Wal-Mart, McDonalds

October 27, 2006 | 31 comments
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How do you transplant an American institution to Europe and make it work?

It’s not immediately obvious why Wal-Mart recently failed so spectacularly in Germany. German Wal-Marts were usually not located downtown but instead outside of town, which is atypical but not unprecedented for German stores; other outlets have had success in similar locations. “Service with a smile” is a new concept in Germany, but also a spreading business trend, even if the clerks at our local grocery store look pained when they perform their ritual friendliness. Another icon of the American shopping experience, the grocery bagger, didn’t fare as well. “Why is that young man loitering around my food?” the customers would ask. “Tell him to keep his fingers off my groceries!” Germans pay somewhat more than lip service to good labor relation, while Wal-Mart’s labor practices are notorious, but successful stores have had their share of bad press, too. By far the most important factor for consumers, however, is price. Germany has a very competitive market for groceries and consumer items. Even large stores with limitless selection have to offer comparable products at the extremely low price points of the discount specialists like Aldi. (Even with the current crummy exchange rate and a hefty 17% VAT, most groceries are cheaper here than in the US.) In the end, Wal-Mart was outclassed by the competition. The products that Wal-Mart offered German shoppers were not notably better than products available in other stores, and the prices were unremarkable. German shoppers knew Wal-Mart as an American store, but they were disappointed that it didn’t offer much in the way of American products. Wal-Mart offered an alien shopping experience but none of the advantages in price or products that consumers ultimately cared about. (Aldi, all hail to its name, has had much more success at exporting the German discount grocery shopping experience to the US.)

McDonald’s opened their first German restaurant in 1971. By 1999, it operated 1000 stores. Today there are 1264, with 49,000 employees, making it the biggest player in the German restaurant industry and the third-largest market for McDonald’s in the world. Its per-store sales are higher in Germany than in the US. What explains its success? The German restaurant industry is also highly competitive. American culinary culture has traditionally had a poor reputation, and the concept of going to a restaurant where you eat your food with your hands still strikes many Germans as barbaric. McDonald’s has made some adaptations to local taste, offering mineral water and beer and a variety of coffees to its customers, but the core concept is nearly identical to its US parent. Carefully choosing store locations is important—one local McDonald’s is housed in the stately former post office building right across from the town’s biggest book store, most prominent church, and central bus station. But McDonald’s seems to have done things right in a lot of additional ways as well.

Why did McDonald’s succeed but Wal-Mart fail so badly? Never one to shy away from crass commercial comparisons, what I really want to know is: what can the Church learn from the two very different experiences? While churches are fundamentally different from corporations, the different outcomes for Wal-Mart and McDonald’s do provide a useful check for pet theories about the Church’s international success. If the supposedly decisive factor didn’t hurt McDonald’s or help Wal-Mart, why assume it would make the difference for us?

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31 Responses to Wal-Mart, McDonalds

  1. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2006 at 8:21 am

    Jonathan, as you can imagine, I’m licking my chops in anticipation of this thread, because there are few things I like to do more than to denounce the use of corporate metaphors in talking about religion, bang on about globalization, and agonize over Wal-Mart and McDonald’s in general. But first, a brief question: why pick on these two institutions in particular? Doesn’t that dispose the thread towards the institutional, bricks-and-mortar-and-money side of things? If we’re going to talk about something associated with America having success in Germany, why not talk about Baywatch, for example?

  2. TMD on October 27, 2006 at 9:18 am

    Well, RAF, I’m not Jon, but I can offer a fairly simple reason–McD’s and Wallyworld are both institutions (not only in terms of practice but in terms of human-organizations-designed-to-do-particular-things), whereas Baywatch is a bizarre cultural phenomena centered around the still-more-bizarre cultural phenomena David Hasselhopf. While you might get analogy when talking about things like Baywatch, you get the much more valuable homology (see for instance Elster 1999) when talking about other institutions.

