Saturday, 5 December 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

Traditions are one of the first manifestations of a host country’s culture to which the immigrant gravitates upon arrival. Whether consciously or unconsciously, most of us adopt them as ours, even if sometimes we only celebrate certain aspects of it.

Christmas is a good example. Because I did not grow up with it, it was hard for me to understand what it meant to British people. Add to this the fact that I arrived in London in November’97, as shop fronts go Crimbo-mad, and you can imagine what an eye-opening experience it was. It did not take me long to learn that the Christian ethos that this annual holidays is attached to has given way to a more consumerist-driven celebration. Still, I do enjoy my time off with my family and catching up with family and friends.

However, other traditions have not had the same impact on me. Especially those that are late-comers. Black Friday is one of them. This retail orgy is a recent – and unwelcome, at least from me – phenomenon in the UK. It apparently started with online behemoth, Amazon, half a decade ago and caught on very quickly with other businesses.

Unlike the bathos that surrounds Christmas (at least its uplifting sentimentality comes garlanded with a certain, typical British charm), Black Friday is a cynical US-import exploit to squeeze every single last penny out of bargain-hunters. I usually give it a wide berth but this year a conversation with my children around the dinner table made me wonder why on earth a tradition-rich country like the UK needs to latch on to this thinly-disguised capitalist display of retail power.
On your marks! Ready! Shop!

The chat with my children centred on the discounts most shops were offering, especially online. The issue for me was that these were not discounts at all. 15% or 20% knock-offs are still dear, especially when the original price is in the hundreds of pounds. It makes you ponder on the wisdom of shoppers and their ability to spot a good clearance or the lack of it thereof.

I confess that I felt funny having these thoughts about Black Friday. As usual my first reaction was: should I – a non-native of this country – be critical of this very recent US-led retail-friendly invasion?  Yes, I should, was my immediate answer. Not only because it is a most unwelcome sight (last year, there were overnight queues and brawls at some of the major stores on Oxford Street) but also because I am part of British life now and one of the steps towards acceptance of and assimilation to the host country’s culture is to occasionally feel aggrieved with the rest of my British compatriots when unwelcome phenomena like Black Friday make their presence known. You could say it is a right that arrived with my British passport in the post many years ago.

I had a Scrooge-like reaction when I heard that in the end Black Friday was not the success most retailers had hoped for. Either online or at the shops, the windfall expected fell way below what experts had predicted. There is hope, I thought, there is hope that maybe in a couple of years’ time Black Friday will be the equivalent of a horrible dream we all had and from which we woke up feeling confused. After rubbing our eyes we will, a few years hence, hopefully take stock of our surroundings, think of the things that really matter in this short life of ours and hit our pillow again; this time dreaming instead of the arrival of Christmas and the meaning of it.



© 2015

Next Post: “Killer Opening Songs”, to be published on Wednesday 9th December at 6pm (GMT)

23 comments:

  1. I really, really hope that Black Friday doesn't get a foothold here. Christmas (and most of the other celebratory days) are already too commercial for my liking.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I see Black Friday as vulgar and cheap. That's my personal opinion. Already in the UK we have the Boxing Day sales tradition. I think that most market analysts got it wrong this year. There's still a recession and a £300 flat-screen telly down from £350 is still £300. :-)

      Greetings from London.

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  2. Many in the US hate Black Friday.

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  3. I could not agree with you more. I don't understand how it even became a "tradition." It is horrible for employees who might wish to enjoy a Thanksgiving holiday. It is absurd. Christmas itself has become so overly commercialized--it is so odd in this country --people complain about a war on Christmas but the biggest perpetrators of any war on Christmas are consumers themselves (and, of course, the marketers.) Thanks. k.

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  4. We are of like mind, Chica







    Warm ALOHA,
    ComfortSpiral

    (\__/)
    (='.'=)
    (")_('')

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  5. Yep, hopefully it goes far far away. The US can have it. And a lot of it isn't deals as you say, they jack the price up a month before and then put it back to the regular price for black friday, woweee it's a bargain. Pfffft.

