Directed Ethnographic Study In Mcdonalds Cultural Studies Essay

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I went shopping in the city centre of Bradford on 13th December 2009. I was attracted by the obvious logo of McDonalds, the striking festive menu drawing as well as free-wifi drawing in the transparent windows. Subsequently, I entered the restaurant, as usual in China in my memory and waited in the team line as well as prepared to order. Meanwhile, I found the menu in UK roughly the same in china except for a slight difference. For example, McDonalds hamburger in china will not directly put the raw cheese into hamburger.

The staff with a Christmas hat and the McDonalds uniform smiled at me to help me order the menu. Surprisingly, the waiting time was relatively short, the same as the McDonalds in China. Thus, I am reminded of the four elements for the success of McDonalds business systems that refer to efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.

The decoration in McDonalds is warm with golden, white or mirror walls, light ivory wooden table tops, blue or deep red cushion with golden blackboard wooden chairs and upholstered armchairs in deep red colours. Contemporary art or framed photographs handing on the walls are also attractive. It is worth mentioning that in the corner, many paintings are displayed on the walls around the children playground area, especially those of McDonalds Characters such as Ronald McDonaldGrimace, Ham burglar and Birdie the Early Bird. In general, the decoration of McDonalds is aimed at making the store look more casual and sunny, which is similar to Starbucks. Compared with McDonalds in China, the decoration style is similar, but in the children playground area, there are more facilities like slides, wooden horses in China. Apparently the facilities are the same in Bradford and China. Behind the food serving area there are numerous technologies like automatic French fry machines and various certain products like happy meal which are available to the customers almost instantaneously through the carefully regulated and controlled system.

With respect to people, there are several nationalities such as British, China, Pakistan, and Africa among the customers and the staff. Most people wear leisure clothes and overall the colours of peoples clothes are drab. It is clear that the area of age is extensive, up to eighty- year- old people, down to two- aged children. Interestingly, the most frequent combination is an adult accompanied by her or his child, who plays the toy from happy meal as well as eats food. Meanwhile, McDonalds is the best choice for young people to enjoy the foods after shopping as the food is inexpensive and convenient. It is worth noting that both in Bradford and China I found people are more likely to be treated similarly in McDonalds, irrespective of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or social class. Accordingly, they have a high awareness to take the empty boxes and litters to the trash before they leave. Specifically, the staff with a smile to everyone and provide efficient goods and services to meet the customer.

A brief overview of the perspective

A summary of my chosen theory of globalization would then follow. This is such a vast topic that I would have to focus on just a small part of globalization theory. I am particularly interested in theorizing the globalization of culture. Accordingly, I would be well-advised to consider the Mcdonaldization, as one of a number of globalization processes.

Ritzer2004puts forward the view that globalization can be in general identified as the worldwide proliferation of practices, relations and social life, meanwhile, the people tend to share a new global consciousness across continents.

In terms of the theorizing the cultural aspects of globalization, Pieterse (2003) suggests that there are three major approaches divided into cultural differentialism, convergence and hybrization.

More specifically, first and foremost, with regard to lasting difference, Pieterse (2003) admits that the differences in culture perspective exist among the different regions and countries. To a great extent, in this theory area, some people like Huntington (1996) believe that the people tend to persist the local culture, civilization and remain culturally distinct. However, Ritzer (2004) believes that compare to the radically view of Huntington, the existence of a distinct attitude is due to a clash between the developed countries like the Unites States and the developing countries like China. With the advent of an increasingly modern developmentonce the economic develop to a certain level, the developing countries like China will seek and adapt other cultures to enter the global market totally, while at the same time the developed countries tend to welcome what they provide. Therefore, in Ritzers view, Huntingtons opinion is likely to exist on the short time.

Secondly, with respect to cultural growing sameness, Ritzer (2004) points out that global assimilation is a tendency, which means to some degree the cultures of the world are regarded as growing increasingly the same. To illustrate, Ritzer (2004) also figures that cultural convergence is characterized by the appearance of Cultural imperialism, westernization, Americanization, Mcdonaldization and world culture.

Last but not the least, with regard to ongoing mixing of cultures, according to the view of Pieterse (2003), hybrization emphasized on growing diversity combination of the unique mixtures of local as well as global, thereby resulting in unique phenomenon in different areas. It is important to point out that to some extent it is the same meaning of the glocalization, which has been indicated by Robertson (2001). Also, Robertson (2001) distinguished the difference between globalization and glocalization, for example, the core concepts of globalization include capitalism, Americanization and Mcdonaldization whereas the main ideas of glocalization include hybrization, creolization and heterogeneization. To put it in another way, he believes that the outcome of globalization processes in future is likely to be the ongoing open-ended mixing that is glocalization.

Accordingly, with respect to Mcdonaldization theory, it is critical to point out that the sociologist George Ritzer (1993) coins the McDonaldization in his book The McDonaldization of Society. He describes that McDonaldization is the process by which the beliefs of the fast-food restaurant seem to play a dominant role in the increasing number of sectors of American society and the rest of the world.

On the one hand, Mcdonaldization is clearly closely related to a global cultural perspective as well as the influence of McDonalds and McDonaldization has a dramatic spread of the worldwide homogenization of societies. To illustrate, Bryman (2003) along with Ram (2004) indicates that McDonaldization is not only the extension of the sameness of food products but also the proliferation of a series of business principles as well as operation systems around the world. Moreover, it is worth noting that Big Mac Index is the significant index of McDonaldization, published by a prestigious magazine, the economist. It demonstrates the purchasing capacity of diverse currencies in the world dependent on the local price (in dollars) of the Big Mac as an identical basket of goods and services in each country. Meanwhile, Thomas (1999) in New York Times Magazine states that Big Mac Index creates the ubiquity and unique role of McDonalds around the world.

