Time and again, I hear people complaining about globalization. To quote the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition, globalization is “the action, process, or fact of making global; esp. (in later use) the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale, widely considered to be at the expense of national identity.” Needless to say, the term is pretty economic in description and nature, and as such, we often consider both its economic and nationalistic impacts.
People worry that with outsourcing, we lose the essence of what it is to be American. Indeed, several artists such as Toby Keith frequently comment on the loss of Americanism. In his latest song, “Made in America”, Keith remarks that a true blue American’s “got the red, white, and blue flyin’ high on the farm, Semper Fi tattooed on his left arm, spends a little more at the store for a tag in the back that says ‘U.S.A.'” In post-9/11 times, it appears we still find a strong, if underlying, sense of patriotism.
Such a sense came out at the death of Osama bin Laden back in May. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter exploded within nanoseconds of even a rumor and then Obama’s confirmation of the deed. It is interesting to note, though, that some people rejoiced at the death and surged forth with pro-American messages. There were others, however, that wondered what was going to come next, especially those who have decried the entire war on terrorism from the very beginning.
But I digress. The whole point is that, for the most part, economically-conservative people tend to view globalization with unease. Are there some positive effects and impacts of international connections, encounters, and agreements? Speaking from strictly personal experience (which, for disclaimer’s sake, DO NOT reflect any professional opinions herewith), I firmly believe that yes, globalization, in terms of diffusion of knowledge and ideas, spreading of resources, and other such noneconomic factors has a significant amount of positive impacts.
Those mostly familiar with myself as a person and those who are regular readers of my blog could probably guess I love nothing more than traveling, especially internationally. Albeit, I have only been to two Western European countries abroad in the last couple of years, but I have also had the great fortune of participating in an exchange with the Hanoi Amsterdam High School in Vietnam. This program, in cooperation with my home university in Wisconsin, sends high school-aged students to Wisconsin every summer for five weeks of classes, trips, and general total immersion into the American culture.
Three summers ago saw my first experience with the Vietnamese students, and it quickly made me realize that globalization, the diffusion of American culture, had given me something in common with our students. I still quite clearly remember singing my lungs out to Taylor Swift on the Fourth of July with my Vietnamese friends (most of whom I had only met that day). Who honestly cared that one was from America and the others were visitors from Vietnam? I certainly didn’t.
My European travels have also enlightened me on how extensive American culture pervades even our closest allies. After studying in England for a semester, I noted how similar were rather than how different the British and the American ways of lives. McDonalds, KFC, Subway could be found all over, even in my little dozy host city in Lancaster. We all listened to similar music. We all spoke the same language. We all watched Friends and Desperate Housewives. It definitely was a lot easier for me to make friends than I had originally thought, but whether or not I can chalk that up to myself as an individual remains to be seen!
So then in short, what positive effects have I encountered? Time after time, I find that just because American culture often provides a common ground for those of different countries, it really does not matter. Those who are open-minded to other cultures, ways of life, trains of thought, etc. can find themselves quite surprised and pleased at what they can discover. Just because British people enjoy Desperate Housewives does not mean they don’t have their own brand of comedy or television shows or things like that. They still retain their own unique culture. I sampled mince pies, fish ‘n chips, and Yorkshire pudding which are all VERY much British.
Easily the greatest advantage to globalization, for those who choose to take advantage of the noneconomic aspects of it, has been, for me anyways, all the experiences I’ve had with those of a different nationality than me. Travel is almost always about the experience, the journey, not the final destination. Whether it’s hiking up a mountain in Roccantica, Italy or watching a Vietnamese dancing demonstration on my campus, it’s the simple fact I’ve experienced something that is quite unlike something I’m used to. But even beyond that, it is also about letting the experience change me (or rather enhance me as a person).
So, in conclusion, people can rant and rave and worry about the economic and political side of globalization (my opinions of which have not been indicated here) all they want, but that will not stop me from seeing the good in it. I’ll travel ’til my heart’s content and keep learning things along the way.