Global yet local – the case of Coca Cola

All this talk about globalization, cultural markers of identity, deterritorialisation, diasporas and more makes all these thoughts, ideas, and personal bouts I had with globalization spinning in my head. When today in class the Gatorade machine in the middle of the jungle was mentioned I knew I had my next blog post.

Spoiler alert: This is not about Gatorade, it is about Coca Cola.

Like Gaby posted before food and drinks are a very strong cultural marker. Coca Cola has a very successful export history and is, according to the Coca Cola website enjoyed in over 200 countries worldwide. Thanks to its distribution and bottling system you can find Coca Cola in virtually every country of this world.

Yet Coca Cola does not taste the same in every country. Since local water is being used wherever possible, the taste is altered. Also, the products that are being offered are fine-tuned to meet the local sense. Fanta in Germany is not Fanta in the U.S. and it is not Fanta in Mozambique.

Coca Cola is an example of globalization. It is everywhere and it’s spread was aided by globalization technology. The drink symbolizes western values and lifestyles. So how can something that is so global be so local at the same time? If like the readings suggested, globalization makes us aware of our differences and guides our thinking in a “us as opposed to them” way, how can a drink achieve that? After all,  unless you import bottles from one country to another you won’t really notice any differences.

Well, the one place where globalization comes together and allows each and everyone to see (but more likely taste) that the world is a global place with local taste is the World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Once you have taken the tour and learned all about the history and how the bottles are bottled you are being lead into this room with fountain machines. Each one is labeled after a region or continent and the individual drinks dispensed are also labeled by country. You can sample as much as you want, the taste of the world is at your fingertips.

When I found myself in that room, globalization really hit home. I found Fanta from Germany that I had not drank in months. And I found a lemonade from Mozambique that I had not seen in years. People got really excited as they compared their “home flavor” with all the other ones offered. We all had this idea of how Coca Cola or CC products taste like but in this room we had to realize that the world is a big place with many different tastes. Not everything is yummy, by the way, there are some pretty hideous concoctions out there (to my taste anyways), but my point is that something that most of us would consider a marker of our culture is also a marker in many other cultures though it takes on a slightly different taste (or meaning if you want to bring it to a more theoretical level).

It is because of globalization that Coca Cola can be found in virtually every country in the world but it is also because of globalization that we can experience that global can be local without having to be a uniformed taste.

By Franzi

Full disclosure: I love Coca Cola the German way but the U.S. coke just isn’t the same so while being in the U.S. I (yikes!) prefer Pepsi. I know, way to ruin the mood of this post! Sorry Coca Cola!