Chapter 10 Summary
The German city of Plauen is located between Munich and Berlin. It was once just a small market town but gained some notoriety and favor as it created textile mills that exported lace and embroidered fabrics around the world. It became a city of amazing art and architecture as well. The Hitler Youth movement began here in 1923, and during World War II this little city became the Nazi headquarters for the Saxony region. For most of the war it was a town that found favor; when the Allies arrived, though, it became a primary target. Nearly three fourths of the city was in ruins at the end of the war. When Germany was divided, Plauen was part of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). A mere nine miles away is the border of West Germany. Not much of Plauen has ever been rebuilt, and the people struggled to survive. In 1989, Plauen was the site of the first mass demonstration against the Communist rulers of East Germany. While other cities held similar demonstrations that day, Plauen’s was notable for its sheer numbers. Twenty thousand people gathered, refused to disperse, and marched on city hall to make their presence felt to the leaders who were cowering in a corner of the building. A month later the Berlin Wall came down, and the first new building to be built in the formerly artistic and avant-garde Plauen was a McDonald’s.
Expanding to foreign countries is the next frontier for fast food chains. McDonald’s, for example, now has fifteen thousand restaurants in 117 countries, and its brand is more recognizable worldwide than Coca-Cola’s. Both Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s make more profit outside of the United States than in it. Fast food chains are inevitably the first Western enterprises to build in newly opened countries around the world, and they have come to represent American culture wherever they are built. The inevitable result of international franchising is the creation of a “homogenized international culture.” (Classes at McDonald’s Hamburger University are taught in twenty different languages.) Fast food franchises generally try to buy their products in the countries in which they operate to avoid the appearance of American imperialism. To ensure effective and efficient suppliers, companies often need to establish agricultural and other production systems before they can open their first store. Marketing in foreign countries is targeted to children, just as it was in the beginning in America. There is an improved social status, or at least the perception of such, when Western products are consumed. In Germany, McDonald’s built a store only a mile away from Dachau, an infamous concentration camp, and was accused of profiteering on the horrific deaths of so many innocent people. The reality is that when someone stands at the counter and orders a meal at McDonald’s in Dachau, hundreds of people are doing exactly the same thing all over the world and will eat food that tastes the same everywhere.
The Americanization of the world is most evident in the rates of obesity. America is the world’s leader in fat citizens, with almost half its adults qualifying as obese. Child obesity is also on the rise. Genetics is not the cause, say scientists; the way Americans live and eat is to blame for this trend. Less physical activity, of course, is a contributing factor in the obesity problem, as is much more eating out at fast food restaurants. Although the food is cheap, convenient, and tasty, it contains more calories, more fat, and less fiber. Even worse, the industry standard has become “bigger is better,” and super-sizing is a selling point for fast food. Although some chains have tried to market healthier foods, these products have not been successful. Their own marketing has worked too well, and people have often developed a taste for fatty foods virtually from birth. Obesity is the second-leading cause of death in America, and the healthcare costs...
(The entire section is 982 words.)