29 Jun United By Brand
Brands are what unite is, reaching across language and culture. Starbucks is where the world comes together. Were we naive to think we would escape the dreadful corporate with its truly terrible coffee? Yes, probably. The first shock was early on. There’s a Starbucks in the Grande Place in Brussels – right there beside the fantastic old buildings clustered timelessly around the cobbled square, there it is with its telltale green logo (Medusa with a smiley face). The only place we didn’t see one was Sofia – and that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Sofia branch, simply that we were spared it. In Istanbul, it’s proudly located on Taksim Square serving the young and trendy along with the Turkish coffee refusniks. McDonalds has been global for ages and it has begun to merge into the background, its signs now starting to age and fade, already part of the trans-European vernacular. H&M, Accessorise, they’re all there or thereabouts. Very depressing, very banal.
Before I start to act my age and sound disapproving, the mobile networks have been amazing. For someone who still thinks that flicking a switch on the wall to operate light, heat, sound and vision is a kind of magic, the fact that I could turn on my little phone in London and Istanbul and all points in between and pick up messages and emails was miraculous. And always with a delightful welcome message saying how happy Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Turkey were to see me in their country. As I said in an earlier post, it was only in Serbia that no Welcome message pinged into texts, but the YUMTS YUGO3 network was welcome in itself.
Similarly with WIFI – even the most basic hotel or hostel has free WIFI so you can hook up wherever and whenever you want. Cafes and restaurants too. The world is young and online. Whether it’s good or bad, happy or sad, is probably irrelevant. It’s happened. (Minority report request from himself who thinks all this is a very bad thing indeed!)