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McDonald’s Abroad- 30 Years Later, Article Review Example

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Words: 631

Article Review

James Curtis’ article,“McDonald’s abroad: outpost of American culture” is an analysis of the trend of international expansion by the McDonald’s corporation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While this article is now quite outdated its observations on McDonalds effect on local cultures and food make it a fascinating geographical study. Every time a new McDonald’s is built abroad it affects not only the physical landscape but exposes the local people to a foreign culture and cuisine, reshaping the cultural geography of the area.

Curtis begins the article by highlighting the importance of McDonald’s in America “today” (1982) and the exceptional increase in its international market since its first venture in 1967. McDonald’s he says represented quintessential America and American values. It was wholesome but high-tech, family-orientated and provided food the way Americans liked it- fast. McDonald’s was the major player in the fast-food movement at that time and its international reach had the most significance precisely because it embodied these “American qualities.” In every country it was serving not only as a restaurant but as a cultural ambassador. Curtis includes tables that show the increase in the number of McDonald’s abroad. This increase was due to their unexpected success in foreign markets. In 1980, many foreign outlets were turning out greater profits than their American counterparts (16). Although we can now find McDonalds in virtually every country in the world, in 1982 Curtis shows how certain areas took to it much more quickly. The greatest foreign markets were in Canada, because of its close geographic proximity and cultural similarity to the U.S., in Japan, Australia and West Germany all of which were rising economies at the time.

Failure in places where the corporation expected success was due to a number of factors Curtis says. McDonald’s encountered many road blocks particularly in Europe where labor and rent are more costly. There was also much pressure to alter the menu to accommodate the local cuisine and tastes- an act that slightly undermined the purpose of McDonald’s as a purveyor of American food. Curtis concludes by emphasizing McDonald’s role in the “emerging process of world cultural convergence.” It was catering to the world trend of American culture- the culture of jeans, fast-food, American music and movie stars.Today we can see how correct he was and how the introduction of things like the internet have expedited the process of creating this global culture. It is interesting also to reflect on the image of McDonald’s today compared to 1979. People still frequent McDonald’s abroad (especially outside of Europe) as a Western status symbol and often the restaurants are extremely well kept and designed. In America however I would argue that McDonalds represents the low-end of fast-food and no longer represents the average American but more often the low-income American. McDonald’s is also now famous for its international alterations to its menus (which Curtis said that they once begrudgingly agreed to) including serving curries in India, the infamous Royale with cheese in France, rice patties in Japan and chicken flatbread in the Middle East.

In conclusion, any study about McDonald’s is a geographical one. By putting an American style restaurant in an international location it is adding a physical foreign landmark which will eventually become a normal site to the locals. The “golden arches” are now a recognizable world symbol today and their addition to a town is marking the presence of American culture with the success of these eateries even causing the downfall of local ones. This with the added influence of the internet, international business and travel, transnational corporations, outsourcing and many other factors is almost a guarantee that the trends of global convergence that Curtis observed in 1982 are certain to continue.

Works Cited

Curtis, James R. “McDonald’s Abroad: Outposts of American Culture.” Journal of Geography 81.1 (1982): 14-20. Print.

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