Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Globalization

In class on Tuesday we discussed how globalization allows us to have a 'piece of home' regardless of where we are in the world. Although the idea of always having the comforts of home can be appealing, I feel that globalization has led to people being less immersed in foreign cultures while traveling. Every summer while in Syria, all my little brother can talk about are McDonald's french fries. In Syria there is a law that allows companies which do not produce their products on Syrian ground to import them, but with a large tax attached. The result of this law is that mostly Syrian products are sold in the markets (keep in mind there are no Target or Walmart-like stores in Syria), and many large companies like General Mills and Johnson and Johnson have opened factories within Syrian borders to avoid the tax. This law may seem ridiculous to outsiders, but it has kept the Syrian economy going by employing thousands of workers in factories and keeping international monopolies, like Coca-Cola and McDonalds, from out competing the family run shops. So even though James can't have his french fries in Syria, as soon as we cross the Lebanese border, he can have them with every meal. Lebanon does not have restrictive production laws like Syria, and on every corner there is a KFC or McDonalds. It is the perfect example of a globalized country. Even though it is a Middle Eastern country, most people speak either French or English, and some people have lived there their whole life and do not know Arabic. There are supermarket stores, malls and most people drive foreign automobiles. This is one of the reasons I do not find Lebanon as charming as other Middle Eastern countries. When I am traveling I want to be somewhere that is not exactly like my home. It is easy for the culture of a country to be lost in all of the globalization. Modernity and globalization are not linked in my mind, and a country does not need to have a McDonalds to be considered modern. The point of traveling, at least for me, is to escape from my American life and take on new experiences that only a certain country or culture has to offer.


3 comments:

  1. Margaux,
    I agree with your statements regarding the importance of an alternate culture in travel. It was difficult for me to completely enjoy my travels in France when around every corner I could find a McDonald's or Starbuck's. As a result of the rapid growth of globalized tendencies it is nearly impossible to avoid these "pieces of home" when you are abroad. Although this makes it difficult to process your cultural surroundings it just means you have to dig deeper into the culture that you are exploring. In this way I would say that the Americanization of some foreign countries makes you appreciate their cultural offerings even more.

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  2. With regard to McDonald's popularity around the world, I’d like to point out a fact that in different countries, the food in McDonald’s or KFC differs. This is largely due to the variety of tastes and cultural difference as well. For example, the McDonald’s and KFC in China would offer food that includes traditional Chinese ingredient and would give it a fancy name (When I was ordering food from the McDonald’s in the US, I used to feel disappointed that they didn’t have the food or the name I was looking for). And all the burgers and chickens are cooked according to the taste of Chinese people. The same phenomenon applies to the Chinese restaurant in the US too. They are offering the food that fits local people’s taste best, so it is unlikely that it will still remain its original feature.
    What I would like to say is that the spread over of those cultural restaurants around the world may to some extent indicate globalization; while meanwhile it implies that cultural diversities exist. While they are trying to make the culture know to all, they still need to cater for a particular culture. So although we see McDonald’s everywhere in the world, we might still want to call it by country such as a Chinese McDonald’s or a Syrian McDonald’s. Therefore, I think it’s more important for the people to actually be in another country to indicate globalization. Margaux’s travel to Syria is certainly a better example for globalization than her country’s restaurant being built in Syria. The engagement of the actual people in travelling all across the world should be more important than simply the establishment of the restaurant or the spirit alone.

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  3. I agree with the notion that the global spread of Western companies and culture threatens to kill the nuances of different cultures, but I'd like to play devil's advocate for a minute and argue in its defense. One of the greatest benefits of the global market is that, in many ways, it allows for us to move across the world more freely and more easily experience those very cultures. Consider the European Union: travel between member states is easier than ever, passports are rarely necessary, and border checkpoints are rare. It's all the easier for an Italian to take his family to France to experience their culture.

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