Starbucks: Designing a Global Concept

Last week, after a particularly long day, I bought a bag of Chips Ahoy! chocolate-chip cookies and had myself some cookies and milk. Nabisco is an American company, and chocolate-chip cookies are an American original, but eating them made me feel as if I were . . . back in Taiwan. That’s because one evening in Taipei, after a particularly long day, I needed some comfort food. So I grabbed a (very small) box of Chips Ahoy! cookies from the supermarket. It wasn’t that they were a staple of mine in the States. In fact, I don’t remember eating them before moving overseas. That’s why, now that I’m back in Missouri, Chips Ahoy! reminds me of Taiwan. Funny how the mind works.

Something else that reminds me of Taiwan is Starbucks. I’d never been inside one before moving to Taipei, but when we moved to Yong He (now part of New Taipei City), the cafe in our neighborhood became the default location for our weekly team meetings. So now, whenever I see a Starbucks, I think of some I’ve visited in Taiwan: the one underneath Taipei Main Station, the one with the huge second story in downtown Taipei, the one overlooking the harbor in Keelung, the one in the Xi Men Ding night market, and, of course, the one on the corner of an extremely busy intersection in Yong He, just a few blocks from our apartment.

I like Starbucks. I know their drinks are too expensive. And I don’t fit in with the true Starbucks aficionados. But it feels good to me. It feels international to me.

Since its humble origins in Seattle in 1971, Starbucks truly has become an international chain. The Starbuck’s company, which already has over 7,000 cafes outside the US, is making a move to beef up its international presence and plans to open 1,200 stores in the current fiscal year, which started this month. More than half of these openings will be outside the US, with about 500 in Asia. Over half of these 500 will be in China.

Wherever Starbucks opens a cafe, they alter their interiors and menus to fit the country. Take for instance in India, where the country’s first Starbucks just opened in Mumbai this month, serving Indian-grown coffee, murg tikka panini, and tandoori paneer rolls in a cafe that features furniture made from Indian teakwood. And then there’s Taiwan, where the Asian-inspired creations on the menu have given the world green-tea lattes and Frappuccinos.

Take a look at the following video to see how the company’s store designers work to connect each store to its community. Sounds like a cool job to have.

Click here to see a map from The Seattle Times showing Starbucks’ expansion around the world. Or go here for an interactive map from Loxcel that gives statistics for each country and store markers that show addresses and hours of operation. Load the Loxcel map on your smartphone and you can even search for stores that are currently open and click the phone icon to call them directly.

(Melissa Allison, “Starbucks Opens Its First Cafe in India,” The Seattle Times, Oct. 19, 2012; Melissa Allison, “Starbucks Maps Future of Venti-Sized Global Expansion,” The Seattle Times, Aug. 4, 2012)

[photo: “Starbucks Green Tea Cream,” by awee_19, used under a Creative Commons license]

Departures and Repatriations: Crossing the Great Divide

“Never die in Taiwan.”

That’s what the poor man at the American Institute in Taiwan said. AIT serves as a de facto US embassy in Taiwan, and I was there taking care of some routine matters. Others, like the student I met who had been so excited about navigating the city in a taxi by himself that he left his backpack and passport in the cab, had more pressing issues.

The man who turned away from the window in despair, who told us all, “Never die in Taiwan,” had just presented documentation concerning his recently deceased wife. He needed to prove that she had died to show that he wasn’t trying to remove his children from the country against her wishes. This was his second or third visit, and the person behind the window was sending him back for translated copies—from Chinese to English, or from English to Chinese—or for some other paperwork that seemed impossible to obtain. The man looked so defeated. The death of a loved one overseas must truly be a distressing experience, in so many ways. I can only imagine how hard it is.

Recently I was jumping around the Web and looked up repats just to see what was out there on the repatriation process, say, for returning cross-cultural workers. One of the top sites listed was repats.com. That seemed like just what I was looking for, but the text underneath wasn’t what I expected:

Funeral Repatriations – Rapatriements funéraire – Funeraire repatriëring

So repats.com is a funeral site. That means, I thought, that repatriation must refer to sending a person’s spirit back “home,” to heaven. What an interesting use of the word. But as it turns out (as most of you probably already knew), for funeral operators, repatriation means returning the deceased’s remains to the country of origin.

