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China’s Big Mac Attack Analysis

Essay by   •  May 31, 2015  •  Article Review  •  2,972 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,897 Views

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China’s Big Mac Attack Analysis

May 23, 2015

        There is no question that McDonald’s restaurants have been popping up all over the globe over the past couple of decades, and that they have been a success in every market.  McDonald’s core values are good food, good people and good neighbors.  They try to standardize the food as much as possible so it tastes the same in America as it does in Dubai, as it does in Hong Kong, yet offering some local menu selections that pays homage to the local customs.  

        People ask if McDonald’s was responsible for changing the culture and customs in China.  I don’t believe you can totally blame McDonald’s for that.  As we all know, life is constantly changing and the world is constantly evolving.  With the internet, cell phones and all the modern technology, I believe that the world is actually becoming a “smaller” place, and as the customs, fads, etc. of different areas are drifting towards the shores of distant lands, much like the swollen banks of the Mississippi during the spring rains, some of the customs will start melding together and things will start looking more homogenous.  Progress is something that will continuously happen in civilization.  If it doesn’t, then we are in trouble.  China was already changing before the first McDonald’s first arrived.  The single child policy, along with the increased economic status and the focus on conjugal unit rather than the filial piety.  McDonald’s did not have anything to do with these changes.  McDonald’s did, however, bring with it specific strict standards for cleanliness that did change practices currently in place, but to say that cleanliness changed the culture long-term would be a stretch.  

        One aspect that McDonald’s did focus on was birthdates and birthday parties.  This was never a big part of the Asian culture, and the lunar calendar dates of birth were recorded for use later in life to help match marriage partners through horoscopes or choosing an auspicious burial date.  But with the McDonald’s birthday parties a child’s birthday has become something to look forward to just like in American culture.  In a land where it seems like living spaces are cramped, the fact that McDonald’s provides a large air-conditioned party room for birthday parties for the families to gather doesn’t hurt either.  But was that really just from McDonald’s influence, or could this be a causal effect from the internet, television and movies as well?  Seeing American culture take place on the big and small screen also has a large impact on the Asian culture, and McDonald’s could just be the conduit to help assist that change along its path.

        Another possible link to change would be the way the Asian consumers handle waiting in lines.  At first they didn’t know how to stand in line and would all rush the cash register.  There would have to be an employee to keep them in the queue line, and soon regular customers started the typical “enforcing” of the line by glaring at the line jumpers to make them wait in line along with everyone else.  I know I have experienced this type of line jumping first hand at Disney World back in the 1980s and 1990s.  We tend to forget sometimes that just because we are Americans, not everyone is American and other people have different ways of living and different values of right and wrong.

        Another aspect that needs to be addressed is the way that McDonald’s, along with the other fast-food chains, have impacted the Asian culture through their diet.  Burgers and fries were never on the menus there.  They also didn’t have such high rates of obesity as Americans.  Unfortunately, the fast food revolution to China has brought that negative reaction to their culture.  As a nation, the obesity rates are skyrocketing due to their newfound love of American fast food.   The obesity problem is so bad that it is reported that that obesity is growing at twice the rate as China’s GDP.  China’s obesity problem is directly related to wealth.  The wealthier you are, the fatter you are, and the fatter the children are.  This links to the article’s reference to “little emperors” and the parents and grandparents wanting to give the children everything and sitting back and watching them consume McDonald’s, while they consume a different meal.  Because China is a very communal place, people see other people eating McDonald’s and then they want it to, and the cycle continues.  It becomes an addiction and they become overweight.  This impacts the culture because they never had to deal with this before, at least in this magnitude.

        With that being said about McDonald’s, I do believe that if a company came into a country with a culture and beliefs so separate from what was being proposed by the new company, that there could be a long-term change to the culture.  Look at when missionaries went over to the African tribes.   I know that missionaries are not a “company” per say, but they did have a major long-term impact on a culture.  These tribes had their own religious beliefs and ways of life, but the missionaries went over and showed them a different way to live, with clean water, medicine, and Jesus.  Their lives were forever changed once they were introduced to the different ways in which they could live.  

        Another example is Ocwen Federal Bank.  They moved some of the loan servicing to Bangalore, India, to save money.  When they built the building, individuals were coming by to get the boxes that the equipment was delivered in to use as houses to live in.  People lined up for over a mile for the chance to apply to work there.  Once they had the position, they gladly volunteered for overtime just so they could stay in the air-conditioning.  Touching story, but did it have an impact on the culture you ask?   Ocwen also asked these individuals to take on “American” names at work so people would not think of them as someone from India.  It made them feel as if their culture was inferior to America.  This is not acceptable.  If India is good enough to house their corporation and do their work, then they should be able to take pride in saying our workers are from Bangalore and we are changing lives over there – not making them feel ashamed of where they come from.  

        Gert Hofsted said that culture is manmade, is dynamic and can be influenced and shaped.  Because of this then any business, regardless of its size, or what it sells, or its origin, can have an influence on its consumers.  If this is true, then all businesses could have the ability to change a culture long-term.

With international business, it is imperative for companies to keep in mind the cultures of the area that they are looking to expand into.  Because McDonald’s feels that they are selling the brand of good food, good people and good neighbors, they feel that they do not have to vary too much in their structure.  Even McDonald’s, however, does make concessions, and places on the menu items such as Spicy Wings in Beijing, kosher Big Macs in Jerusalem, vegetable McNuggets in New Delhi, or a McHuevo in Montevideo.  But the environment, clean, kid-friendly, clean restrooms, will be the same no matter where you go.  There are the play areas, the special children birthday parties, Ronald McDonald, all of the fun things that makes McDonald’s who they are.  McDonald’s tries to give individuals that McDonald’s experience, but still will make that special cultural reference to pay homage to the area that has welcomed them into their country.  

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