  3. rick on October 27, 2006 at 9:30 am

    I’ve been living just outside of Frankfurt for about 3 years now and have a Wal-Mart about 5 minutes away from where I live. Every time I go there, the parking lot is full and I always have to stand in line for a long time to pay for something. I don’t recall other comparable stores, like Real, of being quite that crowded. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t that Wal-Mart wasn’t making a profit, rather that the profit margin wasn’t up to Wal-Mart standards. What if you were to compare Wal-Mart to something like Karstadt or Kaufhof? It is definitely cheaper than either of those, but they seem to stay in business. Is it because they are typically located in the city centers?

    Regarding McDonalds, I don’t know how many other restaurants were offering “American food” at the time it came to Germany. Coca-Cola doesn’t do too bad here either … but then again, they offer something distinctly American and maybe that is the reason they are so successful?? Burger King also seems to do okay, but from my observation Pizza Hut not quite as well … and KFC seems to be hit or miss from what I’ve seen. I think the most successful German restaurant chain I’ve seen is Nordsee, but to be honest, i can’t really think of any other particularly successful German restaurant chains.

    Anyway, I don’t know if you can really compare any of these businesses to the success or lack thereof of the church here. It would seem to me that one of the biggest obstacles you run into with “selling” the church in Germany is general apathy and suspicion of churches in general. Maybe McDonalds, Wal-Mart, et al are the reason that people are not more interested in the church …

  4. Mark B. on October 27, 2006 at 10:01 am

    I’m with RAF in feeling a knee-jerk revulsion at the comparison of missionary work with selling hamburgers and cut-rate clothing. And I’m completely disqualified from commenting about why anybody eats at McDonalds, since I haven’t eaten there in years and intend never to eat there again.

    I like TMD re-Teutonization of David Hasselhoff’s name–Hasselhopf has a nice ring to it–but my hunch is that nobody who watched Baywatch gave a rap about him. Call the show Babewatch, and you get an idea of what it was centered around.

    I remember a Russian comedian talking about the first McDonalds to open in Moscow. When people came out with the burger wrapped in paper, he said, they were amazed (and pleased) that the food came with a supply of toilet paper. That may explain McDonalds’ success, at least in the Ostzone.

  5. Jeremy on October 27, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Perhaps Aldi in America is a better model than Wal-Mart in Germany. (All hail, indeed! I pity anyone who doesn’t have one in their town; my three boys would have starved while I was in grad school if our German expat friends hadn’t alerted us to the local Aldi store.)

    I’m also usually averse to corporate metaphors for religion as well (I cringe at every stake meeting, because the stake presidency uses Powwer Point for everything. Bullet points projected onto the white wall above the podium — yuck.) However, presumably a person is attracted to a religion because it offers an appealing change of lifestyle — a refreshing, unknown, morally fulfilling chance. We experienced something similar (albeit in a much less significant sphere) when we discovered Aldi, and, a couple of years later, when we decided to stop shopping at Wal-Mart. The reason we “converted” to Aldi was because it seemed, well, right. I small, sparkling clean, efficient store, full of shoppers spanning the entire ethnic and socioeconomic spectrum, where everything’s cheap, and there’s no aura of pushy, overspending consumerism about it. You don’t “shop,” in the recreational sense, at Aldi. It exists to get you to buy cheap stuff you need, whereas Wal-Mart is filled to the rafters with crap you don’t need, and advertisements and displays compelling you to buy said crap. Believe me, we’re too poor to be snooty about such things — but we just didn’t like going into Wal-Mart because it was depressing. It was full of people buying crappy stuff they didn’t need in hopes of fulfilling fleeting desires. Wal-Mart smells like desperation. It smells, well, worldly.

  6. A. Nonny Mouse on October 27, 2006 at 10:45 am

    McDonald’s does quite well in Italy as well. They’ve chosen similar locations to the one that Jonathon described above: in Rome, there’s a McDonald’s in an old building directly behind the Pantheon. There’s also a McDonald’s embedded deep with in the historic buildings near the Spanish Steps.

    The key difference, I believe, between McDonald’s in America and McDonald’s in Europe is sort of a branding thing In the US McDonald’s restaurants are often dirty, in both the eating areas and the bathrooms (i.e. I wouldn’t wanna sit on the floor if no chairs were available in the dining room, and I have a hard time deciding if I should even walk into the bathroom, because I’m afraid of catching Hepatitis A, B _and_ C all at once).

