millions of people through selfishness and xenophobic hatred' thing look a whole lot cleaner and more excusable than it really was. One sticking point is the fact that no Japanese government has apologised for the country's wartime conduct, even though many high-ranking politicians (including numerous Prime Ministers) have done so on the de facto (but not official) behalf of The Japanese People. Doing so hasn't been a career-ending move for any of them, so people outside Japan are a little skeptical that it's just 'not wanting to look bad' that's keeping Japanese governments from going the whole way and just wrapping it up already. Interestingly, it's not hard to find Japanese actors willing to act as villains in Chinese or Korean movies about Imperial Japan during the Second Sino Japanese War and World War II.
More interesting still, this has caused outrage among xenophobic ultranationalists who are slowly gaining notoriety for the way they keep coming out with new 'revisionist' textbooks and making callous, inaccurate, and callously inaccurate statements note that they genuinely believe. In 2013, one hard-right mayor went so far as to say that even if their country really did kill 10-20 million people in all sorts of horrible ways, it was all for a good cause.
A further aggravating factor is the weak economic growth associated with the Lost Decade that followed the early 1990s bubble burst, as well as Japan's motor vehicle and electronics giants losing market share to its Asian neighbours in recent years.
In fact, the Cringe is so exacerbated that it gets its very own word: Malinchismo, which doesn't exist anywhere else in the Spanish speaking world.note
- The Flight of the Conchords are a case in point - rejected by national broadcasters, they went to America and made it big. Only then did NZ broadcasters take notice.
- Public broadcasting as a whole has been accused of this since the late 1980s, and not without justifcation.
- Split Enz, the first New Zealand rock band to make it big globally, relocated to Australia, and later Britain, in the 1970s and 1980s to achieve global exposure, only to later return to New Zealand for good as successful solo artists.
- Comedian John Clarke avoided the same with his popular alter ego "Fred Dagg" on TV in the 1970s, but later it hit when his show was cancelled and he booked a one-way ticket to Australia at the end of the decade.
Cultural cringe in New Zealand is also prevalent in the economic debate, especially since the loss of guaranteed agricultural exports to Britain in 1973, and the subsequent upheaval of economic deregulation in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many New Zealanders of a free-market persuasion point to their country's position near the top of the OECD in the 1950s, and what they see as the subsequent decline. They commonly cite the 'brain drain' of highly-skilled New Zealanders for 'greener pastures' overseas and the fear of NZ joining the ranks of the Third World, as justification for further deregulation, as well as pointing the finger at Tall Poppy Syndrome. Those on the other side of the debate typically accuse the economic rationalists of cargo-cultism and expecting Uncle Sam to come to New Zealand's military and financial rescue, with a case in point being NZ's anti-nuclear stance with the US. They also point to many of the aforementioned high-skilled New Zealanders returning home after a stint overseas, while still acknowledging the brain-drain.
Yet there have been notable aversions. Comedian Billy T James pushed many envelopes in his day, and much of it attributable to his self-deprecating Maori humour. Sadly it didn't last, after his heart stopped beating in 1991. More recently, Peter Jackson has made it big with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, after a period of indie film-making to build up his reputation, and even more recently, Taika Waititi. Additionally, Lorde has made it big on the global music stage.
- When Norway was trying to (emphasis on trying) to celebrate their centennial as a free nation in 2005, a debate occurred, whether the jubilee should be labeled a "celebration" or just a "markation" of some kind. It seemed the government actually tried to avoid not offending Sweden, because Norway had broken up with them in 1905. The government also tried to avoid celebrating the break-up of a union, as the EU question was rather difficult, and the same government wanted to join. The whole discussion earned a lot of snarking, and a public feeling Norway actually had nothing to celebrate at all. Hilarity ensued when a Swedish newspaper pointed out that the Norwegian break-up actually encouraged the Swedish democracy to develop. The Norwegian officials went dead silent.
