Look at this photo taken recently in Dubai. You instantly recognize it even though you likely can’t read a word. Even in Arabic the font gives you the same feeling that English version of this font offers.
The same thing happens in China in Chinese right down to the feeling expressed by the font of the chain. This has always amazed me how we can take the name of the brand right down to the font and make the font just like the English version in terms of it’s mood, fatness, cadence, and spirit.
The more you travel around the world the more you see that our world is becoming homogenized, especially in food and retail. While this has long been the case in the USA, I see it accelerating on a global level. A mall or a major big box retailer street in Atlanta looks almost identical to one in Dallas, Charlotte, Miami etc…
On an international level, it used to be that when you went someplace overseas you’d be able to experience a new world, unfamiliar, and full of adventure. Today regardless if you go to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, or any of a host of other cities on earth, you can find the same products, the same messages, the same flavors, the same chains.
How about this photo from Dean and Deluca also taken in Dubai. Look at the main font. Conveys the same mood in a completely different script. Elegant and upscale.
In the not so distant past of the 80′s and 90′s you’d go to Europe and there was a real excitement in getting your hands on Italian Lire, or French Francs, and Greek Drachmas. Now wejust deal in boring Euros. The Euro offers zero romance. Zero feeling. Italy was cheap. Greece was cheaper. You could eat an amazing lunch for 10,000 lire ($5). Greece was half that.
Today such sophisticated systems are in place across Europe and across the globe in terms of consumer commerce that at times it’s almost not possible to tell which country you’re in as everything has become so similar. I understand that it makes business much easier and I can tell you that there are certain localizations that occur in Latin America or Asia (such as using certain local flavors in Deserts or drinks). You can for example find “dulce de leche” desserts at McDonald’s in South America and in China, Starbucks offers a favorite Kiwi juice that you don’t se elsewhere, but the fun is missing in the corporate chain store.
Look at this photo again taken in Dubai. Familiar?
Having made the case here that the world is becoming the same, I can also say that it is still possible to seek out and find what makes foreign countries unique. The best advice I can give you when overseas is simply don’t try to live like you live at home. Go local 99%. I have been to a Starbucks in China? Sure, but overwhelmingly I seek out local Chinese places to eat and local ways of doing things. It’s the same in Latin America, France, Italy, Japan etc… When you go overseas, jump in and you’ll come back home with not only a genuine experience but a new perspective on what makes the local ways so unique. You’ll spend less, you’ll gain more, and the flavors are much better.