    In Italy (and it sounds like Germany, too, so I’ll go ahead and make a bad generalization) and the rest of Europe, McDonald’s tries to make it’s restaurants seem classier. They keep them immaculately clean inside and they pay their employees a more competitive wage it seems (I actually heard a college student exult the benefits of working for McD’s to another Italian), so that the employees actually feel like it’s a job worth having and an establishment they should take care of. Add to that the whole “American Culture Icon” thing, and it seems like a recipe for success to me.

    Why doesn’t Wal-Mart work? Probably because doing any of the above things would be a blatant reversal of its business model.

    Implications for the church? Well, I know that they tried the sort of “Buy lots of respectable architecture” model in Europe (David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Gregory A Prince, talks about this fairly extensively). Other than that, I don’t know that it really _can_ translate into a branding effort for the church: how do you brand yourself as “the hip thing that upper-middle-class people think is great” when you have such small numbers?

  7. Michael on October 27, 2006 at 10:51 am

    I don’t think Jonathan is saying the Church should start to act like a corporation by holding focus groups and market studies, then change the message accordingly. I do think there is something to be said for adapting the message in the way we attempt to relate the gospel to individuals’ unique cultural experiences.

    For example, I am a Deacon’s Quorum advisor, not in Europe, but in the nation’s fourth largest city. The teaching manual contains a lot of great stories to illustrate gospel principals. But too often I find myself wondering if my boys will be able to relate to the stories’ cultural subtexts, the majority of which fall under what could be categorized as the “Rural Utah Agricultural Experience”. Do twelve year old city-bred kids truly understand the magnitude a farmer’s sacrifice when he refused to work his irrigation ditches one year because his water share fell on a Sunday? Can they relate to the story of a deacon who takes a detour on his way home from school every day to assist a widowed sheepherder? Maybe they do, but sometimes in relating these types of stories I can’t help but feel like I’m coming up against a brick wall. Personally I love these types of stories, but I also grew up in somewhat less of an urban environment.

  8. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2006 at 11:25 am

    TMD–

    Like Mark B., I appreciate your Germanizing of David Hasselhoff’s name–”Hasselhopf” is splendid (as is this). I also take your adn his point about the real (and weird) attraction of Baywatch, but I still think the question is worth asking. Simply put, I think the (un)successful penetration of a church so broadly associated with American history and culture into a different society simply cannot be explained primarily–or even significantly–by appealing to building, administrative, marketing, or networking strategies. The Restored Gospel is a cultural phenomenon; maybe not exactly of the same type as Baywatch, but certain closer in category to that than to Wal-Mart. (Unless, of course, one is talking about Wal-Mart in social and cultural terms, in which case I’m totally on board with the analogy.) So I’d still be interested to hear why Jonathan focused his analysis of “transplanting” the church the way he did.

    Jeremy–

    “You don’t ‘shop,’ in the recreational sense, at Aldi. It exists to get you to buy cheap stuff you need, whereas Wal-Mart is filled to the rafters with crap you don’t need, and advertisements and displays compelling you to buy said crap. Believe me, we’re too poor to be snooty about such things—but we just didn’t like going into Wal-Mart because it was depressing. It was full of people buying crappy stuff they didn’t need in hopes of fulfilling fleeting desires. Wal-Mart smells like desperation. It smells, well, worldly.”

    Now, I think this is a thoughtful approach to Wal-Mart that reflects the sort of social and cultural reading of the institution that I suggested above as important. Wal-Mart’s success has hinged, overwhelming, on two things, both of which are more than clearly manifest in Wal-Mart’s own public statements as well as internal documents: first, the creation and maintenance of an economic environment wherein extremely cheap goods can made available to consumers even at the very distant ends of the supply chain; and second, the creation and maintenance of a consumer environment wherein the existence of low prices is in itself sufficient argument to buy something. If, as some would suggest, Aldi operates under a different assumption–that you can keep prices low enough to maintain your market advantage by specializing in what is actually asked for and thus will be guaranteed to sell without bells and whistles, thus saving you the effort of propping up a pull economy that assumes (and requires) constantly expanding and diversifying consumer demand–then that would suggest a wholly different consumption culture in Europe. Which, in turn, would suggest the church needs to be aware of what Europeans and Germans want to “spiritually consume” as they develop the church in those regions.