Obviously, there is a lot to take care of in this kind of repatriation process: There are laws to follow, the paperwork, the physical aspect of transporting the body, the expense, the disruption of normal day-to-day life overseas, the stress and grief, and the coordination of cultural and religious customs. Avalon Repatriation Services, located in the United Kingdom, gives the following overview of some of the varied practices around the world:

  • In France for example, a body must be embalmed and placed in a wooden coffin 24 hours after death.
  • In Islamic countries, it is the widely-held belief that the deceased should be buried before sundown or within 24 hours, without embalming.
  • In the United States, embalming is common practice. In many countries—when embalming does take place—it is a qualified embalmer’s job, whereas in some countries, for example Portugal and Spain, it is against the law for anyone but a qualified doctor to undertake this procedure.
  • Those of Jewish faith believe that the body should be returned to the earth it came from and are therefore against cremation.
  • Hindus cremate their dead, believing that the burning of a dead body signifies the release of the spirit and that the flames represent Brahma, the creator.

My misunderstanding the meaning of repatriation reminds me of the Japanese film Departures, winner of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It tells the story of an unemployed cellist, Daigo, who answers a newspaper ad titled “Departures.” He thinks he’s applying for a travel-agency job but instead ends up taking a job as a nokanshi, someone who ceremonially prepares bodies for burial. Daigo learns the trade from Sasaki, his boss, who becomes his mentor. And Daigo learns also to overcome opposition from his family and friends and to face his own fears, finding deep meaning in his new vocation.

This is a great film. It’s been one of my family’s favorites ever since my son brought home a copy. Just listening to the theme song in the trailer reminds me of the deep emotions that are explored in the story. I think it’s about time I watched it again.

(“Catering for Different Religions,” Avalon Repatriation Services)

[photo: “Go West,” by halfrain, used under a Creative Commons license]

Jeremy Lin Takes to Taipei Streets in Hello Kitty Head

Jeremy Lin recently took a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan and has pretty much mapped out a solution to the whole “hidden immigrant” problem. Lin—for those who don’t follow the NBA and aren’t conversant about “Linsanity”— is the 24-year-old Taiwanese-American who became an overnight sensation as a point guard with the New York Knicks and who now plays for the Houston Rockets.

If you’re a cross-cultural kid who travels back to your “homeland” but finds that you don’t quite fit in, you might want to follow Lin’s lead to make things easier: First, become wildly popular in a professional sport that’s wildly popular around the globe. That way, people will know all about you before you arrive, and they won’t care about your language skills or your grasp of local culture. They’ll simply want to get your autograph and snap your photo. Next, when you realize that your celebrity makes you a prisoner in your hotel room, and you want to escape to play some streetball, borrow a giant Hello Kitty head for the perfect disguise. (At least that seemed to work with the Taipei paparazzi.)

Watch the video below to see a scripted look at Lin’s adventures in Taipei, including his airport arrival, his hotel escape, and his evening of playing basketball on public courts in the city. It was put together as a promo for an upcoming 60 Minutes segment on Lin, scheduled for this fall:

I assume 60 Minutes will delve into Lin’s cross-cultural experiences. I hope they also ask him about the role his Christian faith has played in his outlook on life. It’s a big part of his story. In fact, Lin closed out his 9-day trip to Taiwan by sharing about his beliefs at an event titled “Jeremy Lin’s Miracle Night.”

Here’s what I wrote about Lin for a newsletter back when he first came on the scene in the NBA two years ago, followed by a video from NBA.com detailing his rise to stardom:

Jeremy Shu-how Lin, a second-generation Taiwanese American has become the first person of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. Even though he was undrafted coming out of college, the Golden State Warriors signed him to a two-year contract before the current season began, making the 6’ 3” Lin the first Harvard graduate to join the NBA in 57 years. In 2009, Time featured Lin in an article, discussing his faith in reference to his calm demeanor in the face of racial taunts from opposing fans:

Lin’s maturity could lead him to the ministry. A devout Christian, Lin, who is an economics major, is considering becoming a pastor in a church near his Palo Alto home. “I’ve never really preached before,” Lin says. “But I’m really passionate about Christianity and helping others. There’s a beauty in seeing people change their lifestyles for the better.”

(Jeff Schapiro, “‘Jeremy Lin’s Miracle Night’ Marks End of Star’s Tour of Taiwan,” Christian Post, September 3, 2012; Sean Gregory, “Harvard’s Hoops Star Is Asian. Why’s That a Problem?” Time, Dec. 31)

[photo: “Hello Missy,” by Nawal, used under a Creative Commons license]

Please Don’t Ask Me to Eat That

Earlier this year we were with a group of missionaries who were asked to name the worst food in their host country. One lady, who had spent time in Belgium told us about a raw hamburger dish that I remember her calling something like “American beef.” No, not American beef, but American something. . . . Then I saw this article from Public Radio International. Filet américain. That’s what it’s called. Of all the dishes named by the missionaries, this is the one that most kicked in my gag reflex—just to hear about it. Some people eat it with a raw egg on top. That’s just going too far. The author of the article voices his own fear of this Belgian favorite, but not for health reasons. Rather, he’s afraid he’ll actually like it. And then, one thing would lead to another . . . .

