Travel Log 10: “Encountering Globalization” By Ryan Bonitz. Barcelona, Spain.

Living in Barcelona and traveling throughout Europe has allowed me to experience globalization on a scale that I never could have imagined. Between living in a small beach community and studying at Quinnipiac, I would be lying if I said I encountered a variety of peoples and cultures on a regular basis. When I arrived in Barcelona, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity that comprised the city. I have become friendly with Spanish locals, as well as my French neighbor, Australian Professor, and Afghan man who owns my favorite restaurant. I have learned to step out of my comfort zone here in Spain by eating new foods, striking up conversations with strangers, and removing myself from the touristy areas of the city. Everyday I try my best to immerse myself in the local culture, which isn’t purely Spanish. I am learning everyday from people of all cultures from all corners of the world.

As you walk down Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Barcelona, it is sometimes hard to tell if you are in the United States or Europe. Everywhere you look there is a McDonalds or H&M. American food companies and clothing brands seem to have taken over not only Barcelona, but also all of Europe. They are always located in the most touristy areas of the city. They easily draw in visitors due to the level of comfort they bring by being familiar and safe. Even as someone who wants to experience the local culture, I have fallen victim to this attraction far too many times.

Although big name restaurants and clothing brands may provide a level of comfort to visitors, I personally think that they are having a negative cultural impact. Rather than stepping back to appreciate the local cuisine or support small businesses, people throw their money to big businesses who don’t need another dollar. Over time it will be harder and harder for these smaller businesses to keep up, and many could disseapper. This is a similar situation to what was described in The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy. Before watching this documentary, I had no idea that overseas interaction destroyed the clothing industry of Zambia and other African countries. I was devastated to hear that all of the clothing we donate is not actually given away to those in need; instead they are sold for a profit. Back in 1970 Zambia had a thriving textile industry, yet today it is nonexistent. As a young girl said, “We suffer because the things we need we don’t have in Zambia unless another country brings it here. It must be brought to us… people just wait until things come from the outside. That is when we find a better life.” The words of this little girl made me wonder, where would Zambia be today had we never interfered? Would death tolls be lower and the number of children receiving an education be higher? As Kevin Robbins states, “Cultures are transformed by the incorporations they make from other cultures in the world” (Robbins, pg 243). Although globalization is negatively impacting cultures around the world, it is also providing means of survival in many cases. For example, Zambians may not be happy with American interference in the textile industry, but now that their own production companies are gone, they rely on America for their resources.

As a class, we defined the global community as “All people around the world living by and fighting for similar social values and basic rights.” After two months abroad, I think this definition can be refined. I would say that the global community is “All people around the world who are connected in numerous ways yet believe in different means to better their individual societies.” Although we would like to think so, not everyone in the world receives the same basic human rights. For example, when we were in a Munich hostel we met a girl from South Korea. She was devastated about leaving Germany to return home because she “can’t live freely.” We are in so many ways very different from South Korea; however, there is one thing that we share. What we do and how we do so is all in hopes of creating the best life for the people of our community.

The photo I chose to share is of one of my favorite fountains in Placa Catalunya. I nearly deleted this picture the other day because although the fountain is gorgeous, there is a massive advertisement in the background. It just goes to show how prevalent globalization is in our everyday lives, no matter where we are.

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Placa Catalunya fountain with a massive advertisement behind it. 

Works Cited

Robins, K., 2002. Encountering Globalization. In: C. Held & A. McGrew, eds. The Global Transformations Reader. Cambridge: Polity. Ch. 20.

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