  9. Rosalynde Welch on October 27, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Very interesting, Jonathan. What occurs to me first is that one’s attitude toward Wal-Mart and McDonalds is determined principally by one’s social class—which is different from socio-economic status, and thus someone like Jeremy can make a middle-class critique of Wal-Mart (not clean, sells crap) even when not in possession of a middle-class checking account. Target and Wal-Mart have divided their market among them by appealing to different manifestations of the class-dependent values of thrift and social striving, for example. Perhaps the class systems in Europe are coded and valued differently, so as to make nonsense of the Wal-Mart business model.

    The church, too, as we’ve discussed many times here, is rather firmly embedded in a particularly American matrix of classed values, habits, and disciplines, and perhaps this accounts for some or many of its difficulties abroad, where the “middle class,” if it exists as an identifiable population at all, may look very different.

  10. Wilfried on October 27, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    As a European (whatever that means considering the national and regional and even urban differences…) I just want to say I read the post and the comments with interest. And am at a total loss when it comes to see a relation with church and success.

    The Jehovah Witnesses baptize ten times more than the Mormons in Europe. Ah, at least this equation: WnW – Witnesses not Walmart / MnM – Mormons not McDonald.

  11. A. Nonny Mouse on October 27, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Oh, and as for David Hasselhoff… All I have to share on that topic is this web-site which my old boss, a semi-lapsed member of the church used to share freely with anyone who would listen.

  12. Matt Evans on October 27, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    When Walmart announced they were pulling out of Germany, two of the industry analysts quoted in news article I read said a key factor was Germans’ dislike of “friendly” service workers. They said Germans never warmed to Walmart’s smiling greeters and employees. German shoppers, the analysts explained, prefer a no-nonsense approach and consider service friendliness to be unprofessional.

  13. Seth R. on October 27, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Just a few things I’ve heard and experienced. My Dad is full-blooded German American. His family ancestory hails from the midwest where you can still find some of those ethnic German enclaves. That doesn’t make me an expert on Germans by any stretch of course. I also have some friends who lived in Germany.

    From what I understand, Germans are typically highly argumentative. They are blunt and combative and will flat out ask you things designed to incite debate. Western Americans are typically very private people, and tend to be very put-off by this in-your-face approach. The typical American tends to feel attacked and gets defensive.

    Germans consider this reaction highly immature. They don’t feel like there is any personal attack involved and see the American reaction as simply the response of a weak mind.

    I can see this playing out already, although I hope any former German missionaries will correct me. Missionaries come to give their pre-packaged Gospel sales pitch. German listener sits in silence. Once the missionary is done the German goes into attack mode on various subjects. Missionary gets defensive and then resorts to “bearing testimony” to get the twerp to shut-up.

    Missionary leaves feeling that the German has the “spirit of contention.” German leaves feeling that the missionary is feeble-minded and his position is either dishonest or unsupportable. Fabulous.

    I don’t know how well that really translates into modern German culture, but it sure describes my dad’s family and it also describes me pretty well.

    We are typically neither sympathetic nor swayed by emotional “testimonials.” We do not cry in public ourselves and consider it a waste of everyone’s time.

    We Rogers are obscenely practical and no-nonsense. Neither are we afraid of blunt argument or confrontation, even with people we hardly know. If you want to get anywhere with us, either step-up and fight for your position or leave us alone.

    And yes, when people find out what we are really like, they often think we’re mean.

    Wusses.

  14. Jon in Austin on October 27, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    … and its no wonder why the Third Reich had so much success conquering Europe six decades ago. Once they started the confrontation everyone simply ‘bore testimony’ and got out of the way.

  15. Matt Evans on October 27, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    Re: Aldi,

    The Aldi I frequented in Maryland sold “crap” in addition to their staples. They had a section in the middle aisle with whatever cheap stuff they’d found recently — usually seasonal stuff that looked like BigLots had passed on because it didn’t meet their standards. (Paper-thin swimsuits, no-name made-in-China faux swim goggles, etc.) I like Aldi’s all-private-label business model, and think it could work if done right, but understand why Aldi doesn’t compete with stores offering more variety and produce that wasn’t ripened in John Candy’s underarm.

