I’m fascinated by peoples fetishisation of other cultures. France, England, and India seem to be the main ones, though I know of people who also ‘love’ Bali (without knowing that it’s part of Indonesia), Japan, and the US.
In many cases I think it’s probably harmless. They aren’t in love with the place as much as their experience of the place or their idea of the place. It has to do with food, or lifestyle (I’ve coveted basically every culture with the institution of the afternoon nap). Possibly it’s also symptomatic of one’s experience of alienation/dislocation in their own country too. They think maybe they can connect meaningfully to a place, though that sense is probably imaginative at best.
Yet, there’s also something offensive about loving other cultures. To essentialise your reasoning to such an extent that you can pinpoint why you like ‘the other’ is clearly going to result in erasure. There’s also this idea that a culture is only as good as what it does for you, as a visitor, that in order to be good, it has to be something.
There is also a clearly more offensive element of presenting other cultures as ‘majestic’, or like ‘the noble savage’, or just ‘so wise’ and ‘exotic’ or whatever. There’s a failure to realise the full dimensionality and complexity of the place and culture. Foreign people might be wise sometimes, but they’re still operating in the same, non-transcendent world.
I thought about this reading a recent article in Details on “the rise of India Syndrome”. The article says that coveting a place can be damaging. Apparently delirium is quite a common thing for Americans to experience while journeying to India on some spiritual quest. Something to do with culture shock? The intense amount of work and energy involved in meditation and yoga practice? A mix of things? (at the end of the article they describe ‘Paris Syndrome’ when tourists realise that the reality of Paris sucks compared to all the romanticised stories they’ve been told).