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Posts Tagged ‘Globalization’

Rocky Balboa in Serbia

Today in class we began to discuss the wider context of Rocky’s iconic status, particularly outside the US.  This jostled something loose in my brain, and I suddenly remembered that I had read about a Rocky statue being built in a town square somewhere in Eastern Europe.

I did a little google sleuthing to try and find that story I’d read, and yes, a town in Serbia voted to erect a statue of Rocky Balboa.  Here is why:

The town of Zitiste, Serbia, which lies about 30 miles north of Belgrade, had been going through a string of bad events, including a flood and land slides, which caused the townsfolk and people in the surrounding area to consider the town cursed. The population of Zitiste began to fall as people started to move away to avoid the curse.  So the townspeople got together and decided to do something about it:  they were going to build a statue of Rocky Balboa in the town sqaure.

In 2007, the villagers of Zitiste decided to borrow some of Rocky’s luck.  Bojan Marceta, a resident of Zitiste, saw the film “Rocky Balboa” and felt “as if Rocky has come from our village, he had to fight to win his place in society.”  Marceta came up with the idea to erect a Rocky statue, and the village council agreed.

Rocky now stands in the village square in Zitiste, a monument to perseverance in the face of bad luck.

*The information in this blog post comes from BBC and NY Times stories on this topic from 2007.  The quote is from the BBC.*

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The summer after I graduated High School I went on a school trip to various cities in China.  Much to my dismay, at least 5 meals were spent at a McDonald’s.  We also went to KFC once.  I was sort of a vegetarian at the time, but the strange food offerings at McDonald’s actually confirmed my vegetarianism and I survived solely on french fries.  Direct quote from my travel journal “Went to McDonald’s.  Had choice of sandwich/burger, fries, and coke or sprite.  I had one bite of my “chicken” sandwich and gave it away.”  Another entry “McDonald’s for lunch…again.  Had fries and coke…again.”

My point here is that I can see the point of view of people who oppose McDonald’s globalization and feel that their cultures are threatened by the encroaching American-ness of McDonald’s.  I went to China for an authentic Chinese experience and instead I was forced to eat McDonald’s, which I suppose was an attempt to make us feel more comfortable while we were away from home.

Here is one of the McDonald’s we went to, at the time I recall the guide mentioning that it was the largest McDonald’s in China or in Asia or something.  It was very impressive inside and it was hard for the group to avoid getting separated.

My friend’s face sums up our feelings about the experience:

Now let’s jump to McDonald’s in Tokyo, I mentioned in class that they have 24 hour delivery service (on motor bikes) but McDonald’s also serves as a resting place for drunk people who have missed the last train and have to wait until 5 am, when the trains start running again.  I will admit that I took a trip with a few friends down to Osaka and we decided to forgo booking a hostel for the night of my friend’s birthday.  Instead we found ourselves flocking to the American Embassy…uhh I mean the nearest McDonald’s…where we joined the other sleepers for a quick nap before we were shooed at at 6am so that we would not embarrass the breakfast crew.  Sorry, could not find any photos from this experience!

Facebook:

I posted this photo on facebook when I first moved to Tokyo.  I took this photo in Harajuku, the famously eccentric shopping district in Tokyo, and the purpose was to show the crowd of people out on the “Busiest shopping day” of the week, which is Sunday.  Leave it to my best friend Marissa, who is a vegan, to not only be the only one to comment on my photo but also to zero in on the McDonald’s sign.  This shows the power of the golden arches as an icon, like we discussed in class.

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I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in Mumbai as a child. This was my first experience outside of the country and to be honest, I was not very happy. I definitely experienced culture shock. I was grumpy the entire trip except on one occasion. One night my aunt, uncle, and parents went out leaving my brother and I under the guidance my my teenaged cousins. For dinner, they took us to a McDonald’s located just down the block from their apartment complex.

The Indian version of McDonald’s is much different from the American version. First, they do not serve beef. Due to the fact that many Indians are Hindus, and Hindus consider the cow to be sacred, one cannot buy the classic hamburger. Instead, potato is used in place of beef. Also, there are chicken sandwich options, and variations on local cuisine such as the McCurry Pan.

