“Do you have Pizza Hut in America too?” one of my Chinese friends asked my wife and I as we sat at a local pizzeria in Xiamen.
I burst out laughing. The question seemed ridiculous. Of course we have Pizza Hut in America, it’s an American restaurant.
But I’ve been asked similar questions before:
“Is there KFC in America?”
As an American I’m taught to identify fast food chains like KFC, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut as inseparable parts of my country’s international garb, and I take it for granted that everybody else does too.
McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, and Pizza Hut have been in other countries for so long now that they are just as much a normal part of the cityscape as they are in the United States. People in China know these restaurants for what they are: international fast food chains.
This concept is no longer whittled down to the fine point of a specific country. Multinational fast food restaurants are global, not American.
Sure, these restaurants popped up in the United States of America first, but they are now about as American as the assembly line, the airplane, and the blender. Sorry, I don’t feel a tinge of nationalistic pride when I see someone making a smoothie, and nobody calls a blender an American appliance. The same now goes for international fast food restaurants.
These restaurants are an aspect of globalized culture, and McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC are now pretty much as they are Chinese as they are American; Mexican as they are French.
KFC opened their first branch in China in 1987, Pizza Hut and McDonalds followed in 1990. This means an entire generation of Chinese have come of age where international fast food chains have pretty much always been a part of the landscape.
Sure, these restaurants are part of a cultural phenomenon that first happened in the United States of America, but this phenomenon is thoroughly global: nationality no longer applies.
Someone asking me if we have Pizza Hut in America too is no longer a foolish question.