Geek Trivia

When A Cultural Element Is Exported, Transformed, And Then Re-Imported To The Original Culture, It’s Called The?

Chinese Food Effect
Russian Doll Effect
Pizza Effect
Coca-Cola Effect
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Answer: Pizza Effect

The longer you write a trivia column, the more apparent it becomes that everything that can be studied and named, has probably been studied and named. In the global migration of culture—be it religion or food—ideas are created, go abroad far and wide (typically getting transformed in the process of adoption into a new culture), and sometimes even come home again.

This phenomenon is called the “pizza effect”, in a direct nod to perhaps one of the best known examples of it in the world: pizza. In the case of pizza, what a tourist in Italy experiences by eating pizza abroad says more about Italian immigrants in the U.S. and what they thought about pizza than what actual Italians think about it. You see, when Italians immigrated to the U.S., they brought what could be considered a prototype to modern pizza along with them (this would be the original export of the cultural element). They then transformed the idea of pizza by elevating it from a basic food that was looked down upon in Italy to a beloved dish loaded with toppings and flavors in America (this was the transformation of the cultural element). In turn, what Italian Americans were doing with pizza influenced the perception of pizza back in Italy, and soon “genuine” Italian pizza was really as much “Genuine American Italian” pizza as anything else (the transformed cultural element returns home, in a new and novel form).

The effect isn’t always related to food (although there are tons of food-related examples). For example, we strongly associate salsa music with Latin American culture, and, to be sure, you’ll find lots of salsa bands in Latin American countries. But salsa music as we now know it wasn’t created in Latin America, but in New York City by musicians—primarily Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Domicans. The music then took on a life of its own, returned to the countries from which the original immigrants (and their musical heritage) came from, and became a new and altered form of the original music that the immigrants had brought with them to New York City in the first place.