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Subject: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: valyriansteele on 08/14/14 at 8:11 pm

We often talk about the 90s in terms of what they were like in America, or maybe Canada/England/Australia etc but what about in foreign countries? I've heard in Russia, China, and even Ireland the 90s were not too different from the mid-20th century in terms of the way people lived. The Internet and cable weren't commonplace globally outside of a handful of countries until well after the year 2000 so it's interesting to think that the 90s in much of the world probably wasn't too much different from the 50s, 60s and 70s. I once read that in 1996 more than half of the world's population had never made a telephone call! Compare that to today when Africans who can barely afford to eat pay for cell phone plans.

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: XYkid on 08/15/14 at 3:53 am

I know the 90s in South Korea were an interesting and somewhat sad time. During the late 80s, South Korea became a booming economic powerhouse, rivalling many western countries along with Japan. The country was growing, and building new skyscrapers in their cities to signify their growth. However, many of these buildings were built cheaply and out of code, and the owners often bribed the building inspectors to overlook any errors so their businesses could grow. In 1994, a bridge in Seoul collapse and a building exploded due to a gas leak, which became the first sign that there were problems with building safety. Even so, too many people were too satisfied with their growth to really care. However, it was on a fateful day in the summer of 1995 when the Sampoong Department Store collapsed with 1500 shoppers inside. The owners knew the building had problems, and refused to take action because they wanted to make as much money as possible. After the collapse, many South Koreans realised that they couldn't ignore these issues any longer, and began to wonder why are these buildings falling down when they should have strict building codes as promised. The S. Korean government then tested all of the buildings in the area, finding that nearly 4 in 5 buildings needed at least some minor repair, and only 1 in 50 were completed safe. Sampoong was a type of disaster the affected S. Korea in much the same way 9/11 affected the US.

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: Inlandsvägen1986 on 08/15/14 at 4:15 am

In Germany, I think we were only slightly behind the US but there is something which I always find interesting today. When I watch old German movies, like from the late 60s and 70s, I always think that I remember some elements from my earlier childhood. This is due to the fact that until the mid 90s - especially in rural areas - a lot of shops still had this 50s-70s interior. Especially when the owners were older, the shops really looked old school as they didn't have digital scales, very old cash registers... or just how the articles in the shops were arranged. I also remember offices with no computers and very old telephones (with rotary dials).

So: Except for technology, the esthetics of the 90s in Germany, especially the earlier half, was still very 70s.

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: robby76 on 08/15/14 at 5:26 am

Asia was booming in the 90s... countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Malaysia also had the tallest buildings in the world which were completed in 1996 :-

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: Arrowstone on 08/15/14 at 5:21 pm

For the Netherlands, music was more electronic, as always. I think fashion trends did not differ that much from the US, only being more European-like. Internet existed, but I've got in in 2001. Economy was good the second half; there was a government without confessional parties involved; I can't recall large disruptions of any kind. Cartoons on tv were often from US or maybe UK.

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: sonikuu on 08/15/14 at 9:47 pm

I live in Japan right now and the general consensus here is that the 90s wasn't so fun.  Asia was booming like crazy in the 90s, but Japan was the exception to that rule.  Japan spent most of the 90s in some form of recession, a stark contrast to their booming "bubble" days of the 80s and early 90s.  The 90s was the hangover to that party.  In addition, the 1995 double whammy of the Kobe Earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist bombing dealt a blow to the Japanese psyche.  Japanese had viewed themselves as safe and prosperous and the economy, earthquake, and bombing threw that all into doubt.

That said, there is a more positive side to it.  The 90s are also acknowledged as being perhaps the most dynamic period for Japanese pop culture.  Japanese music sales skyrocketed in the 90s (it was the golden age of the industry sales-wise), video games were dominated by the Japanese and went from niche/kids entertainment to mainstream by the decade's end, and a lot of the most iconic anime among Japanese today were on the air in the 90s at some point.

An interesting combination of a terrible economy and constant national self-doubt combined with an amazingly dynamic and vibrant pop culture. 

