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How Social Norms Change


Social norms differ across countries-but they do change. Today is my first day in Berlin, Germany. In the past, I’ve never observed Europeans wearing sandals without socks, the way we Americans always do. Now it appears to be quite common, as the picture at right shows. Is this due to increased European good sense? High temperatures induced by global warming? Or perhaps a combination of this and the dissemination of foreign (in this case American) practice? Hard to say, but for me it means that I can wear my sandals to work tomorrow.
Are Americans adopting foreign social norms too? I blogged on the adoption of kissing/greeting in the U.S. (still only one-cheek, one or two cheeks below European norms), but now widespread. No doubt other American social norms will change, adopting foreign practices. Not all, however: I’d bet that it will be a long time before an American newspaper has the kind of photo (warning: not safe for work) that appeared in the culture section of today’s Tagespiegel, the leading Berlin newspaper.