Japanese (and increasingly Korean) and Western (particularly American) culture have also become marks of status. Early Filipino films centered on American lifestyles and Western subject matters, such as the European medieval era. Many Filipinos pride themselves on their ability to speak English or Japanese (the less accent the better), embracing Japanese or Western culture, visiting these countries, or having foreign-looking features such as lighter skin. Check out the celebrities section of the Philippines page and see for yourself how many of the country's most famous celebrities are light-skinned or foreign-looking. Products like skin-whitening soap are popular. A Filipina-American discusses this belief here. See also But Not Too Black.
An unfortunate reaction to this Filipino cultural cringe is when Filipinos promote their own cultural things or inventions, the Filipino netizens will defend and troll foreigners who may legitimately criticize it for quality reasons - a trend that unfortunately pops up with other Asian nationalist beliefs.
In a severe case of Dramatic Irony, the indigenous presence in the Filipino-American community is gaining a lot of steam—much to the confusion of island-born Filipinos, the American diaspora in the West Coast have revived indigenous traditions and pre-Catholic beliefs such as traditional tattooing and polytheistic religions. The other Pacific Islander diasporas have a key role in this split, since so many Pacific Islander cultures have similar roots.
For instance, it is referenced in The Lusiads by Luís Vaz de Camões, in a stanza which mentions that nobles prefer, among other stuff, foreign foods over national ones. Camões, nowadays considered the greatest Portuguese-language writer, was virtually unknown during his lifetime in Portugal (and appreciated in Spain, of all places). The Lusiads also contain a pro-Iberianistnote stanza, which is ironic for a symbol of Portuguese nationality.
The Republicans, who finally came to power in 1910, focused on the Catholic Church and the dominant "rotativist" (Historical and Progressive) political parties as the cause of its decline (which had actually been caused by the Iberian Union, which involved Portugal in the Philippine Dinasty's Forever Wars with most other European powers and resulted in the loss of most of its Asian colonies, and the Napolean Invasions, which laid rest to Continental Portugal and resulted in the loss of Brazil when the King came back as well as the Liberal Wars between the pro-constitution Liberals and the Miguelite Absolutists, although the Church's opulence and science-hampering obscurantism, and the parties' corruption and high similitude certainly didn't help matters).
One thing in common throughout Portuguese history has been the idealization and, indeed, pedestalization of England and, later, Britain, even before Britain shed its own Cultural Cringe during the 19th century. This was due to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, first signed 1386, which contributed to the defense of Portuguese independence throughout time, at the price of heavy economic dependence from Britain, especially after the Portuguese Restoration - sometimes Britain treated Portugal as a client state. England/Britain was once a mobilizing myth for Portugal, although the 1890 Ultimatum (which turned Britain into something Portugal mobilized against for a while) and the 1986 entry into the European Union more definitely have dented that appeal. Albeit, Portugal still cares very much about Britain, as proved by the 2014 Cross Cultural Kerfuffle over a satirical book published in Portugal by a Portuguese scientist who made his career in Britain.
Other countries Portugal idealized at one time or another were Castille (before the Iberian Union - although they were also hated due to always threatening Portuguese independence; nowadays they're just hated, or at least treated with healthy contempt), France (also a very big cultural influence in Portugal), India (which is why Portugal launched the Discoveries - to discover a maritime path there), China, Brazil and, during the last stage of colonialism and to a certain degree today, Angola (although we do know it is a horrendous tyranny - and a country of great opportunities).
- When Romanian scientists are compared to foreign scientists, it was usually the foreign scientists who are treated better than the Romanian ones. Same applies to Romanian artists, musicians, and the like.
The aforementioned tradition may be older than 200 years. Fast Westernization that started under Peter the Great, cultural distance between landowners and serfs, and willing inclusion of foreign families into the Russian ruling class led to the situation where members of Russian noble families did not speak Russian. Books and conversations were in French, which explains the first pages of War and Peace. During Napoleonic wars, this suddenly became unpatriotic, and many young men and women started to take lessons from their family serfs.
