Sunday 31 May 2015

It's a Small World

When I travelled to Australia a few years ago I was expecting to feel excited at the prospect of arriving in some really exotic place, but when I got there the sensation was lukewarm and a bit anticlimactic. One of the first sights that greeted me at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport was a branch of the Newsagents chain WH Smith; this is a household name in the UK and there was one in the departure lounge at London's Heathrow Airport where I set sail from my shores. I never thought I'd encounter one on the other side of the world. It got worse; as I walked along the streets of Sydney, Canberra and Alice Springs I saw the exact same high street names above the shop doorways that I see in Oxford. I had a meal in the Pizza Hut and as I was sitting in my seat and looked around me it struck me that if I didn't know in advance it would be impossible to tell where I was in the world. I had flown almost halfway around the world, but I felt distinctly that I had not travelled very far. There are some other far more poignant examples:

This is the Nome, Alaska branch of Subway. Nome is one of the remotest and most inaccessible places on Earth. It lies on the far north western extremity of North America, where the continent meets Asia at the Bering Straits. There are not even any roads that lead to Nome... but it still has a Subway!

Fancy a Big Mac in Seoul, South Korea?

This is one of the biggest KFC's I've ever seen and it's in Mumbai, India.

This branch of Barclays bank is in Zambia, a remote landlocked nation in southern Africa.

We do indeed live in a small world, and it's become a very uniform world. Native cultures are being swamped by unitary global fashions; and the commercial retail side of life is one of the principle means by which this is achieved. I did manage to find places in Australia that really were unique, but only when I got right out into the deep desert where mostly Aborigines live. In order to slow the advance of the world culture we must maintain whatever indigenous lifestyle we have.


Unknown said...

This deppresses, the Hell out of me, Ben!

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Yeah, me too :-(