As customary every year Google publishes its search trends of the year just gone.
At global level these trends are more or less what you’d expect them to be. For example, Gangnam Style tops the video list, while many of the people and events that marked 2012 are there (Olympics, Hurricane Sandy, Kate Middleton and so on).
However, it’s when you drill down at country level that the fun really starts. Let’s commence with the UK. Well, over here Olympics and the Royal Family top the charts, with some surprises, too. For example, ‘how to draw’, ‘how to kiss’ and ‘what is love?’ were key search phrases in 2012. What this says for the Brits one can only wonder. And why should synchronised swimming be the top search? Do I detect the famous British sense of humour?
Compare the UK to its arch-rival (France, obviously) and we have a different perspective altogether. The French appear to be obsessed with how to get slimmer, and how to embrace. But their favourite search for food is lamb (gigot d’agneau) followed by, shock horror, hamburger… Back to the ‘how to’, however, and from how to lose weight and embrace we then get ‘how to gain weight’ and ‘how to get rich’, which shows a fairly high degree of neurosis, coupled with strong hedonism. Sounds familiar?
But what then about the Germans? Well, Germans don’t seem to rely on the web for answers, so no ‘how to’ here, mostly just pedestrian searches for politicians and sport personalities. But, oddly enough, the second-highest searched image is for ‘liebe’, which, if my elementary German is correct, is for ‘love’; whether we are talking about the kind of normally censored love or the more spiritual one is for you to guess.
Absolutely no prize will be given for guessing what was the highest ‘how to’ search in Italy, which of course was to do with sex. But why the second one should be to do with douching is something I am more than happy to leave to social scientists to analyse.
Moving on, down under to be precise where sport, songs, music and beer, i.e. the leisurely activities we associate with Australia, dominate searches. Surprisingly though, we come across an entire section on deaths, which is puzzling as I wouldn’t have associated the Australian joie de vivre with eschatological interests. Greater disappointments are found when it comes to food, as the top search here is for Pizza Hut, followed by McDonalds – come on Ozzies, I am sure you could do better than that!
I won’t go on, especially as you can look up all these results yourself, but you can gain a very good insight in the psyche of some of the largest countries in the world by looking at this data. Some, like Russia for example, where people are looking for ways to be kinder and ‘why I am lonely’, make you weep or at the very least petition Google to feature prominently on that country’s search pages the corresponding number for The Samaritans.
Geographical determinism may be out of fashion and scoffed at by many people, but a good view at Google 2012 Zeitgeist demonstrates that many of the stereotypes we have become accustomed to are, in fact, true. We may be living in a globalised world economy, but our little foibles continue to be with us, and for this we can only breathe a big sigh of relief.