The Culture Code: A Book Review The Culture Code

by Mike R. Jay, Developmentalist

If you're curious, this book is the cat's meow!

It's a fast read and full of interesting information about culture codes that have been discovered by Rapaille over time.

However, what I found almost as fascinating is Rapaille's underlying agenda of explaining why he is an American and not a Frenchman.

While there is no "place" in the book that I can point you to specifically that tells this underlying story, here's a quote from Page 180:

"I was born in France, but like everyone else in the world, I had no choice of homeland. From the time I was very young, I knew that parts of the French culture failed to fit me properly. The French are extremely critical, they are pessimistic, they are jealous of what others have, and they put little value on personal success. When I told people there that I wanted to build a large business based on new ideas, they sneered and called me a meglomaniac."

But the fun doesn't stop he is again speaking about the French people in the US who welcomed him with open arms after stating that Mitterand froze his French assets for wanting to leave France:

"They were optimistic, helpful, generous, and enthusiastic about new opportunities. In other words, they were American. Yes, they'd embraced the American culture, but in addition, like me, they had many of these traits already and came here because they knew they would be surrounded by like-minded people. The French who were lazy and lacked imagination stayed in Europe. The ones with guts and determination came here."

While I'm going to give you some tidbits of my favorite quotes in the book, the REAL story is the one that is imprinted on Clotaire. So, therefore I get to use Clotaire's system while I imprint him from his stories in the book...what is Clotaire's code?

If I had to guess at this point, I'd say it's OPTIONS.

Now believe me when I say I'm no expert at Clotaire's system, but I do see and feel patterns...and Clotaire's patterns point to OPTIONS. Options in where to live, what to do, why he practices and does what he does...and most of all, the patterns he is able to see, feel and analyze in things. If you're not an OPTIONS person, you won't have the operating system to catch these patterns. If you don't believe me, then read the book and all the imprinting quotes from other people. Try to figure out the patterns in those quotes before he tells bet is you'll get pretty frustrated and just say...huh?

How does he get SPACE TRAVELERS for the French Code for the US?

How does VIOLENCE come up for a code for sex in America?

Here's a few more:

MOSES = American Presidency

DREAM = America (this one is pretty easy, and one that fits with OPTIONS...if you have a dream, you need options, yes?)

JOHN WAYNE = German Code for US

CLASS = English Code for themselves...(smile).


ORDER = Germans on Germany

IDEA = French about France

TO KEEP = Canadian Code for Canada


But there are some really good ones, practical learning you can apply immediately! Here's one of his axioms:

"For a company breaking into a foreign market or an individual looking for an ideal place to live, the most important thing is to connect with the Code."

Chapter 12 was my favorite as it sums the book:

"Over the course of this book, we have explored some of the most fundamental archetypes in American culture and addressed the unconscious Codes at the heart of those archetypes. Some of these unconscious messages have been instructive (as in Codes for beauty and shopping) [MAN'S SALVATION and RECONNECTING WITH LIFE, respectively], some have been cautionary (as in the Codes for love and fat) [FALSE EXPECTATION and CHECKING OUT, in that order], and some have even been a little scary (as in the Code for sex) [VIOLENCE]. All give us a distinctive glimpse of why we do the things we do, and they provide us with a new set of glasses that allows us to view our behavior afresh. In addition, the contrast with Codes of other cultures taught us that people around the world are really different.

In summing up the code for America, he gives us an idea of the power of the culture coding system...and in my opinion that is worth more than the book, but it's NOT in the book, only a few patterns he puts together like this one: [I italized the Codes, so you can see how he patterns them, a definite skill, perhaps one which can't be learned easily!]

Discovering the Code [American Culture Code for America is DREAM] puts many of the other Codes in this book into context. We see love as false expectations because we dream of romances that can last a lifetime. We see beauty as man's salvation because we dream that we can truly make a difference in someone's life. We see fat as checking out because we chase dreams so hard that they sometimes overwhelm us. We see health as movement because we dream of a life without limits. We think of work as who we are because we dream that we have a contribution to make and that we can become tremendously successful at our chosen professions. We see shopping as reconnecting with life because we dream of our place in a bigger world. We see money as proof, and luxury as military stripes, because money and luxury make visible our dreams of our best selves. We see the American president as Moses because we dream that someone can lead us to an even better America.

Our notion of abundance [remember the English code for US] is a dream; it is a dream of limitless opportunity that we believe is synonymous with being American. Our need for constant movement [code for health] is the expression of a dream in which we can always do more, always create and accomplish. Even our cultural adolescence [Code that drives American Culture = Adolescence] is a dream: we want to believe we are forever young and that we never truly have to grow up."

There are so many interesting off-shoots here that I need a week to tell you all the ideas I have about what is emerging from his work.

For instance:

  • Do you think America will be the country that unlocks the code for immortality?

  • Why is America ahead of everyone else in innovation?

  • Why do we consume so much and save so little...did you save anything when you were a teenager?

  • Why is America headed for big-time trouble as it's teenage practices lead it past it's ability to service the bills it's running up?

