As a hip, world-traveling American, I am supposed to run in the other direction when I see a chain store from my native country, especially if that chain is a monster like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.
Buuuuut… it’s not that simple. You see, rather than being disgusted by the tentacles of imperialism in corporate garb, I’m frequently fascinated and impressed.
For example, check out the lead photo of this article. Dunkin’ Donuts of Shanghai fascinates me because they adapted their menu to suit the Chinese palate… and thus offer Red Bean, Pomelo, and Green Tea flavored Coolattas!
Meanwhile, I’m impressed by Starbucks for their consistency across the world, and for the extra mile they go to support that consistency. Not only do they have free Wifi and the exact same type of appliances and canisters as American Starbucks, but to see the step they took to make full consistency possible, look at the photo to the lower right. Part of the Starbucks allure is that customers can customize every single aspect of their drink, especially the milk. That said, Chinese food culture does not currently have the same picky milk distinctions as we do… and so Starbucks Shanghai kindly dedicated an entire large advertising board to educating its customers on what “Whole,” “Nonfat,” and “Soy” milk are.
So, yes, the beast of corporate imperialism is galloping its way through the world, and it’s annoying and disturbing, but amid our protests, we also need to give a nod of respect: it takes smart adaptation to be embraced by so many cultures.
And you know a corporation has really been embraced when it appears on street signs (BEFORE the listing for the primal human need of “Toilets”) in the People’s Park of Shanghai!