Global Glance: Aug 31, 2015
A quick look at intriguing international stories
By John Bostwick, Managing Editor, Radius
Welcome back to Global Glance. This week we look at:
Caption of the Year Candidate from a Vietnamese Newspaper
Ah, the treasures of Google Alerts. Without those notifications, I wouldn’t have discovered this article on expats trying to find room to exercise in Vietnam. The short piece was published last week in Tuoi Tre News, the English-language website of the Communist Youth Union newspaper. The small country has proportionally small public green spaces, along with heavy traffic, making outdoor exercise challenging. “I just want to jog but I am afraid of being hit by motorbikes,” a Korean student is quoted as saying. (Vietnam is sometimes referred to as “the kingdom of motorbikes.”)
Another expat in the article discusses the challenges of playing organized sports in Vietnam. “In England, I played football in a team of 11 players but here I just play in a team of five because the stadiums are small.” Which brings me to the article’s accompanying photograph, its subject presumably the young man just quoted. The photo shows him shirtless, dribbling a soccer ball on a crowded field. Its description is my candidate for caption of the year: “An Englishman (half naked) plays football with locals in Ho Chi Minh City.”
And for a brief, useful profile of Vietnam media outlets, check out this BBC.com profile.
Johnny Rockets’ Expansion into Southeast Asia (and the Inevitable Global Obesity Reference)
The restaurant chain Johnny Rockets announced last week that it is “seeking area developers for expansion into Thailand and Vietnam.” The press release notes that the chain — which serves diner-style food in nostalgic 1950s-America settings — already has outlets in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. Rep James Walker says of the company’s plans to further expand into Southeast Asia: “What we have found is that as the region's middle class booms, that population segment is looking for and willing to spend more on premium burger concepts.”
I doubt anyone has ever said they want to spend their money on “premium burger concepts,” but you can’t argue with Johnny Rockets’ success. Despite the throwback fifties theme, the company was actually founded relatively recently (in 1986, in Los Angeles) and now has locations all over the US, in cruise liners, and in 26 countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait and Nigeria.
When a US fast-food chain expands into developing markets, the subject of obesity inevitably arises. The US, after all, has an obesity problem, some would say epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of US adults are obese.” The problem extends beyond US borders. The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) website indicates that “worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.” (Check out this interactive world map of obesity for a country-by-country look at rates.).
Whether or not the international success of Johnny Rockets and other American chains such as KFC and McDonald’s has seriously contributed to global obesity is debatable. The WHO does attribute the rising rates to “an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat.” But it also cites these global trends as contributing factors: “an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.”
Best and Worst Countries for Expats
InterNations was founded in 2007 by two friends who met as student expats in 1997. They formed the website as a “platform where expats from all countries of the world can network, socialize and find trustworthy information and services.” The website reports that it now has 1.8 million members, making it the world’s “largest global expat network.”
InterNations has just released its annual Expat Insider survey for 2015. The online survey was conducted earlier this year and involved over 14,000 expats “representing 170 nationalities and 195 countries of residence or overseas territories.” The full report is 234 pages and includes information on quality of life by country, ease of settling in, family life and personal finance. As for the top expat destinations (which factors in all the areas just mentioned and more), Ecuador tops the list for the second straight year. The country has particularly high scores for cost of living, personal finance and “personal happiness.”
Ecuador’s top ranking came as a surprise to me. It shouldn’t have, given that the country is apparently a magnet for Americans, especially older ones. The website notes, “The majority of expats living in Ecuador are US Americans (56%) and in their golden years: the average age is 51.9 years. Of those who have a job, 36% work part-time while 36% of all respondents in Ecuador are retirees.”
Mexico is ranked second on this list, followed by Malta and Singapore. The lowest scoring countries in the survey were, respectively, Kuwait, Greece and Nigeria. Greece’s low ranking was another surprise to me, even given its current crisis, if only because it’s such a popular tourist destination. The reasons for its low ranking are, alas, connected to the country’s economic woes. Greece, the survey indicates, “gets particularly bad results in all subcategories of the Working Abroad Index - Job & Career, Work-Life Balance, and Job Security - as well as in the Personal Finance Index.”