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  6. El Black Friday se ha internacionalizado hoy en día, es una forma de prever en compras antes de navidad a buen precio.
    Un abrazo.

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  7. I make it a point to avoid going shopping on Black Friday and, whenever possible, the few days before Christmas and Boxing Day. I cannot stand crowds, noise, violence and stress.

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  8. I know people who go out and about because they assume they are saving money by shopping on Black Friday. I know people who have come to think of it as another tradition, something for all family members, young and old, to do together, for instance.

    I also know I think of Black Friday as another form of the Black Death, and avoid it like the plague it is. From my point of view, it really is a sub-category of mob mentality or mob hysteria, and demonstrates how much like lemmings the majority of humankind really is.

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  9. The massive commercialization of Christmas really gets me down and its something I have to work on to maintain my holiday spirit.

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  10. I totally agree. Black Friday is really just a construct of the retail trade and it always strikes me as being ironic that it comes the day after you're supposed to be thankful for everything you have...

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  11. I have a new blog, wonder where it'll show up when I publish my comment. I love Christmas time, we don't have Black Friday yet as I know it.

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  12. Criticise Black Friday all you like - it is about nothing but greed. At least Christmas, while hugely over-commercialised, does have a core ethic about spending time with those we love.

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  13. My feelings are like yours. I was horrified when I heard Black Friday was being adopted in the UK. I never go to sales and certainly wouldn't join the crush on Black Friday. I wonder at the mentality of some folk.

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  14. Hi ACIL - Black Friday is awful. I remember many decades ago, as a teenager, coming up to London by myself with my Christmas money and looking for bargains in the sales that started after Christmas - not before, nor at any other time of the year. Now I just get what I need and when I need it .. and that's it. I love Christmas without the commercialism - yes we need some, but not overdose fantasies ... I'd love to live in London again to get the flavour ... but I'll be just as happy here away from the malingering crowds! Cheers Hilary

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  15. We have never heard of it..here in Norway..So it was a schock when it came this year at that friday..we didnt buy anything..norwegians is an sparing people..also we have sales all the days in the year..we got it all..what shall we buy?

    (Or its simply to expensive)

    thanx for nice post!

    Anita

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  16. I was dismayed and perplexed that Black Friday had skulked its way across our shared border, into Canada, a few years back. We do not share the American Thanksgiving (ours is in October) so it made no sense to me that we should adopt that vile tradition of the day after. I'm even more amazed that it has swum its way across the pond to you in the UK. What a pity.

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  17. Black Friday is such a disgrace and I'm truly sorry the virus has crossed the pond and infected the UK. My brother compares these events to the ancient gladiators in Rome who butchered themselves to entertain the wealthy. There is very little joy in this world now.

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  18. I hope this is a tradition you do not import. As an American, I stay as far away from stores as possible on Black Friday. I prefer shopping days when the parking lots are less full. Glad to hear that the results of Black Friday there were not optimistic. I hope next year they will steer clear.

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  20. I hate Black Friday and all it stands for. The last thing we need now is more consumerism

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  21. If I was young and desperately saving up for some piece of consumer trash I wanted badly, I would be thrilled at Black Friday. I would find my hard earned cash purchased my trash at a price lower than I would otherwise have had to pay. I think we all when we are young desperately want the stuff our friends have so we can look cool, and why not? It is part of finding out who we are as an adult. Hopefully we soon learn that it is more fun to do stuff for yourself, test yourself, explore the world, turn the world into the sort of place your generation wants it to be, etc. When it comes to just getting bigger and better versions of things that already work well, then I think consumerism is a bit sick, and also pretty sad. Most of Black Friday seems to be about stoking this kind of pointless consumer demand, and so I would be more than happy to see it die.

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