Posted by: thezedword | October 21, 2008

Americanization is alive and well

Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when Jules and Vincent visit Brett on behalf of Marcellus Wallace? They talk about hamburgers. It goes like this.

Jules: Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Brett: No.
Jules: Tell him, Vincent.
Vincent: Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with cheese. Do you know why they call it a Royale with cheese?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You smart [mammajama]; that’s right! The metric system.

Here’s the scene on YouTube:

That’s a damn lie. That’s right, Quentin Tarantino and/or Roger Avery, I called you liars. Because New Zealand is on the metric system and there are McDonald’s here and guess what they have on the menu. It’s not a Royale with Cheese. No, it’s a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Not only is it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, McDonald’s put a little “R” with a circle around it like this ® next to the words “Quarter Pounder.” And that ® does not mean Royale, it means, “We don’t care if you have the metric system. We’re American, we do what we want.” They even serve ketchup there, giving a giant red middle finger (yech) tomato sauce industry.

Mmmm. Roast Lamb Sub.

Mmmm. Roast Lamb Sub.

Subway does the same thing. Jared is still their mascot (a cardboard effigy of him and his pants stands in every Subway) and the bread comes in two categories: Six-Inch of Foot-long. (No five-dollar foot longs, they have $3.90 six-inchers instead.) I think they do this because 15.24- and 30.48-centimeter subs don’t have the same ring to them, or because Americans just like people to be confused. How else could you explain our resistance to adjust our system of measurements? Everyone else in the world uses metric and we decide we want to be like Liberia and Myanmar, the only other two countries in the world that use the American system. This causes problems. Wikipedia says a few years ago, NASA lost one of its spaceships because different engineers used different measurement systems costing tax payers a few jillion dollars; mix-ups frequently occur in pharmacies leading people to get the wrong dose of medication; and a bar of Ivory Soap was once only 99.3% pure.

At the Auckland airport, where we had to collect our luggage from the international terminal and move it to the domestic one, we were told that one of my bags was too heavy to fit on a metric plane. Of course, in the infinite wisdom of airlines, they command that all bags be under a certain weight, say 70 pounds (about 32 kilograms) and even if you have two bags and the sum of them is less than the maximum weight for two combined, you still have to shuffle things around until that one bag is light enough. I had to remove something like 200 grams, or roughly the weight of one winter sweater and my Valentines boxers, from one bag and put it into the other. Stacy lucked out of this whole ordeal because her hairspray can exploded between Miami and Auckland and her bag lost weight. This, however, scared the crap out of me; the chemicals in the hairspray peeled the labels off everything it shared a Ziploc with, leading me to believe hairspray is made out of the same stuff that was in the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders.

Anyways, we’ve done extensive research into Americanization and we have concluded that Burger King sells donuts. And they have a five-dollar menu. Outside of that, it’s mostly similar to its US counterpart. I have to admit, that McDonalds is much improved in New Zealand. All of the ingredients, from the lettuce to the meat patties, are grown in New Zealand. As a result, the commercials claim, and the sandwiches actually taste as if, the food is made fresh. Plus the fries, or chips, are tastier.  They were apparently voted the favourite chips of Kiwis. And they serve beer. OK, they don’t, but I thought they did. One night after a few drinks with our friends Mable and Phillip at a fundraiser for Cuban hurricane victims, Stacy and I fought the wind and rain to get a midnight Big Mac. We walked up in front of two registers and stared back and forth at the two guys deciding who we would order from. The guy to the left said, “You can go to either. There’s a beer funnel in this one.” At this point, I really, really liked McDonald’s in New Zealand and moved to the left register. We left the store without having funneled anything and Stacy told me on the way home he actually said, “We have a bet going on.” Wishful thinking.

Oh yeah, they have Cheerios here too, but its terrible

Oh yeah, they have Cheerios here too, but it's terrible

Also imported are Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and the finest example of American down-home-family cooking, KFC. I’m not sure Colonel Sanders ever visited New Zealand, but I wish he had so he could have shown Kiwis how to make some decent Cole slaw. That and the mashed potatoes are prepackaged, stamped with an expiration date, and have been sitting waiting to be ordered since the Civil War. The Kellog brothers are also represented here, along with their Corn Flakes, Fruit Loops, Mini-Wheats and Special K. Other cereals have changed their names. Tony the Tiger now graces the cover of Frosties and Snap, Crackle, Pop are the proud cartoon mascots of Rice Bubbles. (In Afrikaans, “Snap Crackle, Pop” translates to “Knap! Knaetter! Knak!” Is that a Bjork song.)

Lambton Quay, a busy street near the water, is the Fifth Avenue of Wellington, inasmuch as it has a Levi Store and a Nike Platinum Store. As far as I can tell, it gained Platinum status because it’s a shorter distance between Nike sweat shops and New Zealand than it is between them and the U.S. Down the block, you’ll find a Borders and a Foot Locker. Here’s a brief history of Foot Locker (I promise this is relevant). Way back around the time Nixon resigned, Foot Locker appeared on the market. These two events appear to be unrelated, however, Foot Locker was actually a branch of the Woolworth Corporation. In the late ’80s, again, using Wikipedia as my source here, the Woolworth Corporation was incorporated into the F.W. Woolworth Company, of the five-and-dime stores. By 2001, Foot Locker had become Woolworth’s highest selling line, so they just changed their name to Foot Locker, Inc. This is interesting in a place like Australia and New Zealand, where Woolworths still exists and Wal-Marts don’t. In actuality, it’s a different company altogether that just named itself after the American five-and-dime stores. Still, it’s like seeing a dinosaur walking around on the street. (Ooooh, that’s what Sarah Palin meant!).

Come to think of it, for some reason, they mostly import bad American things. On top of fast food, there’s also Ford. That Detroit magnate that specializes in vehicles you can start using a dime instead of your key has made it to Oceania. The car I think I’ve seen the most, probably because it stands out the most, is the Ford Falcon Ute (short for utility). It is half-car, half-truck and has all the class and style of a Chevy El Camino. (Question: Do you say “The El Camino” or just “El Camino”? Because “The El Camino” is a bit redundant.) They also have I-95 here. Wherever I go, I manage to find this road, which in Miami is less a highway than it is a bumper cars ring. When I’ve visited both Boston and New York, we’ve driven on it and it has followed me to the southern hemisphere. Down on Dixon Street, just at the end of Cuba Mall, you’ll find Club I-95, where the party don’t stop from Miami to New York (actual slogan). Painted on the front door of the club is the all-too-familiar sign for I-95. Haven’t these Kiwis ever been to Houlton, Maine? That’s where all the Maniacs hang out. Get it? Maine, Maniacs?

Even if you stay at home, American products are likely to find you. A producer in Miami once told me that telecommunications are one of the few things the U.S. exports anymore and she was right. As I’ve written about in other posts, U.S. TV programs flood Kiwi airwaves. Even if you get tired of that (how could you, though, with Cops on and all), you can always head down to Blockbusters to rent the DVD of an American movie. They often come out on DVD before they hit the tube or silver screen. Disaster Movie, for example, was already available for rental when it hit theaters in October. Or you could just pick up the newspaper, in which you can read Doonesbury, Dilbert, The Far Side and Peanuts. Even in this peaceful country, Lucy still never lets Charlie Brown kick the football.



  1. Nice site. Theres some good information on here. Ill be checking back regularly.

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