A somewhat more mainstream view is that something is not quite right with the modern Russian society and/or culture, but people tend to have huge disagreements as to when exactly it "all went wrong". The most widely discussed positions are "If only the Soviet Union never broke up" and "If only the October Revolution never happened", but it is possible to find Russians arguing for pretty much every turning point in Russian history, from the invitation of the Viking prince Rurik to the lands of the East Slavs in 862, to the invasions of the Mongol Horde, to the disappointing performance of Russian football and winter Olympic teams in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Spain's national pride hit rock bottom at the end of that war, despite the elites who were sure that the country would recover its former glory soon enough. However, the low and middle classes never truly believed it, seeing the country as decadent, corrupt and self-indulging. Francisco Franco tried to restore the national pride during his dictatorship, but he only managed to make things worse. His nationalism was completely obsolete in the post-World War II world.
After the transition to democracy in the late 1970s, Spain regained some confidence, but its self-esteem never truly recovered. Even during the mid-2000s, when Spain became the 8th biggest economy in the world, many leftist and centrist Spaniards still saw Spain as embarrassingly inferior to other First World countries. In the most extreme cases, they honestly believed that Spain just wasn't a First World country at all, but a borderline Third World country more suited for Africa than for Europe (making reference to an old French insult for Spain that said that "Africa starts at the Pyrenees"). This sentiment went Up to Eleven after the economic crisis of 2008, and many people believe that the cultural sentiment of the Generation of '98 is back again, probably even stronger. Case in point, a current popular derogatory nickname for Spain used by Spaniards is "Españistán", a portmanteau of "España" and "Afghanistan" created by a popular YouTube video that explains the specific circumstances of said crisis in Spain.
The sources for Spain's Cultural Cringe are countless. For starters, the absurd high levels of corruption, not only in politics but in pretty much everything that resembles an important hierarchy structure. Whereas people in the United States get rich so that they can afford to run for office, people in Spain run for office so that they can get rich (often by illegal means). The Spanish word for "business owner" ("empresario") has negative connotations for similar reasons. And the worst part? When these cases of corruption are discovered and even made public, perpetrators walk away most of the time.
Also, like in Germany, waving the national flag outside of sports events is a big no-nonote . If you do so, you risk being accused of being a decadent far-right wing at best, and a fascist and/or a Franco supporter at worst (Yes, even if he's still dead). This is especially problematic in regions with independent leanings, like the Basque Country or Catalonia.
Spanish people also have a very low self-esteem when it comes to their own products, with the exception of food: if it's "Made in Spain", it cannot be good. Ever. note The same for cultural products, like movies, TV shows or music, which are mostly seen as inherently inferior to productions from other countries. For example, this is part of the reason why Pedro Almodóvar has a better reputation overseas than in Spain. In the most extreme cases, even Spain's cultural legacy, which is considered one of the richest in the world, is considered to be poor and internationally irrelevant.
Related to the former is the sense that Spain is totally lacking in innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Miguel de Unamuno, one of the most prominent and respected writers of the aforementioned Generation of '98, once summed up this sore point with the epithet "¡Que inventen ellos!" ("May others invent!"), which reached Memetic Mutation status. If you are a Spaniard who dreams of becoming a famous scientist, you know that eventually you will be forced to get the hell out of Spain, since you will never get the funding or the resources you need otherwise.
