Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Disorientalism

Hello, betrayed blog-reading community. Without even the indignity of a break-up post-it -- look, E, I made a Sex and the City reference -- I left you for sootier, developing-worldlier pastures. But I'm back.

Sugarpockets and I took a very unrelaxing trip to Pakistan (with detours in Hong Kong and Bangkok) to attend my sister's wedding and to catch up with extended family. There is much to be said about our adventures, but I should probably seize my jet-lag-jump-started day and head to work soon. So I will say only this: It's good to be back, though strangely not at all disorienting.

I last went to Pakistan in 2002, and in the previous six years the reach of globalized brands has extended far and wide across the Karachi and Lahore urban landscapes. The blue-chip brands had long ago made their mark in the Pakistani marketplace, but now lower market companies-- like Papa John's and Clarks -- have come to the fore. Of course, Lahore has always been a branded city -- Pepsi and Coca-Cola have waged an advertising war there for years -- but the presence of these new brands has given the place a new and more noticeably western sheen. In the past, at least Pepsi and Coke made attempts to transliterate their logos into Urdu. But in the current wave of branding, all logos look like they've been exported straight from the Paramus Park Mall. While it's one thing to go to Pakistan and find knockoff Izod polo shirts, it's quite another--and it's vaguely unsettling--to see an official Lacoste store in Clifton in Karachi. Couple this increased multi-national presence with the fact that everyone--everyone from Karachi to Lahore to Bangkok to Hong Kong to Kowloon is talking about Obama and The Dark Knight--coming home doesn't seem strange at all.

4 comments:

E said...

welcome back! i can't believe your sister is married!!

anyway, i'm fairly certain that there are more popeye's in seoul than all of new york city. not to mention that koreans are really into sub-par american chain food, like bennigans.

Collin said...

I've never been to Asia, but after seeing a Times dining section report on Korean food which featured a corn dog encased in french fries, I'm pretty sure they must have similar palettes to Minnesotans.

Somewhat related: I ate at an Applebee's restaurant recently and while their menu is visually impressive (except for repeated references to a "savory brown sauce") the food was really awful. Not even the jumbo sized margarita was good (they served it with an olive)!

E said...

did you go to the salad bar?

cold4thestreets said...

yeah, applebee's sucks. when i was a teacher, one of my colleagues kept making us go to the applebee's in co-op city in the bronx for happy hour. but i am not ashamed to admit that every once in a while, t.g.i. friday's really hits the spot.