How In-Flight Magazines Illustrate American Advantage

“Go Away Gray” pills – Arthritis Pain Reliever Glove – Indoor Dog Restroom – Pup-Step Stairs

The improvement items sold on in-flight magazine goes on and on.

What is their value? What are they saying?

I read an article once in Singapore about “American Individualism”.  It was written by a friend and successful Singaporean businessman, owner of a renowned resorts chain. The editorial was created after his first visit to America with his family. Although he admitted he generally had a poor perception of the country, that through his travels, it had changed.

One of the triggers of this change was observing the in-flight magazines. He felt that they were served as a positive symbol of the American way of thinking—innovation and self-improvement, different from that of Asia.

Across the tops of the pages, you see sections titled:

“Value emporium – greatest gifts with price value and life value”

“The greatest gift is to help others help themselves”


This is significantly different from in-flight magazines in Asia that contain only luxurious items, perfume, jewelry, liquor, etc.

Some argue this is our downfall—excessiveness and indulgence – I argue it’s the cause of our success and that the reason people resort to negativity when commenting on it is because they are intimidated by it. I wonder if my new friend in Singapore was also initially intimidated by it?

If we stop searching frantically for a competitive advantage, the American advantage is right in front of us. Americans are innovators. We empower people to think for themselves, encourage them to take action, and provide tools and resources to support. This is our culture. Why is this an advantage? It keeps us at the front of trends, setting them and establishing a network of followers behind the leader (Apple, Facebook, etc-Need I explain their value?)

In Asia, the history provides for a different way of thinking. Often they think as a group thus, you have collectivism at its best. They’re encouraged to act on behalf of the group’s best interests. They usually focus on society, community or nation valuing conformity over independence. Therefore, individuals are obedient to society’s definition and make safe life and career decisions. As a result, there is little support or encouragement for self-improvement.

China was just ranked #1 in math, reading and science.   U.S.?

25, 14, 17, respectively.

Of course, we should do something to improve the education system but it’s a deeply rooted and complex issue. I pray someone is addressing it. However, in the meantime, we cannot compete with this. Americans are looking for an answer to what they can do today.

What we can do today is leverage the competitive advantages we do have—creativity, innovation, interpersonal skills, design. Rather than trying to change to find something more tangible and short-term, to compete and try to combat Asia, we need to understand them, partner and collaborate with them.

The world is changing—we are globalizing and it is inevitable. It’d be foolish to try and deny or go against it but strategic to work together towards shaping the future of what we want for America.

Maybe arthritis and grey hair is not as big of a deal in Asia, and owning a dog isn’t as a common as in the U.S., but eventually when the novelty of fancy jewelry and new smells wears off, they’ll be looking outwardly for the next big thing. And it may just be in an in-flight magazine.