Book Chapter

Using Facebook data to measure cultural distance between countries: the case of Brazilian cuisine

Coimbra Vieira, C., Ribeiro, F. N., Vaz de Melo, P. O. S., Benevenuto, F., Zagheni, E.
In: Huang, Y., King, I., Liu, T.-Y., van Steen, M. (Eds.): WWW '20: proceedings of the Web Conference 2020; Apr 20-25, 2020, Taipei, Taiwan, 3091–3097
New York, NY, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) (2020)
Open Access


Measuring the affinity to a particular culture has been an active area of research. Countries and their residents can be characterized by many cultural aspects, such as clothing, music, art and food. As one of the central aspects, the cuisine of a country can reflect one of the dominant aspects of its culture. As such, the number of people interested in a typical national dish can be used to estimate the prevalence of that culture inside the host region. In this study, we measure the global spread of Brazilian culture across countries by exploring Facebook user’s preferences for typical Brazilian dishes through the Facebook Advertising Platform. To decide which dish will be considered typical from Brazil, we made use of spatial analysis to understand the distribution of interests around the world and to quantify how typical the dish is in Brazil and among Brazilian immigrants. This methodology can be generalized to other countries to infer cultural elements that emigrants usually take to and preserve in the countries they migrate to. Also, the interest in Brazilian typical dishes can be used to characterize countries in terms of Brazilian cultural exposition. While evaluating the cultural distance between Brazil and the countries with more Brazilian immigrants we explore several measures of distance to compare these in the context of affinity to Brazilian cuisine. Our results revealed that these cultural distance measures can complement other metrics of distance applied to gravity-type models, for example, in order to explain flows of people between countries.

Keywords: social network, sociology
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.