Reflecting on my experience at the Indian McDonald’s after having read the Watson article, much of what I recall makes sense. Watson highlights the fact that McDonald’s emphasizes adapting to the local environment wherever a franchise opens. Thus, it makes sense that the restaurant would not offer beef and would offer menu items that resemble the local cuisine. By instituting these practices, they are able to make a more seamless entry into the local culture. It provides the best of both worlds for local consumers: McDonald’s India is foreign or American, but at the same time not too radical as to make it unappealing. People find it to be a safe place to experience American culture.

This allows the company to become embedded. Then, as it becomes a part of everyday life, people make it a part of their routine and continue to make purchases and demand increases. Using this adaptable approach allows McDonald’s to be so successful abroad.

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I spent a night in Belfast while studying abroad in London in 2010, and was upset to find out that everything closes by 6pm…well, everything except McDonald’s. This left just the streets or McDonald’s for the teenage inhabitants of the center of Belfast to congregate. The Watson article talks about how the appearance of McDonald’s in China turned children into full-scale consumers. They had money to spend and cheap McDonald’s snacks to spend it on. In a city such as Belfast, where everything closes early(that is places kids can go, not pubs), McDonald’s would be the perfect addition for young people. It provided an indoor place to spend time, and also a place to purchase cheap meals and snacks. When everything else  is closed, McDonald’s is the only option to spend money for kids. The presence of McDonald’s creates the need to consumer. Is it necessary to buy fries and a milkshake after dinner has probably already been eaten at home? No, but if it’s there and there’s nothing else to do, then why not. So this idea of consuming and eating just to have something to do spreads to a place that maybe it wasn’t before the arrival of McDonald’s.

I also read an article from the Belfast Telegraph accusing McDonald’s of targeting young children by purposely opening their restaurants near school. This also goes alone with needless consumerism. Kids get done school, and instead of going straight home they head to McDonald’s to grab a snack, and a non-healthy snack at that. The article states that they hope to stop placing fast food chains near schools in hopes of combating childhood obesity.

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I had no idea that Argentina has a large Jewish population, so I was really surprised to find this picture of a kosher McDonald’s in a major shopping mall in Buenos Aires.

This is also the only kosher McDonald’s outside of Israel.  The US has a far bigger Jewish population than Argentina, so I wonder why McDonald’s doesn’t think it’s profitable to open kosher restaurants in New York City or Los Angeles…

A website called TravelingRabbi.com posts about this Buenos Aries McDonald’s:

In fact, it seemed like just about everyone in the world went by that kosher McDonald’s.  Even if they weren’t coming to eat from it, they were coming by to take photos of it, just to prove it exists.  People who have never been to Israel (and thus never seen the even more exciting kosher McDonald’s express in the main Jerusalem bus station) are fascinated to find their first kosher Micky D’s.

Though this traveling rabbi never tried the Kosher burgers – “I gave up fast food 10 years ago after reading ‘Fast Food Nation’” – he reports via friends that the hamburgers are surprisingly good (even if they don’t come with cheese).  He also claims that the higher quality of the food compared with non-Kosher McDonald’s is due to the nonindustrial beef:

“No overly processed factory-farmed beef here!  In Buenos Aires, the legendary gauchos of the pampas are the ones responsible for the cows, who feed on the endless grassy plains.”

While his description of the “legendary gauchos” seems romanticized, I wonder if having to use less-processed meat in order to comply with kosher regulations costs McDonald’s more money, and consequently drives the price up, which could be a factor in their decision to not open kosher restaurants in the US.   But then I barely know anything about kosher laws, so maybe this isn’t actually the case.  Regardless, this kosher restaurant demonstrates McDonald’s ability to enter every market around the world, offering Jews a chance to “have it their way” while still keeping the menu limited, and essentially the same as everywhere else.  The fact that this McDonald’s has actually become at tourist attraction – probably for American tourists – demonstrates the brand’s iconic power in terms of adaptability.  For American tourists who are very familiar with McDonald’s food, the kosher version actually seems like a foreign product that’s as special a treat as eating traditional Argentinian cuisine.

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I was walking around last night near where we are staying in Paris — close to the Eiffel Tower.  I saw this Route 66 folder in the window.  Check out the text, in English, below the title, “Feel the Freedom.”  Great, huh?

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Check out also the close the connection here between Britain and the US.  English seems to link these two countries together sometime.

(Photo credit:  Joshua Cole)

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