  • Why the French (the jealous, spoiled rich kid) will in the end be the catalyst behind putting America in it's place?

Oh, and I could go on and on here.

The book really spurred a lot of thinking for me, but I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. Clotaire doesn't give us much, although he says on Page 11:

"The book is a culmination of more than three decades of experience decoding imprints for major corporations around the world. I call this decoding process a "discovery"--I have performed more than three-hundred--and I have seen these discoveries put to work to my client's advantage. More than half of today's Fortune 100 companies have me on retainer, and corporate response to my findings has validated the accuracy of my work, assuring me that the glasses I have fashioned, the glasses of the Culture Code, offer a new and especially vivid vision of the world around us. Over the last thirty years, I have devised and patented a proven, tested method for making discoveries. In this book, I will share this method, and some of what I have learned about major world cultures by using it."

I have to admit, being the type I am, I was excited to read that paragraph. [My personal code is probably MISCHIEVOUS...into everything, contrary to most, unending energy, delighting in the tease and certainly full of it...that's probably me in the 15 seconds I took to examine the pattern of my imprints over time.]

I love to learn stuff and love to see stuff work, and to acquire tools for the vast toolkit I've created to understand myself and's all you're going to get:

Five principles guide my methodology for uncovering cultural Codes, and the knowledge of these principles will help you understand the thinking that goes into each discovery. [Fat chance.]

  1. You can't believe what people say.

  2. Emotion is the energy required to learn anything.

  3. The structure, not the content, is the message.

  4. There is a window in time for imprinting [7 years he states], and the meaning of the imprint varies from one culture to another.

  5. To access the meaning of an imprint within a particular culture, you must learn the code for that imprint.

He goes on to say that every word, action or symbol has a Code, and that our brains supply these Codes unconsciously and that we can discover them...and that what he says he's going to show us.

Frankly, I was disappointed because if I wasn't already a pattern-sensing person, I wouldn't have understood the underlying process which is hidden to the person who is not--guess he's protecting the patent.

After I read the book twice...I found on Page 8, the process, although it's vague:

"I structured a three-hour session with each of the groups. In the first hour, I took on the persona of a person from another planet, someone who had never seen coffee [coffee being the topic, you substitute whatever you like to discover using this process] before and had no idea how one "used" it. I asked for help understanding the product, believing their descriptions would give me insight into what they thought of it.

In the next hour, I had them sit on the floor like elementary school children and use scissors and a pile of magazines to make a collage of words about coffee. The goal here was to get them to tell me stories with these words that would offer me further clues.

In the third hour, I had participants lie on the floor with pillows. There was some hesitation among members of every group, but I convinced them I wasn't entirely out of my mind, I put on soothing music and asked the participants to relax. What I was doing was calming their active brainwaves, getting them to that tranquil point just before sleep. When they reached this state, I took them on a journey back from their adulthood, past their teenage years, to a time when they were very young. Once they arrived, I asked them to think again about coffee and to recall their earliest memory of it, the first time they consciously experienced it, and their most significant memory of  it (if that memory was a different one).

I designed this process to bring participants back to their first imprint of coffee and the emotion attached to it.

END Quote

That's it, that's all I could find in terms of instruction, "sharing" as the author indicated around this process. He does in every case where he demonstrates a code, give you examples of the stories and imprints, but he leaves it up to YOU to figure out how to come up with the code from these imprints and stories. He doesn't disclose a particular method, nor does he give you the tools he and his staff uses to do the coding yourself!

So, in my view, he gets an "F" from me on the book for that reason (a typical advertorial done most exquisitely by the way, with entertainment and mystique), because it's bait and switch, he reveals nothing but the Codes he's discovered over time (that other people paid him to do--go figure), which are really good to know, but the "process" is hidden. Then again I could have missed it, so if you find it, please drop me a note at coach(at) and clue me in, because I remain clueless.

Of course, I have LOTS of other tools to use and this might be the real take-away for me. If you're an Integral person (you'll know if you are), then you'll find this a missing piece in the collective interior, a piece that to now has virtually been missing in terms of any kind of taxonomy or guessing what is going on in the cultural interior.

To me, this was more than worth the price of the book and probably the reason I'm writing, because with this piece, I realized now that the work being done in the spiral movement is EVEN MORE CENTRAL to understanding codes.

I'm going to leave you with that, and if you're interested, then subscribe to the email list below and I'll send those who do some more updates about where I'm taking this stuff and how Rapaille has only scratched the surface (a valuable one of course), but only a scratch in really understanding people.

You'll note, NOT everyone owns a PT Cruiser, or drives a Lexus, owns a house too big, or thinks George Bush is Moses. So, what more information is needed to get a handle on things?

You might say I've discovered Culture Code 2.0 and I'll share it with you over time, just be sure to become a member of the list below so you get updated.

Until then, here's a closing quote from The Culture Code:

"When a man and a woman have a child, they have a little human being rather than a bird, a fish, or an alligator. Their genetic code dictates this. When an American man and an American Woman have a child, they have a little American. The reason for this is not genetic; it is because a different code--the culture code--is at work.

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