Many of us, me included, enjoy timely visits to various fast food joints. Maybe we do not take pride in it, but they are our saviors when we are in need e.g when you have been studying for twelve consecutive hours and do not have the energy to cook proper dinner, or when you are feeling the munchies after a night on the town, it does the job. A recent visit to a well-known burger place at Mårtenstorget got me thinking about that time Japan ran out of french fries and what it says about the world we live in today.
Earlier this year Japan suffered an acute shortage of fries in its fast food restaurants when a US labor dispute halted the supply of potatoes. As a consequence, only small size orders, if any, of fries were allowed resulting in hugely disappointed Japanese consumers and expected losses of $210 million with a 10 % decrease in sales for McDonald’s in Japan.
But, how does one relate the shortage of fries in Japan to students in Lund and our everyday life on the other side of the globe? On the one hand, this is a clear example of the growing global interdependency of today. No man, country nor economy is an island; the cooperative competitive environment of the global market is a contradicted reality in which we have to find our place. The competitive part on the other hand, is where we students enter the equation. Allow me to put an existential question out there; why are we really studying? To broaden our minds? To get a well-paid job? To fulfill our interests? To enjoy the well-known student life of Lund? Probably a mix of all these things but in today’s world it is even more important for individuals to move forward, to differentiate ourselves, and gaining comparative advantage.
As the world becomes increasingly digital and smaller, more things and services become tradable; x-rays are analyzed on the other side of the globe, a university degree can be earned over the internet, fries are shipped across oceans. Experiencing a McDonaldization (the concept of a globally standardized society) of the world we need to move forward and away from what is generic and not settle with being standard. Fries, in all its glory, we cannot eat it every day. When facing a larger, more competitive market in an interchangeable world where jobs and tasks are up for grabs for those who are able to do them more efficiently, unique knowledge and creativity becomes more valuable.
Just as we should not take an order of french fries for granted, we should not expect our surroundings to remain constant or assume our place in it. Our society constantly changes and we have to adapt and improve with it. A university degree is a first step (especially from Lund, a world top 100 university) and separates us from the 93 % of the world’s population who do not have a degree in higher education.
So the next time you are enjoying fries do not forget to appreciate the interconnectedness of the world today and your ability to place a large size order of fries.