Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is Everyone Western?

I am rather busy with my MSc dissertation these days so I don't have as much time to keep this current as I'd like, sorry to regular readers.

One small point today. I was in a McDonalds earlier to get some lunch and I found there a phenomenon I had noticed in McDonalds in Dublin several times before: foreigners. Many, diverse, foreigners. There were Spanish, Chinese, East Europeans, sub-Saharan Africans, French; I was served by a woman from some South East Asian country I guess, and a gang of Italian teenagers squeezed onto the table beside me.

Years ago I had noticed that Irish pubs, so famous and emblematic of Irish culture, seemed to generally be full of white faces, lacking the ethnic diversity of the streets while immigration was high. Perhaps the alcohol was off-putting for many immigrants for cultural or religious reasons.

In McDonalds, though, all the Europeans and Africans and Asians attended. I could look up and see Indonesian girls in hijabs and Australian backpackers and Indian students all chatting over their Big Macs. My guess here is that McDonalds is simply so widespread that it is represented in every single one of those countries, and carries familiarity and a taste of home. When Filipino or Polish youths want somewhere to meet where they can be confident of the kind of food and drink available, a place that is not so alien and different from home, McDonalds is the place to go.

If that's true, it's a testament to the near-global dominance of a kind of American culture. Commentators discuss the falling power or influence of the West, the economic rise of the East, but it has happened along with a massive shift towards a celebration of American, Western culture by a great many people in the East. In one sense, then everyone is Western now.

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