The Coke Side of Life

A popular souvenir from a country that doesn’t employ the Latin alphabet is a Coca-Cola t-shirt. What’s that about?

Perhaps these shirts are a way to capture the essence of the country. When I travel, my favorite things to look for, besides high-minded art of course, are the license plates and bottles. For me, these small things are reminders that the place I’m visiting exists in its own quotidian way outside of me and my visit. It’s humbling and oddly reassuring to think of all the things I don’t know about foreign license plates. And in a superficial way, these shirts are about capturing a small difference in everyday life abroad.

But really, American tourists wearing a Coca-Cola t-shirts in a different language is a great topic for a political science dissertation. Coca-Cola is an unabashedly American product. If a can of coke outside of the US is a sign globalization, then wearing a Coca-Cola shirt in another language is pronouncement of cultural imperialism. In a way, a Coca-Cola t-shirt is the perfect American keepsake. It says I was there, and America has made its mark on this country. A shirt in Hebrew, Russian, Chinese or any language really is ripe for historical analogies. Grad students, get working.