To make things worse, the times when Spaniards DO innovate from within Spain, or at least get international success or recognition, more often than not they are suspected to have achieved that success by unethical or even illegal means. Meaning their success "doesn't count", and they shouldn't be taken as examples to be followed. A good example of this is Amancio Ortega, the owner of Zara, one of the most successful and famous clothing retailers in the world.note
As time went on, Americans moved away from regarding British culture as setting the standard, although foreign plaudits have grown quite strong in many aspects of modern American culture—one common claim being that the United States has no unique history or culture, and that all of it was stolen from elsewhere (although this one's faded a little now that we have developed uniquely American art forms, Jazz and Comic books being the two most described.) Foreign media and pop culture (particularly Japanese and British) are regarded as superior to American varieties; it is difficult pulling off geek-cred without being a fan of something either British (Doctor Who, Britcoms) or Japanese (Anime, Tokusatsu, Nintendo games). American television, be it news or entertainment, is commonly damned by many Americans as unoriginal, cheap, vapid, and sensationalist. Watching foreign films as opposed to Hollywood movies is seen as a mark of having better education. Foreign English-language news sources like The BBC and The Guardian are considered more trustworthy than American ones. "Ethnic" cuisine is considered better than Anglo-American cuisine. Any time an American company decided to remake a foreign concept for American audiences, the initial response will be lukewarm at best and scathing at worst, with people wondering why we can't do anything original anymore. Even the American TV system isn't looked upon very highly, with the constant desperate fight for the highest possible ratings leaving people feeling like intelligent, well-written shows (and news media, to a lesser extent) don't stand a chance unless filled with gratuitous sex, violence, and bathroom humor pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator (the fact that this has been proven true on occasion, such as "Borg Babe" Seven of Nine saving Star Trek: Voyager from an early cancellation, doesn't help matters.) American automobiles are also regarded as inferior to foreign ones—Japanese cars are considered better in terms of efficiency and European cars better in terms of luxury, the only real realm American cars can win in is power, with "good ol' American muscle cars" still being seen as king.
American self-image has also struggled since the Iraq War, which in their country has stirred up a political storm akin to the one they had in Vietnam. In social situations with foreigners it's not uncommon for Americans to refer to their country as if it were Eagleland (in other words, the "brainless obese barbarians" flavor) and express loathing for their more militaristic and jingoistic countrymen. It is not at all uncommon, especially on the Internet, for Americans with left-leaning views to lament that their country is seemingly run by crazy religious fundamentalists in alliance with an corrupt oligarchynote , supported by a willfully ignorant, moronic, exploitative, and greedy middle class that gorges itself on soulless, commercialized pop culture, all of which needs to be burned down. These left-wing Americans will then hold up either the Nordic countries in Europe with very strong government control or Socialist "Bolivarian" Latin American Countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador) as examples of countries that are better than America in every way, often ignoring the inconvenient facts that their societal models aren't universally applicable and the latter places have problems of their own . Many will outright reject any "Americana" with subversive counterculture and actions.
A lot of left-wing white Americans also feel cringe at an ethnic level, as several of America's most distinctive musical forms, Jazz, Rock & Roll and Hip-Hop, were created by African-Americans, as well as the fact that the country is still dealing with the effects of slavery and Jim Crow. The attention toward police shootings of black people show that racism is still a major problem in the U.S.
Right-wing Americans who buy into the cultural cringe, on the other hand, tend to take the tack that America is in a moral or spiritual decay brought on by the spread of godless hedonism through public education, declining religious affiliation, and Hollywood / rock and roll / video games / the Internet, or even the way that women and homosexuals and people of non-European ethnicity have been made full citizens with the same rights under the law as the country's male ethnic-European population—and damn that Obummer for letting in darkies to steal our jobs!note During the worst parts of the economic crisis, this became so prevalent that people on both sides of the political spectrum started to claim that the country was in irreversible decline and doomed to go The Way Of Rome (ignoring the thousand-year continuation of the Roman Empire in what we call 'The Byzantine Empire' and various other nations inheriting a bit of Rome's power, and so on). This has even gotten to the point that many, many Americans fear that their government would gradually erase their freedoms and create a totalitarian nightmare (fascist, socialist, or any other strawman here) that would make Oceania of Nineteen Eighty-Four look like the Boy Scouts. Suffice to say, the election of Donald Trump hasn't done much to assuage these fears for his haters.
This low sense of self-worth is also showing up in American media; National Stereotypes like America Saves the Day are not simply being averted, but brutally and humiliatingly subverted more often (witness the plots of Modern Warfare, the Red Alert and Generals series of Command & Conquer, and especially Spec Ops: The Line; where the United States seems to cause problems or make them worse, leaving heroes of other countries to clean up the mess).