This year marks the 25th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany, marking the United States’ de facto victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. In the end, all the nuclear threats and spies and billions on defense spending the two sides threw at each other couldn’t match an unstoppable force: American capitalism. As the Berlin Wall fell that summer of 1990, marking the symbolic triumph of capitalism over communism, American corporations had already hatched plans to open their doors in formerly forbidden territory. On Sept. 10, the first Pizza Hut opened in the Soviet Union; a day later, the first Pizza Hut opened in communist China. A month later, the first McDonald’s opened in China. Today, of course, American chain restaurants, stores and corporations can be found around the globe, sometimes creating surreal images.
10. Capitalism, Communism Collide
You have to love this bizarre juxtaposition of one of the iconic symbols of American capitalism with communism. This Walmart on Karl Marx Street in Berlin closed a few years ago. Walmart opened almost 100 stores in Germany in the late 1990s, but the retailer faced antitrust and labor issues and sold all of its German stores in 2006.
9. Secret Shoppers
What happens when a company best known for selling risqué lingerie opens stores in the ultra-conservative, overwhelmingly Muslim Middle East? It doesn’t sell any risqué lingerie there. The first Victoria’s Secret in the Middle East opened in Kuwait in 2010, and several dozen locations have since opened in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere in the region, all selling the chain’s cosmetics, fragrances and other accessories. But sorry, no sexy lingerie.
8. That’s Kosher
There are many words people associate with McDonalds (Big Mac, golden arches, etc.) but “kosher” definitely doesn’t come to mind. Roughly a third of the McDonald’s in Israel are certified kosher, and to avoid confusion, the chain adopted this blue signage in place of the chain’s trademark red-and-gold color scheme. All Israeli McDonald’s are different in another way as well — they cook their burgers over charcoal, rather than frying them, as is standard procedure elsewhere around the world.
7. Finger-Lickin’ Good in Ho Chi Minh City
KFC became one of the first restaurant chains to venture overseas, with the first international Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opening in the UK in 1964. Today, the chain can be found in almost 20,000 locations around the world, including here in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
6. Cairo Coffee Break
It sometimes seems there’s a Starbucks on every other corner in many major U.S. cities. The coffee chain is ubiquitous overseas as well, operating more than 21,000 stores in over 65 countries, including this location in Cairo.
5. Take A Number
Apple has been wildly popular in China for years, leading to scenes like this at an Apple Store opening in Shanghai.
4. Hail to the King
This Burger King in Stavanger, Norway, looks nothing like your typical Burger King, to fit in with the city’s 18th and 19th century wood architecture.
3. Fresh From the Farm
Customers at Chinese Walmarts prefer their meats unpackaged, creating scenes like this that would seem strange to American consumers. Elsewhere in Chinese Walmarts, customers can pluck live frogs and turtles out of tanks for their meal and select their own unpackaged rabbit meat out of open counters. The giant retailer already has more than 400 stores in the country, and plans to open more than 100 additional stores there by 2017.
2. Where’s the Beef?
Fast food giant McDonald’s is wildly popular in India, but don’t expect to find beef on the menu there. Instead, the Indian McDonald’s locations serves vegetarian fare, like the Aloo Tikki Burger, which features a patty made of peas, mashed potatoes and cooked with Indian spices. According to the BBC, there are around 350 stores currently in the country, with plans to open another 1,000 within a decade.
1. Bite The Wax Tadpole?
Arguably the most recognizable brand in the world, Coca-Cola products and advertising are common sights around the world, including this billboard in China. The brand has come a long way since its first venture into China in 1927. At that time, local shopkeepers tried to reproduce the Coca-Cola sound in the Chinese language, using Chinese characters. Unfortunately, one Coca-Cola translation into Chinese literally meant, “Bite the wax tadpole.” Another translated as, “Female horse fastened with wax.” The company finally settled on a combination of characters that translate as, “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice.”