Gold Arches East

Gold Arches East

McDonalds has always been able to face the challenges that arise when trying to expand to foreign cultures. They have successfully expanded to over a hundred countries, including countries in East Asia. In the book “Golden Arches East” by James L. Watson, he studies different cities and how McDonalds has played a role in their cultures. Three places that he mentioned in his writing were Beijing, Seoul and Japan. They all share similarities in the way the culture was impacted positively and negatively, in society and politically.

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They have their differences in the way things were dealt with and how the public viewed the American company coming to their countries. In this paper, I will be talking about how McDonalds is involved in the cultural transformation of different cultures, as well as, if they created the trends mentioned or if they just followed the market they had to work with. I will also be covering my beliefs on whether or not what McDonalds got involved in was an American inspired, transnational culture crowding out indigenous cultures. McDonalds is involved in cultural transformation in many different ways in Beijing, Seoul, and Japan.

In Beijing, the cultural transformations introduced with the addition of McDonalds were it provides a tourist-like atmosphere, a friendly environment and an affordable place for middle-class people to dine at. It made it a tourist-like atmosphere because the people believed that their experience at the McDonalds was an American cultural experience that they have never been a part of before. They got to learn things about the business that in America we don’t typically look at when we visit a McDonalds. For example, “a five-minute tour of the kitchen is provided upon request at each of the Beijing restaurant” (Watson 44).

This struck me as odd but to a new market I could see the interest they may have in a place they weren’t accustomed to. Another way that culture in Beijing changed was the friendly environment that McDonalds offered to their customers. They gave them a place they could hangout and chat with friends and family. Young couples often dine there “because the eating environment is considered romantic and comfortable” (Watson 50). They had blocked off sections to accommodate for the young couples that they called “the lovers’ corner” (Watson 51).

They even brought the playfulness of the American McDonalds to Beijing which they called the “children’s paradise” where they could play and eat at the same time. They even had receptionist whose tasks were “to establish long-term friendships with children and other customers who frequent the restaurant” (Watson 61). McDonalds in Beijing is considered by most as a high fashioned placed that is fairly affordable especially because the people saw McDonalds as “a formal restaurant where they had paid for full service” (Watson 52). In Seoul, the transformation was very similar to Beijing.

They used McDonalds as leisure centers to gather with friends or business partners for meetings or just have a snack in between meals. Children would often ask for birthday parties to be thrown at McDonalds. “Moving birthday celebrations from the child’s home to a public place has also changed the form of the parties, and children now expect to celebrate with their friends rather than family members, a break from accepted tradition” (Watson 149). In Japan the cultural transformation is different in the sense that the table manners that McDonalds brought were completely opposite of etiquette they live by.

The poor manners that McDonalds brought were eating while standing, eating with their hands and eating with mouths open too wide. (Watson 177-79) At some of the McDonalds, older children had the option to hang out at the restaurant but it was not a place that adults would want to be seen in business attire. Japan’s McDonalds are the most closely related to the American version to because people in America don’t really look at the chain as a place to spend time with friends. I believe that the trends created by the openings of McDonalds in these areas were a result of the market that they got into.

Japan is a more modernized place than the other two and that’s why I think the trends in Japan are so closely related to America. In Beijing and Seoul, it was a different market that McDonalds was getting into. They were very popular in the media but the community never had a firsthand experience with the company. When McDonalds decided to get into the Chinese and Korean markets it was different for the cultures and they adapted in a different way. So I believe they created the trends the occurred in Beijing and Seoul but they didn’t want to change the culture just give them more options.

As time goes by I believe both these markets with start to transform into a relaxed approach to McDonalds and it will eventually be like the fast-food style that we are accustomed to. I wouldn’t say that what McDonalds is doing is an American-inspired, transnational culture crowding out indigenous cultures because of the way they have handled the communities they are in. In the Beijing case I wouldn’t say that the idea that McDonalds is a high-fashioned restaurant is how McDonalds wanted the people to think of it as.

However, because it was such a different setting than what they were used to, they looked at it like it had more to offer than other fast-food style restaurants. With Seoul, I think it was an American-inspired, transnational culture crowding out indigenous cultures in a way because to some Koreans “eating American hamburgers made from imported beef destroys people’s harmony with their environment in the most radical way, and through his process Korean identity is lost” (Watson 155).

This shows that some of the Korean people thought that McDonalds was harmful to society. What McDonalds really brought to Seoul was the idea of eating as an individual because it’s not a place food is often shared and in Korean culture they like to eat together. It was the young Koreans that the American way had an influence on. In Japan, the American-inspired idea is missing to me.

They experimented with lots of different foods at McDonalds including items like “Chinese fried rice, curried rice with chicken of beef, fried egg burger, rib burgers, hotdog burgers, shrimp burgers, chicken-tatsuta, and teriyaki burgers” (Watson 163). These items caused the McDonalds to be slightly different than the American version and that’s why I believe they didn’t use an American-inspired, transnational culture to conflict with any of the Japan routines or cultural differences. McDonalds continues to be a major international business that does a great job of adapting to the cultures that they move to.

McDonalds to me is an international corporation that started in America but has grown so large that it cannot be simply tagged as an American company because its techniques in foreign places and the influence it has on countries that most considered it to be their style, not Americas. If McDonalds can continue to attract young customers, I believe they can continue to grow. Until other businesses learn from what McDonalds has mastered over the years, they will continue to dominate the fast-food chains. Bibliography Watson, James L. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006. Print.


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