Thursday, August 4, 2011

Copying the Older Kids

One thing I’ve noticed about Europe is how ‘behind the times’ it is. It seems strange to even think that sentence let alone write it. Europe came first in a lot of ways and if anything, we’ve seen through the castles, aqueducts and artifacts just how ahead of the times it has always been.

When I think of Europe as being behind; I’m comparing it to other places. For a start, I’m comparing it to home, but for home to be ‘ahead’ or even just ‘on time’, it has to be compared to something else, right? America.

In New Zealand, we have a lot of American programming on TV. We have our own, we have British, we have Australian, but we have a lot of American. The cinemas are full of American movies, the food courts are full of American take away foods. When you grow up watching Americans be American on TV, it has to affect the idea of ‘normal’ that’s in your head.

I thought that almost all truck stops in the world had a McDonalds. If you go on a long car trip in New Zealand, you will pass by McDonalds a lot, and it features prominently at truck stops. In New Zealand we are often last to get anything from fast food to movies to electronics, because we are so small and far away. If little New Zealand has a Maccas at every truck stop, then I thought most of the truck stops in the developed world must too.

Turns out I was wrong. Europe, or at least the countries we’ve seen so far, has seemingly less McDonalds outlets than we do at home. Truck stops either have an AutoGrill, which is a self service buffet eatery, or an independent outlet.

It makes sense now that Europe is by far big enough to have its own chain stores and that McDonalds might not feature so prominently.  I’ve only been to America and Australia before this, and America is full of McDonalds, and Australia is about the same as New Zealand. In my head this meant that anything that arrived in New Zealand had already conquered everywhere else first, and to the same degree, before bothering with New Zealand.

Another example is acrylic nails. Of course being a nail technician myself, I pick up on any salons we pass but the truth is, we don’t pass many. In America, Australia and New Zealand, acrylic nails are common and so are places that do them. At home a lot of hair salons also do nails and other than that you have a range of places from specialist high end nail salons to the super cheap in-and-out nail bars that pollute our shopping malls.

We haven’t been in a lot of shopping malls but I’ve seen one in-and-out nail bar and that was on a street, and we see a few higher end places (which are expensive) around the place but far fewer than at home. Definitely far fewer girls have nails on.

America was definitely the first place that nails first became a trend so maybe it is that we watch America, and we see what they do and that seems like what normal people do and so we copy them? I’m obviously generalizing here because not everyone at home has acrylic nails and eats McDonalds, but certainly a higher concentration of people than in the European countries we’ve been through. London was probably the closest to home, and since leaving London the most made-up girls we’ve seen have been British or Australian tourists.

Don’t get me wrong, when you compare New Zealand to America, they’re very different. We have some of their products, but the cultures and countries are different in almost every way. When you add Europe to the mix though, it’s easier to see similarities. We of course have many similarities with Europe and if I had already been to Europe and was now in America I could write the exact same post from the opposite angle. What I’m noticing right now though, from my current perspective, is that beyond the British Royal family gracing our magazine covers and the fish n chips dinners and pub food we enjoy, New Zealand has adapted quite a few American practices that Europe hasn’t bothered with. It’s not a positive or a negative necessarily, but it is interesting.

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