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It's a Small World After All

By Robbieana Leung

            This is why I never go clubbing I thought, choking on the grey smoky air that was threatening to close up my throat, as I descended the spiral stairs of Club Fuego. As I squinted past the thick, garroting smog that emerged from cigarette butts on my right and left, and at the crowd, I felt like I was in the USA, yet I was hundreds of miles away, in Croatia. While it was unexpected that the music, dress and dance styles would be exactly alike the American culture, at the same time I was not too surprised, especially after reading about and experiencing a world that is highly transnational.

In George Gmelch’s article, “Lessons from the Field”, he mentions that it is imperative that people seek to understand cultures in order for there to be “respect, mutual prosperity and lasting peace” (19). This is the way to “bridge the gulf between ‘them’ and ‘us’” (Gmelch, 19). After going to Club Fuego, I realized that in some ways, due to living in the age where the world is the most globalized it has ever been, we are effortlessly and automatically provided with this bridge that Gmelch mentions. For example, throughout the three hours that I had spent at Club Fuego, I recognized about 95% of the songs that the DJ played. The majority of the songs were R&B music from American artists such as Ludicrous, Pussycat Dolls, Ja Rule, Ashanti, and Snoop Dogg. While I watched SAS students, Dubrovnik university students, SAS crew members, and a few older local people dancing, I felt as if I had walked onto an MTV set, surrounded by American pop culture.

There was not one song that was in Croatian - they were all in English. Many of the clubbers went on the small stage and grabbed a microphone, singing along with the American made song that was playing. Furthermore, almost everyone who was dancing was grinding or shaking their booties like Beyonce, which are common dance moves of American pop culture. Clothes worn by local women were just as revealing and showy as the American students’ dress, which contradicted SAS’ mentioning that Croatia is moderately conservative because it is a predominantly Christian country, thus locals usually “cover their knees, shoulders and as much of the body as possible”. It was also interesting that the Filipino crew members and some Croatian students dressed alike. Many had the American MTV “ghetto rapper” look with their baggy clothes, wife beaters or white t-shirts and chains etc. The music, dance moves and dress styles were all too familiar. Nothing I saw was new, despite having only been to one other club in my life. Without spending much effort to understand the locals at the Croatian club, I immediately saw so much of “us” just looking at “them.” We were connected so closely and the envisioned divide was not as grand as I believed it to be: “us” and “them” became interchangeable. In some sense, we had become “one”.

Whether it is the telephone operator outsourcing phenomena in India, as told in the documentary  "Nalani by Day, Nancy by Night”; the neon lights that flash-advertise the names of global companies atop the buildings at Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong; blue tuna being exported halfway across the world to fuel the Japanese sushi business; Japanese Brazilians being treated as outcasts in Brazil and Japan, while experiencing the pull of having mixed identities as citizens of two countries, expressed in Takeyuki Tsuda’s article “No Place to Call Home”; Vietnam’s global factory that produces DVDs with titles recognized around the world, expounded in Elizabeth F. Vann’s article, “The Limits of Authenticity in Vietnamese Consumer Markets”; Burmese fleeing to Thailand to escape government oppression; Filipino Maids working in Hong Kong to support their families in the Philippines; the identity crisis of Turks and Croats due to domination and wars; the extensive prevalence of Islam in Egypt, Turkey and Croatia; the availability of 99 cent stores and the similarity of their products in every country on the SAS itinerary; or the explosion of pop culture that I saw at a club in Croatia, it is no doubt that there is much evidence of the world becoming more transnational and global, as human beings and commodities are being transported from country to country for a multitude of reasons. Not only is this phenomenon occurring, but there also seems to be an emerging youth culture that is becoming more and more homogenous. Lines are being crossed all over the globe, and in the process are tying the world into a tighter, common niche. People are automatically tied together by invisible connections that they may have not known existed yet which continue to draw them closer together than ever before. Being at smoky Club Fuego provided these clear revelations as I tasted American culture abroad.

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