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The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do Paperback – July 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

French-born marketing consultant and psychoanalyst Rapaille takes a truism—different cultures are, well, different—and expands it by explaining how a nation's history and cultural myths are psychological templates to which its citizens respond unconsciously. Fair enough, but after that, it's all downhill. Rapaille intends his theory of culture codes to help us understand "why people do what they do," but the "fundamental archetypes" he offers are just trumped-up stereotypes. He often supports jarring pronouncements ("The Culture Code for perfection in America is DEATH") with preposterous generalizations and overstatements, e.g., Japanese men "seem utterly incapable of courtship or wooing a woman." Writing with the naïveté of someone who has learned about the world only through Hollywood films, he seems unaware that every person living within a nation's borders doesn't necessarily share the same cultural biases and references. Rapaille's successful consulting career is evidence that he's more convincing in the boardroom than he is on the page. Amid the overheated prose and dubious factoids, it's easy to overlook the book's scattered marketing proposals and employee-management tips. (June 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This book is just plain astonishing! Filled with profound insights and ideas that have enormous consequences for today’s organizations. If you want to understand customers, Constituencies, and crowds, this book is required reading.”

--Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California and author of On Becoming a Leader

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767920570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767920575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By George F. Simons on February 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover

The first question is easy to answer. Clotaire Rapaille is a Frenchman who claims that a candy bar shared by a GI during the Liberation was a key imprint leading him to ultimately adopt the US as home. He holds a Masters in Political Science and in Psychology and a Doctorate in Medical Anthropology from the Sorbonne. As chairman of an organization called "Archetype Discoveries Worldwide" he shows how you too can become an archetypologist and learn the process of decoding culture. While he has taught at a long list of universities, he is better known as an advertising guru to top American corporations whom he helps discover the culture code that unlocks the door to successful marketing.


So why does he dress like Mozart? Perhaps because he uses a three movement orchestration that he calls "discovery" to penetrate to the heart of the social archetypes--to arrive at the code--the very deep "why" of human behavior, the trigger to an emotional response in the primitive brain that explains why people choose to do what they do and, especially of interest to his clientele, why they buy what they buy. The archetypal resonances of Mozart's The Golden Flute and the passion arousing sounds of Timotheus' lyre are what marketers and advertisers need to be "on code" or "off code" in ways that will essentially determine their success.

When the author explains that the culture code for US eating habits is FUEL, while the French focus on pleasure, it goes a long way toward explaining why, after close to a decade in France, I am schizophrenic. Eating in a US restaurant, the check arrives the moment I have stopped. It is delivered by an attendant in that very instant when I have set down my desert or coffee spoon indicating that my "tank is full.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Gilberto Villahermosa on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant book! It is extremely well written, incredibly interesting and tremendously insightful. I bought it after reading a page at random and was hooked.

In "The Culture Code" Frenchman turned American, Clotaire Rapaille, an expert on culture coding and adviser to many of the world's largest and most successful companies, unlocks the secrets to understanding why people in America, Europe and Asia live and buy as they do. Everything centers around how each nation sees itself and others, especially America. These codes are important to companies trying to sell their goods and ideas abroad. But they also reveal a great deal about us.

The French code for France, for example is Idea, while the code for America is Space Travelers. The German code for Germany is Order, while that for America is John Wayne. The English code for England is Class, while that for America is Unashamedly Abundant. And the American code for America is Dream.

"Dreams have driven this culture from its earliest days," writes Dr. Rapaille, with a beauty and passion that lends much to his French roots. "The dream of explorers discovering the New World. The dream of pioneers opening the West. The dream of Founding Fathers imagining a new form of union. The dream of entrepreneurs forging the Industrial Revolution. The dream of immigrants coming to a land of hope. The dream of a new group of explorers landing safely on the moon."

Rapaille shows that, while the Europeans fail to understand Americans and many even hope we will fail in the future, they admire our country and Americans for our boundless sense of youth, energy and hope.
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful By David Garfinkel on June 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Clotaire Rapaille reminds me a little of a somewhat softened, better educated and French version of the Jack Nicholson character in that pivotal moment of "A Few Good Men" where he blurts out: "You can't handle the truth!"

The author is confrontive in the extreme, but in an intellectually assertive and nonviolent way. He has truly mined some of the cloaked messages going on as endless tape loops in the unconscious minds of individuals and their national cultures - especially, but not exclusively, Americans.

I smiled knowingly when I read the Publisher's Weekly review at the top of this page. The reviewer roundly attacks the author for the statement about Japanese men and romance. I live in San Francisco and I have dated a number of Japanese women from Japan. I would have to say based on my experience that it is the PW reviewer who is looking at life through the preposterous prism of a Hollywood lens, and it is Dr. Rapaille who is right in touch with street-level reality.

The book's subtitle overpromises a little (as subtitles are wont to do) in that this book won't give you an entirely new world view from which to understand everything about everybody. It won't.

But the number of stunning insights (all of which resonated with me, as an experienced marketer) about: sex... seduction... men's view of women... money... food... alcohol... beauty... and being fat...

... will cause the thoughtful, inquiring and willing-to-learn reader to see things in a new way and understand parts of his world a lot better.

This is a great book and well worth reading if you are interested in psychology, marketing, and/or the world the way it is and the way it is likely to be for years to come.
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