Uppsala-Stanford: Talking about Food Culture

The activity for November 17 between Stanford and Uppsala focuses on a very interesting topic: food culture.  The instructions for the exchange have students looking at ads and commercials for different foods, considering how these texts reflect, challenge, or help shape specific cultural norms about food, health and weight.  As an additional challenge, students were asked to collaborate on a food-related ad of their own.

Afterwards, students were given the following questions for reflection:

  • What did you learn about multiple perspectives on rhetorical texts and on doxa concerning food?
  • How might you better understand visual texts as reflecting/shaping cultures about food and eating?
  • What do you think can be gained by studying another country’s representations and cultural norms of over- or underweight (and the culture of “food” or “eating” in general)?
  • What worked best or surprised you most in today’s class?  Is this an effective way to learn?
Their answers should be posted below as comments/replies to this post.


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11 Responses to Uppsala-Stanford: Talking about Food Culture

  1. Katelyn, Miranda, Ahmed says:

    Health concerns surrounding food vary between the US and Sweden. We had similar reactions to the rhetorical elements in each of the examples. What surprised us was when we showed our picture of obese children in McDonalds, they thought it was a typical perception of Americans. After talking with them about weight and body image we learned that in Sweden they suffered most from the problems of anorexia and bulimia. We found that they didn’t have as big a problem with obesity, but we weren’t sure why that is. Studying other countries’ cultural norms can help us to have a more informed perspective on the topic.

  2. Gloria Jeong, Veronika Valova, catherine, Lucas Rowley, Anika Naidu says:

    Group C: Wayne, Dennis, Nora, Harry, Jeanette, Elin

    We learned from our discussions that many of the food-related habits and problems in the U.S. and Sweden are similar or in fact the same. For example, we both agreed that the public stereotypes of obese people is wrong, but prevalent. Also, we found that both cultures tended to be fast-paced, sometimes forgetting to have family dinners and viewing eating as a social activity.
    By viewing each others images, we learned to understand the rhetorical strategies and cultural values of the other’s country. It was interesting to find out that people in Sweden watch a lot of American TV shows (more than members our the American group, actually).
    Creating a product of our own was an extremely effective and rewarding experience. Through this process, we implemented some of our own advertising techniques and successfully integrated our two cultures.

  3. Tenyia (stanford) says:

    Group A: We learned that American and Swedish cultures have differing foods but that basic perspectives on weight/body image are the same. By studying a culture’s advertizing one can gain a perspective on the norms of over/underweight in the that culture. We were surprised at how effective communication was across cultural and linguistic divides, we were better able to understand our culture and the advertizing associated with it through the lens of this discussion. Yes, this s an effective way to learn.

  4. Stanford-Sydney Room E says:

    Group E: Matt, Anika, and Alyssa
    -We learned that there were a lot of things that made the Subway commercial offensive to people in Sweden. They thought it was rude that the commercial was making fun of fat people and that there were more women in bathing suits than men (differences in how genders are portrayed). The commercial would make them not want to go to Subway
    – Visual texts play a big role in shaping cultures about food and eating. In the US, we looked at a commercial that made fun of fat people, so we think it’s ok to do that here and see it as comical. But in Sweden, they take a more serious approach to the issue in advertising, so they found the portrayal of fat people offensive.
    – Studying another country’s representations and culture norms of eating gave us a different perspective on the issue. In Sweden, they don’t count calories or worry about the effects of the food on their weight. They care more about their overall health and whether a particular food is good for them. They even told us that if someone in Sweden started talking about calories, they would assume that person had an eating disorder like anorexia, but in the US, talking about calories is very commonplace. It really showed the difference in emphasis on body image between the two cultures.
    – It was interesting getting to hear another culture’s perspective, but the technology made it difficult to communicate effectively

  5. UU Group B 2011/11/16 says:

    The group converation was very intresting and gave us, the swedish student, a new persepctive of american views and thought regarding ads and food. The most intresting part was that the stereotypes in both our countries are the same. The media is incharge of the world and you cannot run away from it. We had a lot of thechnical problems which made the meeting a bit weird and confusing. However the general aspect of the idea of reflecting togther was really good. Hejdå!

  6. Group D Lucas, Margreth, and Victor says:

    While in the US sex might sell, it seems that in other nations, such as Sweden, this type of appeal seems to work less and leaves the audience perhaps more skeptical of the product and the company at large.
    Nations such as the US can see that our norm is not the norm around the world. As such, there are steps or models we can follow to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
    It was beneficial to see different perspectives on advertising from other nations to gain comprehensive knowledge of rhetoric and culture around the world. However, technical difficulties limited our ability to make this as productive as we hoped.