  16. Bookslinger on October 27, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    I had a client who is a manufacturer’s rep of biotech research and medical equipment. He has several European suppliers. Yes, both the corporate culture and whole mind-set of most Europeans is quite different than what we think of as normal or common in the United States.

    To bring this to a gospel-perspective…

    I believe this illustrates how we need to separate the Restored Gospel from the Mormon culture.

    American missionaries who serve productive missions overseas usually are effective at separating the two, and they don’t try to impose “Mormon culture” on their converts or on the local members.

    Elder Oaks mentioned something about this a few conferences ago. That only those parts of the [foreign] cultures that contradict the gospel need to be abandoned. By inference, the parts of foreign cultures that contradict Mormon culture do not need to be abandoned.

    My impression was that most missionaries who grew up in the Wasatch front were not adept at distinguishing or separating the gospel from Mormon culture. It was all programmed in as one tradition to them.

  17. Rosalynde Welch on October 27, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Matt, re: #12: couldn’t the managers simply instruct their employees to stop smiling?

  18. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    “My impression was that most missionaries who grew up in the Wasatch front were not adept at distinguishing or separating the gospel from Mormon culture. It was all programmed in as one tradition to them.”

    Be fair to us ignernt Wasatch Fronters. It’s hard for anybody living an integrated life to recognize where the fractures should be. I’d bet that somebody coming from a proud small town in New England could have difficulty separating the Yankee Doodlisms from the gospel, too. And while we probably shouldn’t stuff Wasatch Front culture down the throats of, say, German converts, it’s still *our* culture and we should have as much right to be proud of it and hang on to it ourselves as anybody from any other culture.

    (You’re supposed to read that in a pouty, whiny tone. I’m tryin’ to stay true to my wussy western roots by getting defensive.)

  19. Rosalynde Welch on October 27, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Bookslinger, do you know of a reliable way to distinguish Mormon culture from the gospel? The trouble with the culture/gospel binary is twofold, I think. First, people tend to label what they don’t like “culture” and what they do like “gospel”—so all we’re left with is a new way of talking about what we do and don’t like. Even worse, though, is the prospect of living or teaching the gospel without the embrace of some kind of culture—some particular shared way of living life, of feeling and communicating, some shared habits of perception and common fund of experience—in which to do so. Mere ideas—even symbolic ordinances—divorced from a substrate of lived experience don’t have the power to change lives and bring people together.

  20. Jonathan Green on October 27, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Rick: actually, the losses for Wal-Mart in Germany were starting to rival the number of burgers McDonald’s has served. Not just minimal profit, but huge losses, year after year. Something about their business model was badly broken. Otherwise, your perception of American restaurant chains in Germany is exactly in line with mine. The American chain with the least reason to exist in Germany has to be Dunkin’ Donuts, which I’ve only seen once, fortunately.

    Russell, I think the comparison to Temples of Mammon will be more productive than comparisons to such products of Olympian culture as Baywatch, because selling food is local, embedded in a particular geography, involves human interaction, addresses basic human needs, and is subject to some of the same organizational challenges; business phenomena are also cultural phenomena. Baywatch, on the other hand, is largely a matter of media consumption. Besides, McDonald’s success and Wal-Mart’s failure are the current state of affairs, while Baywatch was a 90′s thing. Unless you are 55 and female, you no longer care much about David Hasselhoff.

    The other reason thinking about the experience of McDonald’s and Wal-Mart is useful is that it’s tempting to think that the missionary program would be much more successful if only… (fill in the blank with the pet theory of your choice). Is the Church too American? Well, it didn’t hurt McDonald’s. Successful internationalization is not a simple matter. Undoubtedly several of the smartest and most experienced internationalization experts were paid millions to advise Wal-Mart on its foray into Germany, and they utterly failed.

