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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Colors in culture - This can be the color of... #2. Blue, or over 100 different cultural references about the color of melancholy, sapphires, and water

You asked for it, you waited for it and... you got it, at last: after a long break here we are with the second blog post of the blog post series about colors and which kind of references colors can carry in specific cultures.

Isn't it strange how life won't flow, like a river, but moves in jumps, as if it were held back by locks that are opened now and then to let it jump forwards in a kind of flood? 
Anita Desai

The first blog post of the series, dedicated to green, got over 1.200 views so far (thank you!!) and today I am absolutely glad to offer you a second one about a color loved and very used in most countries and cultures, or even one of the only truly "universal" ones, even if with some cultural twists.

[Useful thesaurus of Blue nuances,
with the right names in English,
by Ingrid Sundberg]

Mermaids, angels, fairies and other fantastic creatures can sometimes have blue hair or blue skin and this is one of the most recognizable signs that they are special, different, from another dimension or another planet.
And yet, even if some of them are cute like the Smurfs or wise like the tribes of Na'vi in James Cameron's Avatar (USA/UK 2009), most of the time, it is better not to trust them. One never knows...

Blue is per se an ambivalent color: it is considered common and sometimes even "boring" and yet elegant and royal, very "formal" and conservative if used for clothes, at least in the darker nuances like denim and navy, but lighter nuances like aquamarine, turquoise and cerulean are also seen as bold statement colors and as something to be worn (think dresses, shoes, and make-up here) and bought for decorating a home, an office space, a room with moderation.

A little bit of adventurous bravery can really pay off, though: a good friend of mine used teal as the main color for his flat and the results are amazing. Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but for sure impressive.

[Teal, turquoise, and aquamarine as the main colors
in Düsseldorf's Turkish Haman (Germany)]

Over time, blue has become the color to go for companies willing to appeal to the male consumer with lots of products and merchandising of any kind, and yet not even one century ago it was used mostly in the same way as a gender-neutral or female-related color.
Most companies related to the Internet, to social media or to technology in its broadest terms (HP, Flickr, SAP, Intel, Skype, Samsung, Dell, IBM, NASA, Nokia, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, PayPal, Ericsson, AOL... just to name a few) love blue as a safe bet and as a part of their corporate identity.

[Some like it blue:
a selection of companies that use blue in their branding]

Blue are usually skies, oceans, clouds and idyllic landscapes, and at the same time it can be tricky and even lethal, like in deep waters populated by unknown creatures and in situations where something unexpected happens "out of the blue" or "from the blue". Attention is key while dealing with blue.

Without further ado, here you can find a list of over 100 different cultural references: emotions, ideas, objects, places etc. related to blue as a color.
  1. air
  2. Almost Blue by Chat Baker
  3. angels
  4. atmosphere
  5. authority
  6. azurite
  7. bird
  8. blueberries
  9. blue blood
  10. blue cards
  11. blue chips
  12. blue collar
  13. blue eyes as seductive and sexy (in geographical areas where they are rare and most people have brown or hazelnut eyes)
  14. bluegrass music
  15. blues music
  16. calmness
  17. Chinoiserie
  18. cobalt
  19. conservatism
  20. contemplation
  21. corporate / working environment
  22. cyan
  23. death
  24. deception
  25. deep waters
  26. denim
  27. depression
  28. devotion
  29. dolphin
  30. drunkenness
  31. excellence
  32. European Union (EU)
  33. Female gender signifier (after the 1930s, in Western countries)
  34. fifth chakra (Vishuddha)
  35. flame
  36. Frank Sinatra's eyes, that gained him the nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes"
  37. French Revolution
  38. blue generation (soccer / football)
  39. ghosts
  40. graphic novel by Julie Maroh and related movie Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, France 2013) by Abdellatif Kechich
[Almost never trust someone with blue hair...
well, if it's not me or Alexandra Franzen, of course.
Beautiful poster for the Sundance Film Festival release 
of Blue Is the Warmest Colour]

41. the Great Blue Hole in Belize
42. the Blue Grotto (Capri, la Grotta Azzurra)
43. Han blue
44. ice
45. Impressionism
46. indigo
47. infinity
48. integrity
49. Ishtar Gate of Babylon
50. Italy and overall Italian national sport clubs
51. jeans
52. jasmine
53. lagoon
54. labels
55. lake
56. lapis lazuli
57. light
58. loyalty
59. Male gender signifier (after the 1930s, in Western countries)
60. marine creatures, overall
61. Blue Man Group
62. Marlene Dietrich, starring in Der blaue Engel (Germany 1930) by Josef von Sternberg
63. melancholy
64. military uniforms
65. moon
66. the Blue Mountains in Australia
67. mourning
68. mystery
69. navy blue
70. night
71. the Blue Nile
72. nobility, aristocracy
73. ocean
74. optimism
75. Pablo Picasso's blue period
76. passivity
77. Paul Newman's eyes
78. peace
79. pencil
80. perseverance
81. pill, as in The Matrix 

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
The Matrix (USA 1999) by the Wachowskis

[Blue pill, red pill... which one is the right one for you?]

82. pills (Viagra)
83. planet
84. porcelain
85. Prussian / Preußen blue
86. purity
87. Renaissance paintings
88. reliability
89. blue ribbon
90. St. Patrick's blue
91. sadness
92. sapphire
93. sea
94. sky
95. the Smurfs

[The Blonde Smurfette and the Grey Smurfette 
from "The Smurf Menace"
One never knows...]

96. South Korea's Blue House
97. stained glass
98. starfish
99. States that traditionally support the US Democratic Party
100. Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley
101. superstition
102. torment
103. truth
104. Tuareg people
105. UK's and Canada's Conservative Party
106. United Nations (ONU)
107. velvet
108. Vishnu, Krishna, Ram and Shiva
109. War of the blues
110. water
111. whale
112. the Yangtze River, also called "the Blue River" in some languages for over a century

What is missing, in your opinion?
Feel free to drop me a line or to let me know in the comments.

Tags: Colors, Intercultural communication, Color symbolism, Color psychology, Blue

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