Thursday, September 17, 2009

Get more culture for less at Walmart ...

I admit it: Every now and then, I go over to the dark side.

It is, after all, only a few miles from my house.

I mean, of course, the Box Store That Must Not Be Named. What you might call, if you were, say, a wizard, Valdemart.

Yes, I too loathe Walmart. I don't need a reason -- it's just reflexive. But at the same time, I must admit it holds this lurid allure for me. It's kind of like going to, say, a bull-fighting match -- I disagree with it, yet it is this fascinating cultural phenomenon that the traveler in me could not resist witnessing, exploring.

If you can enter that traveler's mind of the Prime Directive -- observe, experience, but don't judge -- then Walmart really can be its own peculiar cultural foray. Even right here in little Durango, pop. about 15,000. For when I walk around my little town's big Walmart, I can't help but walk around, gawking around, and mouth agape, wondering, "Who the hell are all you people?!?"

I mean, I live here, in a very small town, and have for so long that it seems that generally where ever I go I know at least a good chuck of the other folks there. But not so at Walmart. It's like a five-minute drive delivers me to this completely different planet, and a whole different culture. A whole little different country in a box down the road.

Most of that, of course, is the Box Store Culture itself. I mean the sterility and organization and predictability, the endless shit and sense of shameless consumer gluttony, and the routine familiarity -- the sense that every Walmart everywhere is a clone of some great Mother Of All Walmarts. And, of course, is generally what Walmart is so scorned for: for being devoid of culture, for even sucking away any trace of the variety that comprises culture and cultural differences.

Perhaps. But I'll give it this: At our Walmart you can get see fresh roasted chilies outside.

Take a little Walmart cultural trip for yourself: Check out this list from Seth's Blog of 11 observations made from a visit to a Walmart in China. His first four on the list are:

1. They sell live turtles.

2. A whole display case is devoted to sea cucumbers.

3. Like any upscale American or Beijing supermarket, they have a sushi case. The prices are half what they’d be in America, but the pieces of fish are much thinner.

4. They cut up meat in front of you. A whole pig was being butchered on a table. A roast duck was being sliced for packaging.

Also below is a slideshow of a visit to a Walmart in Beijing -- complete with the ubiquitous "More for Less" signs in kanji, but also featuring live turtles and carp -- killed and cleaned while you wait -- in the meat department.

How about you: Seen any other signs of local culture while traveling Walmarts around the world?

(via BoingBoing)
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