    Jeremy, the other great thing about Aldi is that you can’t spend more than 20 minutes in the store. When you’ve got 4 kids along, getting in and then getting out quickly is not a small matter. Shopping at Meijer or Wal-Mart is like getting abducted by aliens–you wake up and realize that 2 hours have disappeared.

    Matt, the goofy American I’m-your-best-friend smile is a non-starter in much of the rest of the world, unfortunately. It comes across as a sign of unseriousness. It took me until the time I graduated from BYU before I could consistently avoid smiling under pressure. By the way, the limited selection and central row filled with crap is part of the whole Aldi ambient. Other German discounters are supposed to have better produce and somewhat larger selection, but they haven’t expanded to the US yet. Also, keep a close watch on the crap bins around Christmas; it’s where Aldi hides their imported Christmas candy. (Stay away from anything made by Palmer–they’re a British company who should be barred from labelling their products as chocolate. Anything by ChocEur is a good bet, though.)

    ANM, I think you’re right that McDonald’s tries to position itself slightly more upscale in Europe than in the US. I don’t think the Church will try to position itself as hip, but an LDS presidential candidate might raise our profile as a church for the well-connected. Just the possibility of that situation puts us in a different market space than the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think.

    Michael brings up a good question. How do we make our message relevant for people who don’t have an inborn interest in the pioneers? The ugly truth is that it’s hard to say what will be interesting and what won’t. By all means, adapt the lessons to your deacons! But the German hymnbook, for example, includes several songs culled from a long and proud tradition of religious music–and the local members choose the American imports, week after week.

  21. Bookslinger on October 27, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Even worse, though, is the prospect of living or teaching the gospel without the embrace of some kind of culture—some particular shared way of living life, of feeling and communicating, some shared habits of perception and common fund of experience—in which to do so. Mere ideas—even symbolic ordinances—divorced from a substrate of lived experience don’t have the power to change lives and bring people together.

    Granted, but trying to transplant the Utah substrate to other cultures, domestic and foreign, comes across as phoney-baloney. My point is that the substrate needs to be local, with an exception for where there is no acceptable substrate. It was very jarring for me to see pictures of youth around the world do handcart re-enactments and dressed as 19th century american pioneers. Granted, there may be a lesson in comittment and sacrifice there, but I also get a “this doesn’t quite belong here” feeling during our midwestern ward’s pioneer day celebrations It was jarring for me to see LDS leaders and LDS relief coordinators in dress slacks, white shirts and ties on the scene after the Indonesian tsunami, where no one else was in white shirts and ties. Jeans and work-shirts, or even khakis and polo shirts would have seemed more appropriate, even if they were not going to engage in physical labor.

    I hope that converts in foreign lands don’t think they are under any expectation or requirement to adopt American or Utah clothing, mannerisms, or hairstyles. I realize some adaptation to wardrobe is often required for modesty’s sake, and for endowed members. But the goal is, or should be, modesty and respect, not American-style or Utah-style.

  22. Bookslinger on October 27, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    How do we make our message relevant for people who don’t have an inborn interest in the pioneers? The ugly truth is that it’s hard to say what will be interesting and what won’t.

    My bet is bilingual editions of the Book of Mormon. In parallel columns, English in one column, the local language in the other column, two columns per page, with the beginning of verses lined up.

    It may not generate interest in Europe, but it has two selling-points in other places. One, in places like Asia where people are eager to learn English, often taking private lessons or after-school or after-work classes, it becomes sought-after ESL material.

    Two, in places like Africa, where local tribal languages are not being taught in school anymore, and are only transmitted verbally in the family, it becomes a way to keep the tribal or regional language alive, like the brass plates.

    If anyone has any contacts in the church’s Curriculum department or Missionary department who might be receptive in hearing my pitch on why this could be a good idea, please suggest they leave a private comment on my blog to contact me.

  23. rick on October 27, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    It seems to me that the model of Wal-Mart – big selection and lower prices (overall?) – is maybe not one that appealed particularly to the Germans. It seems to me that Germans are maybe somewhat more careful with their selections than Americans. By this I mean that they think about things more before buying them rather than buying something because it’s there. I’m not sure how this relates to McDonalds, though. Then again, as you mentioned before, McDonalds offers something unique … Wal-Mart doesn’t. The only time I experienced something unique at Wal-Mart in Germany was during the World Cup, when it was open until midnight … and yes, there were people there after 11:00 pm.

