When I was getting ready to travel abroad, I knew that there would be some aspects of my home culture that made their way to London and the rest of Europe, particularly in the spread of chain companies, especially fast food. On my street alone you can find McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFC. Just the other day, my friends went to a Chipotle in London, and when I went to Stockholm a couple of weeks ago there were 7/11’s on almost every street and I even found a Dunkin Donuts. Not to mention that the U.K. plays American bands and singers on the radio and show many American movies and television shows. This goes along with what Kevin Robbins discusses in The Global Transformations Reader when it comes to cultural homogenization as opposed to cultural hybridization. Robbins writes, “…as the Disney Channel arrived in Britain. There is the clear sense in some quarters that ‘Americanization’ – from Hollywood to Coke and McDonald’s – is a threat to the integrity of European cultural life.” And while I do believe American companies are spreading much more than other countries’ on a global scale, and that America has great cultural influences on other countries nowadays, I also believe that every country and city still has its own unique identity and is still uniquely “British” or “Swedish”.
One of the amazing benefits of spending a semester in London is that it is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It can be seen not only through the people that walk the streets, but also through the languages you hear being spoken on public transportation, and in the extremely diverse amount of shops and restaurants that have opened throughout the city. Their national dish is even an Indian dish, chicken tikka masala, even though most people assume it is the classic British fish and chips. I think Camden Market is one of the places that best exemplifies the globalization and diversity of London. The picture I chose to post is the entrance to the market. I took this photo when I visited the market not too long ago, and was blown away by the shops and food stands. So many countries are represented there in one way or another; the countries of the U.K., China, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, India, France, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Korea, the United States, and many more. The whole experience was somewhat overwhelming, especially since I had travelled there alone, but I fell in love with the market and find myself with the strongest urge to go back again and again. But at the end of the day London, to me, still feels so unique and truly British. All of the history that is preserved here and just the feeling of the city does not compare to any other and I think will always stay that way.
My trip to Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden also led me to encounter forms of globalization. I myself do not speak Swedish, and neither do any of my friends that I had travelled with, so when reading street signs or finding places we needed to go resulted in us having to try to translate. It turns out that many words in Swedish sound similar to their English counterparts, so we found our way pretty easily. However, I found it interesting how whenever we would check out at a store, or speak to someone at a train station ticket booth, they would initially speak to us in Swedish. Then after we would say “I’m sorry, what?” the person would immediately smile, nod, and begin speaking to us in perfect English. It is common for people in Scandinavian countries to learn English starting when they’re young, so although they maintain their own national spirit and know their own language, they also learn English to keep with this growing connective spirit of globalization.
Robbins also talks about mobility and the global connections we make through the Internet, saying, “Mobility has become ordinary in the emerging global order. But it is also possible to see the world without having to move. For now ‘the world’ is able to come where we are.” I can personally agree and relate to this statement, as an avid social media user who often connects with people from countries different, and far away, from my own. I have had the great opportunity to meet with a friend of mine who I met on Twitter a couple of years ago. She is from Poland, but is studying at Middlesex University in London. I have also made connections at some concerts I’ve been to with girls not only from London, but also from Spain and Scotland. I also have plans to meet with a friend of mine that lives in France when I travel to Paris next month. To me, these are perfect examples of how globalization and the Internet have brought the world together and made it seem like a much smaller place, where you can meet anyone from around the world and share your ideas and opinions whenever you want. It has also given me the opportunity to learn about what life is like in countries like Spain and Scotland. It turns out their cultures are very different from the United States, and I was fascinated when we sat and compared our life experiences.
In addition to all of these benefits of globalization, Robbins also talks about how globalization is complex and does not always benefit everyone. He calls globalization “an uneven and an unequal process”, and refers to a piece by geographer Doreen Massey where she says that, “Some initiate flows and movement, others don’t; some are more on the receiving end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it.” When reading this, many things came into mind. Massey mentions people coming halfway around the world “only to get held up in an interrogation room at Heathrow.” And I immediately thought about Donald Trump and the travel bans and immigration policies he is putting into place. I also thought about the video we watched this week about the secondhand t-shirt sales and the current economic situation in countries such as Zambia. They are becoming victims of this new global market that has formed, because the most powerful countries, like the United States, have placed sanctions on them that are effectively keeping them in debt and in poverty. The people of those countries do not get to actually experience globalization like other countries do in the form of the Internet, television, movies, chain restaurants, etc. Instead, they are continuing to live in poverty, and in a way our way of life is dangled in front of their faces with things like our secondhand clothing. The people hold onto hope that they will one day have a life like ours, while our government, and the government of other countries, continue to put measures in place to keep them down.
In my opinion, this does not follow through with the Bill of Human Rights or our class definition of global community. We defined global community as “All people around the world living by and fighting for similar social values and basic rights”. To me, this means that instead of effectively imprisoning people through globalization and keeping certain countries down and impoverished while other countries thrive, does not constitute fighting for basic human rights. Every person has the right to the things that people in wealthier countries receive on a daily basis, and people traveling internationally have the right to be treated fairly and equally no matter what their ethnicity is. While I do believe that globalization is overall a wonderful thing at the end of the day, I also think that certain aspects of international policy should be examined and we should begin to think about what is fair and what is right and realize that although we are making great progress and the world is more connected than ever, there are people and countries that are falling through the cracks and something should be done about it.