McDonald’s vs. Culture: Who Influences Who the Most?
McDonald’s is a major fast food restaurant known by millions of people worldwide. One of the places McDonald’s has expanded to is Hong Kong. After reading the article “ McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture,” written by James Watson, and consulting globalism in our textbook, I will take a closer look at the globalizing influences of a fast food restaurant on Hong Kong’s culture. McDonald’s, a well-respected restaurant, not only changes the culture of Hong Kong, but McDonald’s is also impacted by the culture as well. According to our textbook, “globalization, in anthropology, is the rapid spread of economic, social, and cultural systems across continents” (Lenkeit 305). Globalizing influences are a two-sided affair. In short, businesses and consumers influence or “train” each other. For example, we will take a look at McDonald’s impact on surrounding businesses and consumers in Hong Kong, as well as, the culture of Hong Kong and its influence on the McDonald’s restaurant. One major area of impact was on the cleanliness and sanitation of the place of business and restroom. In the article, I was appalled to read that “a visit to any Hong Kong restaurant’s toilet (save for those in fancy hotels) could best be described as an adventure” (1998: 89-90). I could not even imagine going to a restaurant and using a restroom that was not clean. However, I believe that this expectation of restroom cleanliness is part of our culture and not the culture in Hong Kong. At the McDonald’s in Hong Kong various workers, when asked to clean a toilet, “would protest that was already cleaner than the one in their own home” (1998: 89-90). I do not know about you, but I know that the bathroom in my house is pretty clean and I would never use a bathroom that was dirtier than my own. Watson goes on to mention that “McDonald’s set what was perceived at the time to be an impossible standard and, in the process, raised consumer expectations. Rivals had to meet these standards in order to compete” (1998: 89-90). This proves that not only did the practices of sanitation and cleanliness by McDonald’s set a new precedent for surrounding businesses by “raising the bar,” but they also raised consumer’s expectations to a new level. Younger people would not eat anywhere that they perceived to be dirty. Also, in order to keep businesses booming and customers coming through the door, restaurants had to maintain a standard of cleanliness close to McDonald’s.
McDonald’s also had a major influence on consumer discipline in their restaurants. Their globalizing influence can be seen on queue lines. This is perhaps the most striking feature of the American-inspired model of consumer discipline. When McDonald’s first opened in 1975 in Hong Kong, there were no orderly lines. They looked more like packs or groups of people, fighting or jostling for a chance to place their order. However McDonald’s decided to change this. According to the Watson, “local managers discouraged this practice by stationing queue monitors near the registers during busy hours” and this resulted in “ orderly lines by the 1980’s” (1998: 93-94). This change was directly related to a change of culture in Hong Kong. New residents and refugees began to treat restaurants as their homes. This practice allows for a more civilized manner of taking and placing orders. McDonald’s was credited “with being the first institution in Hong Kong to enforce queuing, and thereby helping to create a more civilized social order” (1998: 93-94). Today McDonald’s in Hong Kong use lines instead of the pack or people vying for a chance to place their order. This example demonstrates that a restaurant like McDonald’s can influence the behavior of their customers in order to make their restaurant more orderly and civilized. Sometimes a culture...