On the other hand, Mcdonaldization may be considered as not only an illustration to drive the globalization process but also a major motor force in the future development of globalization. More specifically, according to the opinion of George Ritzer (2004), admittedly, a certain degree of glocalization happens with Mcdonaldization, but the majority of aspects of Mcdonaldization relate to globalization that the existence of homogeneity more than heterogeneity is related to the process of Mcdonaldization. For example, Robertson (2001) demonstrates that in glocalization theory, social processes are contingent and depend on the different geographic areas while in globalization theory, social processes are deterministic.

Analysis of the McDonalds within Globalization model

An analysis of McDonalds based on the theory of the globalization of culture as well as Mcdonaldization would then follow. To put it another way, the central issue would be discussed that the fact of ethnographic studies and a general sociological understanding of the globalization culture as well as Mcdonaldization, which is consistent or inconsistent.

In terms of differences in cultures existing among the different regions and countries are demonstrated by Pieterse (2003), which is the same story. To illustrate, nowadays McDonalds for Chinese tends to be an excellent place to have fun together in particular the students group and parents comply with children while Mcdonalds for British is likely to be a convenient and inexpensive place to deal with hungry. More specifically, Mcdonalds for Chinese children is regarded as a pleasure ground more than a fast food restaurant. Thus, different cultures lead to the different decoration designs in the children playground area, which seems to provide more facilities like the slide and the wooden horse in China.

However, whether Mcdonalds American culture will be constant in the long-term as suggested by Huntington (1996) or will last for in a short-term as indicated by Ritzer (2004) is still to be proved by time. It is worth noting the third possibility of Pieterse (2003), where it is may be likely to increase diversity association of the unique mixtures of local culture as well as Mcdonalds America culture and then leads to a unique phenomenon in Mcdonalds among different areas.

With respect to Mcdonaldization and the influential globalizing flow, an illustration of global culture assimilation is argued by George Ritzer (2004), which is a true story.

In the first place, it is universal acknowledge that McDonalds is the leading global foodservice retailer which occupies a central place in American popular culture. According to McDonalds official website, the statistics points out that McDonald's operates over 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries around the world and employs more than 1.5 million people.

In the second place, in mentioning McDonalds worldwide operation system, the McDonalds staff in Bradford told me that in general McDonalds operation around the world is nearly the same because any McDonalds systems are associated with the centrally controlled system of American headquarters and every individual who is working in McDonalds knows what is expected of him based on uniform McDonalds operation and training manual. Specifically, the McDonalds staff in Bradford also told me some regulations and documents like 8 steps making a McDonald's Big Mac according to the McDonalds operation and training manual.

Therefore, the situation in McDonalds for workers, customers and managers is around the same. For example, a year ago I lived in China or this year I live in England, McDonalds for me offers the best available way to get from being hungry to being full due to the similar convenience as well as efficiency both China and England. It is worth noting that it also corresponds to the theory of the dimensions of Mcdonaldization indicated by George Ritzer (2004), who claims that efficiency, predictability, calculability and control through nonhuman technology are the important elements of the McDonalds success. In other words, efficiency is generally beneficial to customers who are able to obtain what they need more quickly.

As regards Mcdonaldization the core concepts of globalization demonstrated by Robertson (2001) during the observation, are found to be a little different. The main reason is that the local strategies of McDonalds in different countries reflect the integration of McDonalds American culture and local culture. For instance, McDonalds managers in 2008 realized that the spectacular Olympic Games would be held in Beijing began on August 8th 2008 at 08:08:08 PM, when the people around the world would be happy with excitement and pretension. Thus, McDonald's unveiled four new Olympic-themed television advertisements developing its "i'm lovin' it" brand essence with the magic and ideals of the Olympic Games to attract people in particular Chinese.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that George Ritzer (2004) who admitted there are some things which reflect the features of glocalization in Mcdonalds whereas the main characteristic corresponds to the globalization and the sameness more than difference in the process of Mcdonaldization in contemporary. To a great extent, it is true, that although there are some modifications based on different countries the demand for the marketing specific marketing strategies of Mcdonalds, the main business model and culture idea of Mcdonalds is constant like nonhuman technology service.


Overall, it is important to point out that the situation between McDonalds in Bradford and McDonalds in China was same similarities rather than differences, which takes into account abundant elements such as business system, nationalities, behaviour, menu and decoration based on the questionnaires, observation, communications and memory. Meanwhile, the fact of ethnographic studies and a general sociological understanding of the globalization culture as well as Mcdonaldization are likely to correspond with each other mainly.

Subsequently, there are some points I am partial to reiterate as followed.

First and foremost, admittedly, a comparison of McDonalds in Bradford and McDonalds in China on the basis of an ethnographic study reveals that McDonalds has become a symbol of American culture symbolising inexpensive, convenient and nonhuman technology service in peoples minds with a global influence under the heading of globalization.

Secondly, the situation of McDonalds and Mcdonaldization reflect the characteristics of global cultural homogeneity beyond the features of differentialism. To put it in another way, the Mcdonaldization is a type of the idea of worldwide homogeneity of societies through the influence of multinational corporations.

Thirdly, in my personal perspective, the development process of McDonalds maybe considered as a process of dealing with the conflict of local culture and American McDonalds culture and assimilating each other in order to balance this paradox. Therefore, McDonalds paradox to a great extent can be considered as the rivalry between globalization and interregional in terms of cultural aspects.

Last but not the least, nearly the same as Pieterses (2003) opinion, as far as I am concerned, Mcdonalds in future may be likely to grow with diversity connection of the unique mixtures of local culture as well as Mcdonalds America culture and then create a unique phenomenon in Mcdonalds among different areas. Accordingly, the outcome of globalization processes is open-ended leading to a mixture in the future.