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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 shades,
with the proper English names,
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. Ajna, the third-eye chakra (sixth chakra of the tantra tradition)
  4. Amun, 'King of the Gods' in ancient Egypt
  5. angels
  6. anise and anisette, and all flavored food and beverages
  7. atmosphere
  8. authority
  9. azurite
  10. bird
  11. blueberries
  12. blue blood
  13. blue cards
  14. blue chips
  15. blue collar
  16. blue eyes as seductive and sexy (in geographical areas where they are rare and most people have brown or hazelnut eyes)
  17. blue letters (unpleasant bureaucratic letters in Germany, also called 'Blaue Briefe')
  18. bluegrass music
  19. blues music
  20. calmness
  21. Chinoiserie
  22. cobalt
  23. conservatism
  24. contemplation
  25. corporate / working environment
  26. cyan
  27. death
  28. deception
  29. deep waters
  30. denim
  31. depression
  32. devotion
  33. dolphin
  34. drunkenness
  35. excellence
  36. European Union (EU)
  37. Female gender signifier (after the 1930s, in Western countries)
  38. flame
  39. Frank Sinatra's eyes, that gained him the nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes"
  40. French Revolution
  41. blue generation (soccer / football)
  42. ghosts
  43. 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]

44. the Great Blue Hole in Belize
45. the Blue Grotto in Capri (called 'la Grotta Azzurra' in Italian)
46. Han blue
47. ice
48. Impressionism
49. indigo, also called indigo blue
50. infinity
51. integrity
52. Ishtar Gate of Babylon
53. Italy and overall Italian national sports clubs (called 'gli azzurri' or 'la squadra azzurra')
54. jeans
55. jasmine
56. lagoon
57. labels
58. lake
59. lapis lazuli
60. light
61. loyalty
62. Male gender signifier (after the 1930s, in Western countries)
63. marine creatures, overall
64. Blue Man Group
65. Marlene Dietrich, starring in The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel, Germany 1930) by Josef von Sternberg
66. melancholy
67. military uniforms
68. moon

69. the Blue Mountains in Australia
70. mourning
71. mystery
72. navy blue
73. night
74. the Blue Nile
75. nobility, aristocracy (and supposedly, and erroneously, their blood as a sign of belonging to a high social class by birthright)
76. ocean
77. optimism
78. Pablo Picasso's blue period
79. passivity
80. Paul Newman's eyes
81. peace
82. pencil
83. perseverance
84. 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?]

85. pills (Viagra)
86. planet
87. porcelain
88. Prussian / Preußen blue
89. purity
90. Renaissance paintings
91. reliability
92. blue ribbon
93. St. Patrick's blue
94. sadness
95. sapphire
96. sea
97. serenity
98. sky
99. the Smurfs (and the related ice-cream flavor)

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

100. South Korea's Blue House
101. stained glass
102. starfish
103. States that traditionally support the US Democratic Party
104. Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley
105. Blue Zones, five geographical areas spread around the world with higher longevity than average
106. superstition
107. torment
108. truth
109. Tuareg people
110. UK's and Canada's Conservative Party
111. United Nations (ONU)
112. velvet
113. Vishnu, Krishna, Ram and Shiva
114. Vishuddha or Vishuddhi, the throat chakra (fifth chakra of the tantra tradition)
115. War of the blues
116. water
117. whale
118. 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 and to let me know.

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

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