    What if you were to keep the comparison within restaurant chains in Germany (or Europe, though they differ somewhat)? McDonalds is the first thing someone will mention when you ask what is “typical American food.” However, McDonalds seems to, while offering something unique, still cater to the local crowd somewhat. An example of this would be the McDonalds in the Netherlands, where they offer a McKroket – their own version of a typical Dutch food (and my personal favorite thing you can get at McDonalds anywhere). Also, Nordsee seems to be busy every time I go by it … again, they are offering something unique – fast food fish. Pizza Hut doesn’t really offer anything that spectacular besides “all-you-can-eat” one night a week and I think that’s their busiest time based on what I’ve seen. Then you look at something like KFC … that not only offers something unique, but doesn’t really have any direct competition. It may be too early to tell, but KFC doesn’t seem to be doing quite as well as some other American chains. Is it too unique? Too American? Could that be the problem with the church’s success? I don’t know.

    Then again, I don’t know how representative my experience is … after all, I live in Frankfurt – possibly the least “German” of the major cities.

  24. random me on October 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    that’s a great suggestion, bookslinger. it’s how my husband first began studying the book of mormon in russian, with an english text in one hand and russian in the other, and i imagine many others do/did the same. the process would be much more streamlined if they just combined the two into one book.

  25. Ivan Wolfe on October 27, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    However, Wal-Mart is hugely successful in China.

    Why can it adapt there, but not in Germany?

  26. Ardis Parshall on October 27, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Bookslinger (21): Is it jarring when you see American kids dressed in mock Holy Land style to re-enact the Nativity or Moses parting the Red Sea?

    Ivan (25): Because the products are all locally produced.

  27. Bookslinger on October 28, 2006 at 1:52 am

    Is it jarring when you see American kids dressed in mock Holy Land style to re-enact the Nativity or Moses parting the Red Sea?

    Good counterpoint. But somehow, the hand-carters’ story doesn’t seem (to me at least) to rise to the scriptural level of the Nativity or the Exodus. In my mind the pioneers are not on the same level as Moses, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Maybe I’m grabbing the wrong end of the stick here, but some of the veneration of the pioneers by their descendants in the church has appeared as ancestor-worship to me. Perhaps I’ve just been tainted or put off by a few too many reminders from some people being of “pioneer stock” as if that gives them some special status.

    Pioneers can’t save their descendents any more than Abraham could save the pharisees who claimed salvation by having him as their father.

  28. Ivan Wolfe on October 28, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Ardis -

    that’s a nice snarky answer, but it ducks the question. Wal-mart did serious market research before going into China on a large level. I’m wondering if Wal-mart did market research before going into Germany, or if they decided since it was a “Western country” they didn’t need to.

  29. Seth R. on October 28, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    I disagree Bookslingler.

    I consider Brigham Young on par with Moses. And I find the respective “exodus” of the Mormon pioneers and the Israelites to be just as epic in scope.

    I suspect your remarks are purely an example of “familiarity breeds contempt.”

  30. Bookslinger on October 30, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    Back to the topic of “selling” the church and gospel in Europe.

    If the church wants to venerate the pioneers, maybe choosing notables from each country in Europe, and venerating those individuals in publications and in missionary lessons may be a better-received item than venerating Brigham Young.

    Maybe the church history department could write a small book for each European country containing the history and some testimony and journal excerpts from converts who emmigrated from those countries to Utah. Some of those early emmigrants/converts may have over 1,000 descendents in the church. Residents of those countries may think that the LDS religion is not popular among them, but as Elder Uchtdorf pointed out in a recent conference, there are hundreds of thousands of LDS whose ancestors are from Europe.

    Seth, I acknowledge your right to dress up in pioneer clothes and venerate whoever you want. Venerating early LDS pioneers may play well in cultures that have ancestor worship.

  31. John on July 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    How is eating with your hands barbaric histoyr shows that one time people ate with their hands all the time. The Germans should read a history book it shows what I just said about eating with your hands.

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