As a study abroad student, and I faced with the effects of globalization everyday, and I am likewise a massive contributor towards it. The first time during my study abroad experience that I really saw the effect of our shrinking world was in the Dublin airport. I had an hour and half layover in my flight between New York and Rome, and it was in Dublin that I first touched down on European soil. What struck me the most as I eagerly observed everything around me was that first the first time in my life, the overwhelming majority of passports clutched tightly in hand, weren’t blue. They weren’t predominately any color, for that matter. Every family, couple, businessman, or young explorer had a different color passport – I thought it was absolutely magical. In my previous twenty years in the “melting-pot” of the universe, I never noticed the everyday juxtaposition of so many different cultures.
But globalization does not just mean that individuals, and the cultural identities they bring with them move. Big business does too. In the last three months I have had the opportunity to travel to upwards of twenty different cities in five different countries: and in every one of I saw an advertisement for the nearest McDonald’s. In the “Encountering Globalization” reading there is reference made to the ‘McDonaldization’ of society (Robins 2002). While the globalization of economy may create advanced job markets, diverse consumerism, and increased stability, there are many dangers associated with it as well.
In the documentary ‘The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” we learn a lot about the economic situation in Tanzania. The effect of globalization actualized there looks a lot more like disguised exploitation by richer nations than like positive outcomes. Used clothing is the primary import to the country, the apparent effect appears to be a squashed, or at least un-fostered national textile industry.
The Italian culture that I am diving into during my study-abroad experience is strong enough, as a first world nation, to hold its own against the strong forces of invasion by outside companies. As I mentioned before, I have seen a sign for a McDonalds’s in every city, but after 3 months in the capital of Italy, I had yet to actually see said McDonald’s. In the sociology course I am taking here, my professor explained exactly why: the food tradition, and by extension industry, is taken extremely seriously in Italian culture. It is a source of national identity and pride. Italians were furious when the first McDonald’s opened in Rome in the 1980’s. Italian fashion designer Valentino attempted legal pursuits to have the fast-food restaurant closed. While it, like many other foreign businesses, have integrated into the society over the years, people remain hesitant. In the “Encountering Globalization” reading, Robins writes, “Globalization does not supersede and displace everything that proceeds it. As well as recognizing social innovation, we must have regard to the evident continuities in social and cultural life.” The hindered integration of McDonalds into the Roman culture perhaps serves to exemplify exactly what Robins was talking about.
I took this image this morning at a local food market. I think it accurately depicts the Italian experience of globalization. There are many foods available having foreign roots, and yet they have been adapted with such a way that they are prepared here with an Italian flair.