  7. Fredrik Eklöf says:

    ■What did you learn about multiple perspectives on rhetorical texts and on doxa concerning food?
    We learned that especially food cultures are different in Sweden and the US. The overweight problem is more serious in the US and therefore it is not concidered fun to joke about fat people. In Sweden, overweight is often used in a homorous way.

    ■How might you better understand visual texts as reflecting/shaping cultures about food and eating?
    The way to go is probably to understand the sociaty that shapes it. To understand an ad is in a way also to understand the sociaty that creates it, so we think that you have to be open with all type of reflections that you find in sociaty. It’s a long way to go, but everything including politics, history, etc makes sense when it comes to ads. So we would say that the way to go is to be more open minded, and creative in finding rethorical situations, and not to be search connections between a small thing like an ad, and bigger things, like politic, history, economic situations, etc.

    ■What do you think can be gained by studying another country’s representations and cultural norms of over- or underweight (and the culture of “food” or “eating” in general)?

    It is not only a way to get better knowledge on the other country, but it also helps to understand your own country a little more when you get perspective to it. When you se how food culture looks like you get a clue of how the culture in general looks like.
    ■What worked best or surprised you most in today’s class? Is this an effective way to learn?

    It was god to get an direct respons, when only working in theory it’s easy to base your conclusions in your own view on the other country. It’s easier to get a sense of what the other culture is about when you hear from people who live there. It would have been better if we had more time, it seemed like an effective way of getting an insight in the other country in a quick way.

  8. Harry, Jeanette and Elin says:

    In our discussion we agreed on that the doxa concerning food is quite similar in Sweden and the U.S. The Stanford students showed us an article about how people’s eating habits is changing to becoming more of something you must do rather than a pleasure. It’s common that people eat while they’re working or just grab something on the go, and we think that the trend is basically the same in Sweden.

    By studying culture norms of other countries one has the chance to learn from the other countries’ mistakes. If you compare with a country where the obecity is higher, that’s maybe not the best role model but you could definitely learn something the other way around. For example, there might be more people who are fat in the U.S., but the tolerance against those people are also better there. The prejudices about fat people could be worse in Sweden, and in that way both countries could learn from each other.

    Something that could be better was the preparation of the task, it seemed that our instructions were different. The Stanford students talked more about food culture in general and we talked more about obecity. Maybe the teachers could have picked out the ads for better understanding from both groups.

    It’s always fun to meet people from other cultures and talk more than 40 people across the Atlantic, but maybe as a learning situation it’s not ideal.

  9. Ebba, Jana och Nelly says:

    Today we learnt that the language of advertising is very different in Sweden and the US. The view on food is also something dividing our countries from eachother. For example counting calories is not part of the food culture in Sweden but a normative in the US. A funny thing is that both our commercials played the same sort of calm music in order to convey a message of peace, something we ordinarily not connect with fast food restaurants. There is maybe something in common in our advertisingcultures in that perspective.

    Food is a big part of everyman’s life and consequently an important part of our culture. In studying other food cultures you can better understand other parts of society.

    The way we had prepared for this exercise was benefitial to the progress of our group. We had a basic understandning of the american food culture, but during these hours we had our preconceptions both confirmed and contradicted. For example we thought that american teens were more into counting calories and cared more overall. Today we learnt that also american adults are concerned with this matter and perhaps more than the teenagers. Also men take part in counting calories which was suprising.

    You can absolutely learn a lot from conversating about rhetoric with other people from different countries. With today’s technology we can and should make better use of international contacts, we can all benefit from it!

  10. Malin, Carolina, Gen, Frida says:

    1. We discovered that there was a significant difference in doxa between the two countries, not just concerning food but mostly in to regards to how different types of body sizes can be rhetorically useful in advertising, depending on what country the ad is broadcasted in.

    2. Our discussion was centered around weight and its importance in advertising, which of course has a way of shaping our food culture and eating habits. This led to discussion about how it influences the fashion industry and our beauty ideal.

    3. We can benefit from these types of studies because it broadens our perspectives and shines a light on the fact that advertising needs to be adapted to each countries doxa concerning food and eating, since our eating habits and body ideals are so different. It also shines a light on the similarities between the cultures and how we can create or analyze ads that can appeal to many different nationalities.

    4. What surprised us the most was that the ad we had chosen seemed so different to anything that they had seen in their country, while we thought it would be more applicable in the U.S. than over here. What worked best was the way our groups communicated about how the cross-cultural ad was to be shaped. Unfortunately, this type of exchange isn’t the most effective way to learn, since it’s quite easy to understand the questions and instructions differently, and the communication between the groups tends to overshadow the actual task.

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