As an international business major, I have always enjoyed studying the inflows and outflows of both consumer goods and cultures throughout a global market. The idea that human beings are able to transfer ideas and products with such efficiency in the 21st century is extremely exciting to me, so exciting that I have chosen it to be my career path. However, after studying abroad for these past 2 and a half months and watching the video “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” my eyes have been opened to so much more that I did not realize. Between consumer goods, secondhand clothes, and western businesses and restaurants, there is a growing trend of rapid globalization all over the world.
Seeing what the young man Luka had to endure just to make money for himself and his family was very surreal. Like most Americans, I thought that old donated shirts were simply given to families in third world countries that needed them. To see a market and system where the shirts are skid and resold, along with seeing the images of AC/DC shirts and boy scout uniforms on villagers, was a testament to the spread of American influence around the world, even if it is just a piece of clothing. As the video points out, this market and demand for this clothing provides a livelihood for so many Africans, while many people have no idea back in the States. Secondly, it shows that America’s largest export to many African nations is donated clothes. That illustrates how far behind these countries are from developed or even developing nations, but also that globalization will emerge from some of the most unlikely places.
Since my time in Barcelona and Europe started, I have been shocked by the presence of American pop culture and food chains. Walking down extremely tourist centered areas in Barcelona, it is common to pass Burger Kings, McDonalds, KFC, and other fast food chains that as an American, I am not particularly proud of. This is not unique to Barcelona either. While visiting places like Munich, Rome, Brussels, and more, there were many American chain restaurants on the main streets and city centers. On top of the food, popular American clothing chains dominate the shopping areas of major European cities. This was extremely eye opening to me, because it showed how much of an emphasis modern businesses are placing on becoming a multinational brand. While it is a plus for the American economy and it’s businesses, one begins to ask what effect this is happening on national cultures on both a micro and macro level.
When the spread of goods globally begins, the flow of people and culture follow shortly after. A negative effect of this could be that with American consumerism steadily gaining popularity in foreign countries, a sense of homogeny begins to set in. Slowly but surly, cultures will begin to lose some of their own unique aspects and traditions, and the world could see it self shifting towards a global culture, as opposed to various cultures across nations. Because of the ease of traveling today, ideas are being shared at the highest frequency in human history, so people will have to work harder to keep an identity as a nation. In speaking to locals and professors in Barcelona, I have learned that the city has gone from deeply traditional into an “international city similar to New York”. Because of this, they said, they must work harder to keep Catalonia and it’s history and culture at the center of the city and it’s trend.
The image I chose to illustrate this point is a diagram pointing to two of the biggest examples of American influence, Starbucks and McDonalds. As the map shows, these two franchises are everywhere, and the material from which they get their products from comes from all over the globe.