Golden Arches East

Introduction Themes
– Cultural Imperialism
– McDonald’s as a corrosive force?
– Globalism and Local Cultures
– Transnationalism and Multilocal Corporation
– The Family Revolution in East Asia: Children as Consumers
– Standardization and Taste: The McDonald’s System
– Modified Menus and Local Sensitivities: McDonald’s Adapts
– Fast Gets Faster: Automation and the Industrialization of Food
– Consumer Discipline, Education and Resistance
– Service with a Smile?
– Cleanliness, Hygiene and the Public Toilet
– Conclusion: McDonaldization vs Localization
Tokyo, 1971
– Newly formed affluent middle class, who can afford to eat out
– McDonald’s take off corresponds to the rise in ‘teens’ (previously unrecognized in Japan)
– First time in history Japanese kids have to stay in school until they are 18
– Leisured youths become consumers of american pop-culture
Hong Kong, 1975
– Opening McDonald’s correspond with the economic boom (international trade)
– Middle-class replaces post-war working class
– Conjugal units become the norm, replacing wider kin networks
– Late 70s and early 80s, kids and adults become full-fledged consumers
– McDonald’s is ‘in’
Taipei, 1984
– First foreign food company allowed into the previously closed market
– Opening corresponds with a new political era (local interests challenge the authoritarian rule of the nationalist)
– Taiwan takes off as a major player in the global electronics and computer markets
– Emerging middle class has the time and money to spend on leisure
– Family patterns change rapidly and encourage consumerism
– Taipei’s youth embrace McDonald’s as a symbol of their new lifestyle
Seoul, 1988
– First foreign food chain permitted to operate in Korea
– Middle class emerged after generations of harmwork
– Salaried employees do not have time for leisure, but their dependents do and begin to lead lifestyles defined by consumerism
– Children become knowledge consumers, eating american foods
– This new generation has impressive persuasive power, many parents who object to foreign imports find themselves throwing birthday parties at McDonald’s
Beijing, 1992
McDonald’s in Beijing: The Localization of Americana (Yunxiang Yan, UCLA)
– The Beijing Tiananmen McDonald’s opened in 1992 – first outlet in China.
– Largest in the world – corporate confidence in the mainland market.
– Yan sees McDonald’s in the PRC as “…a localized, Chinese version of Americana…” and discusses five aspects of this localization (53-62).
1) Public relations stress Chinese management and local purchasing.
2) McDonald’s is a place to linger, not a place to eat and run.
3) Families go there on outings.
4) Employee interaction with customers to develop closeness and affinity is an important marketing tool.
5) The company is serious about children as prime customers both in its marketing and because parents and grandparents encourage it (Little Emporers)
– Yan describes mainland Chinese ideas about American fast food and describes how the venue is appropriated to Chinese expectations and behaviors.
McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Childrens Culture (James Watson, Harvard).
– Summarizes local subversion of McDonald’s transnational marketing.
– Watson states that in Hong Kong “…the transnational is the local” (80; original emphasis) and describes consumer behavior.
1) Food is a snack or a meal
2) How consumer perceptions of menu items transited from exotic to ordinary
3) Corporate culture (sanitation, smiles, and educating consumers)
4) Children as semi-autonomous consumers.
– His conclusion questions McDonald’s/American cultural imperialism: “having watched the process of culture change unfold for nearly thirty years, it is apparent to me that the ordinary people of Hong Kong have most assuredly not been stripped of their cultural heritage, nor have they become the uncomprehending dupes of transnational corporations”
– Watson broadly characterizes Hong Kong’s culture as one that is “…postmodern, postnationalist, and flamboyantly transnational” (108). This characterization is not altogether undeserved.
McDonald’s in Taipei: Hamburgers, Betel Nuts, and National Identity (David Y. H. Wu, Chinese University of Hong Kong).
– Attempts to connect emerging national identity in Taiwan with the practice of chewing betel nut and the acceptance of McDonald’s.
– Brief histories of betel nut and McDonald’s presence in Taiwan provide background for the focus on customer behavior and how the company arranges physical space to suit local behaviors.
– Provides much insight into how people adapted both McDonald’s food and the outlets space to their needs. Students, for example, appropriate seating space after school for studying and socializing; the venue appeals because it is safe and outside the home .
– Places for people to meet and sanctuaries from personal turmoil at home
McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism ( Sangmee Bak, Queens College, CUNY).
– Localizing the transnational and resisting it can coexist; the essay is focused on “…the historic and symbolic meanings Koreans associate with McDonald’s”.
– Slow expansion in Korea
– Main competitors, including a restaurant chain named Americana.
– Koreans conceive of McDonald’s food similarly to other East Asians – a snack.
– Resistance to transnational corporate imports is an important aspect of McDonald’s experience in Korea; Bak discusses critical media scrutiny and perceptions that consuming foreign goods is conspicuous, vain and takes money out of the local economy. Bak also
– Discusses Korean food symbolism opposing hamburger (American culture) to rice (Korean culture); the same opposition appears in Japan.
McDonald’s in Japan: Changing Manners and Etiquette (Emiko Ohnuki-Tierny, Wisconsin/Madison).
– Analyses what McDonald’s and its food symbolize in Japan.
– How well McDonald’s fits into Japanese culture, thereby challenging and changing the symbolic content of eating, are emphasized.
– Eating at McDonald’s can be trendy, an iconoclastic practice, or simply disagreeable, and the quality of the experience depends on consumer preference
– Ohnuki-Tierny discusses why McDonald’s food in Japan “…is a ‘snack’ and not a full meal…” based on her research on the role rice plays in Japanese culture (164). Rice is seen as filling, while bread (such as hamburger buns) is not. She makes a detailed and readable case for the contrasting symbolic value of rice (Japanese culture) versus meat (American culture). Rice and rice paddies were historically “…metaphors for Japanese cultural identity, and later, for Japanese national identity” 166). Meat is “…the distinguishing characteristic of the Western diet, and thus of ‘barbarian’ cultures.” (166-167; original emphasis). Sangmee Bak (discussed above) makes a similar argument for Korea and a future line of inquiry for comparative research is an obvious possibility. Ohnuki-Tierny also considers differences in the setting, style and etiquette of eating at home and at McDonald’s; she makes a very nice presentation lending itself to comparison with Euro-American symbolic systems and practices.

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