Try it once, and soon you’re asking for it regularly at lunch, along with half a liter of red wine. And then you’re having coffee after, along with a digestif. Your afternoon productivity, what’s left of it, starts to slump. Like a good Belgian, you simply shrug your shoulders. . . . Six months go by, and you’re slipping out after you’ve finished a plate for a few quick drags on an unfiltered Lucky Strike. You try to go grow a handlebar mustache. . . .

And then you apply for Belgian citizenship because you know you’ll never get your filet américain fix back in the US.

Maybe it’s not an unwarranted fear, that you’ll become addicted to something that disgusts you. One of the foulest foods in Asia is the durian. Most people can’t even stand the smell. But, they say, try it once, you hate it. Taste it the second time, it’s tolerable. Try it again, and it’s your favorite.

I have a theory. One day our great great great grandparents were going through a famine, and they were forced to eat something that no one had ever needed to eat before. Out of necessity they got used to it. And then when times got better, they still kept it as part of their diet. Maybe it didn’t taste good, but it felt right. It became part of them, part of their story. And then it became part of everyone’s story, kept alive, if by no one else then by the person who could always get attention with “No, I really do think it’s good. Watch me eat some.”

Having grown up on a farm in the Midwest US, I learned to like a few things that might make my city friends squeamish: cow tongue and heart, calf brains (well, I never really enjoyed that one), and Rocky Mountain oysters (fried calf testicles). But I don’t have to go back to old-time examples of Americana to find foods that could gag my international friends. Take for instance a new item soon to be introduced on Burger King’s menu. I’d love to see what my non-American friends would think about their recently announced sundae: vanilla ice cream topped with fudge, caramel, and that all-américain favorite topping, bacon.

(Clark Boyd, “The ‘Américain’ Dream,” PRI’s The World, May 31, 2012; Dylan Stableford, “Burger King to Introduce Bacon Sundae,” Yahoo! News, June 12, 2012)

[photo: “Filet Americain (Raw Beef),” by Kyle Taylor, used under a Creative Commons license]

Three Ways to Find Out Where You Fit into the Global Work World—Hours, Pay, and Real Slave Labor

Back in 2003, the Taipei Times reported that the Taiwanese put in the most working hours of anyone in the world, averaging 2,282 per year, or 44 per week. According to a recent BBC article on workplace suicides in Taiwan, the current situation hasn’t improved much, if at all, stating that the average Taiwan employee works “about 2,200 hours annually.” Even this number would put Taiwan at the top of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s  list of  hours worked per country, as reported by BBC. (My guess is that the OECD left Taiwan out because it does not recognize it as a country. They list Taiwan on their website as “Chinese Taipei.”)

So where does your work schedule fit in? Are you above or below the global average? To find out, enter your information on the BBC News site “Who Works the Longest Hours?

And while you’re at it, take a look at “Where Are You on the Global Pay Scale?

And finally, go to Slavery Footprint’s “How Many Slaves Work for You?” to find out how your lifestyle depends on slave labor around the world. It’s a pretty slick site that brings attention to a very important topic.

(“Taiwan Works Too Hard: Survey,” Taipei Times, August 31, 2003; Cindy Sui, “Deaths Spotlight Taiwan’s ‘Overwork’ Culture,” BBC News, March 19, 2012)

[photo: “kill me now,” by Katrine Thielke, used under a Creative Commons license]

Welcome to Clearing Customs

During our 10 years as missionaries in Taipei, Taiwan, we wrote about 120 newsletters. In each one, we included a small section on some news coming out of Taiwan, a fact about the country, or an insight on Chinese culture. When we came back to the States in 2011, we switched the topic from Taiwan to globalization. Globalization means different things to different people, but the aspect we focused on is how the world is shrinking and cultures are more and more interacting with and affecting each other.

Soon, we’ll write our last newsletter, but I wanted to continue gathering and sharing information on the aspects of globalization that interest me. The first few posts come from our newsletter, so some go back a little while, but I’ll be catching up soon. Thanks for joining me.

Craig

[the photo is of a sculpture at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. Ahhhh, memories: by T.CSH, used under a Creative Commons license]