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: Inlandsvägen1986 on 08/16/14 at 4:30 am


-The 90s was also the last decade when every country in Europe still had its own currency. On 01/01/2002, a lot of countries in the European Union including Germany introduced the Euro
-in the 90s, we had a building boom in the eastern part of reunified Germany
-Berlin became our capital (again); between 1949 and 1990 it was Bonn
-Internet became household around 1997/98
-Cellphones became popular in the mid 90s, texting became popular in the late 90s

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: SiderealDreams on 08/16/14 at 12:02 pm

I'm American, but I have lived in Mexico for the last 3 years. I will share what I know about the 90's in Mexico a little later, since I've got a lot of work today. However, I will say for now that Mexico's 90's experience was definitely very different from the Anglosphere's experience (and I would generalize that it wase less positive).

Subject: Re: What was the 90s like in other countries?

Written By: SiderealDreams on 08/18/14 at 7:39 pm

Ok, after a few very busy work days, I have time to talk a little bit about Mexico in the 90s. I have no first-hand knowledge of it, but I know that 1994 in particular was a very eventful year. That year, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. It seemed to have a great deal of promise at the time of better economic conditions and greater access to the US markets to sell products. I would generally contend that it has not been great for the country's poor majority. For example, many corn farmers lost their livelihoods since it is now cheaper for Mexico to import corn, the great staple of the Mexican diet, than to grow it domestically.

There was also a great deal of secrecy and intimidation in the processes that were necessary to pass NAFTA. Journalists who questioned the merits of it were often paid a visit from the government's thugs, which could involve a death threat, a beating, or even assassination.

Speaking of government, The president from the first part of the 90s, Carlos Salinas de Gortari (governed from 1988-1994), was seen by the international community as a progressive reformer, but in reality, he was a deeply corrupt man. He was the second to the last president of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) that had ruled Mexico for almost 70 years at that point, often using extra-legal means to jealously maintain their grip on the power. He became president through a rigged election (which his immediate predecessor and fellow PRI-member, Miguel de la Madrid, admitted toward the end of his life). Political assassinations were very common during Salinas' presidency. The most notable of these assassinations was that of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI candidate for president in the 1994 national elections who seemed to be a fairly decent man who wanted to take the party in a more open and democratic election.

1994 was also the year that the peso completely crashed, thanks in large part to the unchecked and unaccounted-for campaign spending of the PRI that occurred every election year during their 70 years controlling the country, causing the poverty, unemployment, and the price of just about everything to rise almost over night.

In this climate of corruption and a bad economy, 1994 saw the first clashes between the Zapatista Liberation Army and the Federal Army that would continue throughout the decade.

I know all this because I chose  to write a paper about NAFTA and Mexico during my last year at the university. I don't know much about the second half of the decade, although it seems from what I've read that it was a fairly violent time for the country (for example, in the late 90s, it was reported that 20 tourists a day were attacked in Mexico City, where I live, and yet now, it is actually quite safe in most areas). The economy got a little better later in the 90s and Ernesto Zedillo, the last PRI president who governed from 1994 to 2000, took a more moderate stance on many issues and took important steps in democratizing the country (though who knows whether they will last now that the PRI is sadly back in power).

After starting this post, I would love to investigate more on Mexican culture in the 1990s. I think that the 1990s was also when certain countercultural subcultures emerged. For example, goths didn't really appear in Mexico until the mid to late 90s, for example. However, I know that there was an industrial scene as far back as the early 90s. There were punks in the late 80s. I believe that metalheads appeared in the late 80s and early 90s.

My Mexican wife has told me that 80's fashions seemed to hang on a little longer in Mexico than they might have in the US or Europe.

Also, since we have talked a lot about when internet appeared in different places, Mexico seems to have arrived a bit later than in the Anglosphere or in Western Europe. My wife told me that she and her family began using internet at home around the year 2000. I think it became a daily occurrence a little bit later. Her family is very middle class and reasonably tech savvy, so I think that it might have become popular a little bit later among the population that could afford it. Most Mexicans still do not have internet in their homes (however, I wonder if this is true if we only talk about urban Mexicans, as it seems to me that very very few people in this city have a completely internet-free life). By-the-hour internet cafes are still extremely common here. In part, I think this is due to many people not having internet at their homes. However, even people who do have internet access at home often don't have printers and will thus go to an internet cafe to print when necessary.

Well, I think that is about all that I can share for now. With that, I leave you with a video from the Depeche Mode-influenced Mexican synthpop band, Moenia, for the song "Estabas ahí" ("You were right there") from 1996.

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