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Our Shrinking World

Globalization is one of the defining phenomena of our times. The side effects of the corona pandemic, with its lockdowns and occasionally interrupted supply chains, only underscore this reality. In any case, the world keeps on shrinking, and people are experiencing the phenomenon up close, in their personal as well as professional lives.

In the clearest example, smartphones give the impression that the world is becoming smaller and smaller. As a matter of fact, nearly one person in two owns one. With the device within reach at any time, boundless information from all over the world is just a click away. During the 20th century, we were still dependent on media companies with their newspapers along with their radio and TV stations if we wanted more or less timely information. But now we have become our own program directors thanks to the Internet and social media, and we are getting the information in real time.

Woman Selfie
Selfie-Mania: Content for social networks. Anytime, anywhere.

We have become more knowledgeable about events in the US, Japan or Brazil than our parents were about a neighboring major city just 50 years ago due to advances in technology and digital networking. And we don’t even have to actively seek out news today. Push messages continually keep us up to date about world events, filtered according to our preferences and interests.

Travelers Can Reach Destinations More Easily and Efficiently

This has led to situations where even the most remote regions no longer seem foreign. They can be experienced on the Internet, especially with tools such as Google Maps. And many people are not restricting themselves to virtual visits. Except for small lapses, the number of tourists has been trending upward over the last few decades. This is not least of all due to increasingly inexpensive travel options. By 2005, the cost of transporting a single individual fell to just 10 percent of what it was in 1930 when the first passenger airlines emerged, according to the OECD. Since the turn of the millennium, low-cost airlines have been underbidding each other in a pricing war even more. The result is that the total number of passengers has more than doubled in the last 15 years. And flight durations have been in decline due to more fully developed route networks. It doesn’t even take 24 hours to reach Germany from Melbourne, Australia, under ideal conditions. It took more than 40 hours for the German Olympic team to travel there in 1956, not counting the layovers.

People traveling abroad are letting friends and relatives back home participate in the trip – by Instagram and Facebook.

Bringing Along the Folks Back Home

People traveling abroad are letting friends and relatives back home participate in the trip – by Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Or they turn immediately to video telephony and, in a sense, take friends and relatives with them almost “live” to their destination. And if their Internet connection fails and they have to resort to conventional phone calls, they are much better off. Phone calls across national borders are no longer a significant expense. In 2007, the OECD determined that the cost of an international call was just 0.03 percent of what it was in 1930.

Crossing Borders for Work and Study

Professional lives have also become more global over the last few decades. Companies are not just finding consumers for their products and services beyond their borders – they are establishing plants abroad or entering into joint ventures. Employees are pulled along in their slipstreams and are making the move themselves. The OECD recently put the number of employees from member-states working abroad at 40 million. And even those working in their homelands are suddenly dealing with contacts around the world via video telephony. Increasingly effective online translation portals facilitate the intercultural dialog, allowing email messages to be composed and read in languages that the individual has not mastered. Meanwhile, the number of students attending colleges and universities abroad has risen. UNESCO calculated that 5.1 million students were enrolled in institutions outside their home countries in 2016. Their experiences often lay the groundwork for an internationally oriented career and lead to personal contacts and a feeling of familiarity with the culture of the host country.

Thanks to these trends, the world of the 21st century is coming together. The information age with its technical capabilities and the new options for travel and work continue to make the world seem smaller. For many, spanning space and time (zones) has become a natural everyday occurrence, both professionally and personally.

Read more about globalization in our next issue of ESSENTIAL. The ESSENTIAL, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies’ corporate magazine-covers, trends, industries and new ideas. To read more stories like this, click here .

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