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Johnny Walker Blue is not a common American whiskey
February 1, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Which notable products or brands do people in other countries love to buy and consume, even though they are not popular or common in their country of origin?

A friend of mine travels around the world a lot. Recently he got back from a two week trip to Taiwan. He mentioned that the Taiwanese seemed to like to drink Johnny Walker Blue as if it was common a whiskey and (gross American beer X) as if it was a luxury.

It got me wondering about other brands where this happens. For instance, I consume a lot of European and Asian products, but I have no idea if they're authentic products, or whether they have been marketed to seem authentic. Another example: in college (pre-American craft breweries) we used to drink a lot of Foster's but later discovered that Foster's wasn't popular in Australia.

So, which popular products are used in other countries which are not commonly used in their country of origin?
posted by brandnew to Shopping (46 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Loads of Scottish whisky is in that category as well- as a Scot then finding all these well marketed campaigns for Glen Whatever whisky is always interesting- the stuff usually sucks and, in the case of Italians, they'll drink it at 7 year old (which is either just 'not done' or actually illegal in the UK).
posted by Gratishades at 11:44 AM on February 1, 2009


Not sure if it still holds, but when I was last in Eastern Europe, everyone was gaga over Lipton Instant Tea (it was very expensive, comparatively, to local teas) and the price made it into a luxury item of sorts. It was the thing to offer foreign visitors. This was in ruraly areas, so YMMV.
posted by The Whelk at 11:45 AM on February 1, 2009


Well, there are a lot of things that are considered crappy here in the US that are nonetheless popular both here and abroad: Nescafe is everywhere in Asia, for instance. Budweiser is another example. I always hear that "no one" drinks Corona in Mexico, but I wonder if it's the same story as Budweiser here: people do drink it, but it's considered to be piss beer.
posted by lunasol at 11:57 AM on February 1, 2009


becks isn't nearly as popular in germany as it's in the US as an import beer but that's more because we have a bazillion local breweries to choose from that don't export. asking the wrong local beer can be taken as offensive in some towns.

the same can be said for the very high-powered performance cars bmw, mercedes and audi build. the M, AMG and S cars are available and sometimes bought here but they are taxed ridiculously highly and people who can afford such a car often go for larger models or stuff like porsches instead, so again those engines are more popular in the US. many of the smaller engines these carmakers sell here are not even on offer in the US.

there is a popular opinion going around hollywood types that the foreign market is a lot more forgiving when it comes to critically panned movies. star power works a lot better when the star in question isn't in the local papers all the time and thus much more extraordinary, at least perceived as such. many flops have earned their production costs back on the european and asian markets.
posted by krautland at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2009


Fosters beer, which is a middlin' brew in Australia, seems to have a following in the US.
posted by media_itoku at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


also: gross american beer

american beer is gross and thus not popular in europe. when the football world cup was held in germany a while back and budweiser sponsored it, people rebelled until they also sold german beer in the stadium. this not out of nationalistic pride but because bud is rice juice they aren't even allowed to call beer here. ("Reinheitsgebot")
posted by krautland at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2009


Mexicans don't usually actually drink Corona, and most discerning Americans who like Mexican beer don't either. There are much better Mexican beers out there. However, I met some British people who thought it was just amazing and that's all they drank while visiting the U.S.
posted by fructose at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2009


In Canada Stella Artois is marketed as a distinguished beer, but a Belgian friend of a friend said that in Belgium it's regarded as piss.
posted by Beardman at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2009


"american beer is gross and thus not popular in europe."

It was EVERYWHERE in Italy and France when I went, and folks thought it was somehow charming to buy me pints of it. On the other hand, most Southern European beer is just as vile.

Oh, and in Amsterdam, I was told repeatedly by the locals not to drink Heineken or Carlsburg.

I hope to God that Guiness is not as popular in Ireland as it is here for "generic stout." Or maybe they just ship the bland, washed-out version abroad.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2009


I hope to God that Guiness is not as popular in Ireland as it is here for "generic stout."

It is very popular in Ireland. But yea, Budweiser was also very popular in Ireland.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2009


The Polish chocolate wafer Marco Polo seems to have a following in Iceland. When studying there I was told that "Coca & Polo" (Coca Cola + Marco Polo) was a popular lunch.

Marco Polo isn't as popular in Poland, or at least not more than any other snack afaik.
posted by monocultured at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2009


Or maybe they just ship the bland, washed-out version abroad.

I have heard from a few people that the Guinness you get outside of Ireland (in this case Canada) is not nearly as good as the stuff you get in Ireland. I'm not sure if this is accurate or maybe confirmation bias or something else, though.
posted by synecdoche at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2009


Bass and Newcastle Brown Ale have a grip over U.S. bars and restaurants that they don't have in the U.K.
posted by galaksit at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2009


Spam is supposed to be very popular in the South Pacific.
posted by electroboy at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2009


Vegemite.
posted by Duke999R at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2009


american beer is gross and thus not popular in europe.

Funny, though, when we hosted a group of Germans here through an exchange program, all they wanted to drink was Budweiser, PBR, and ... one more, perhaps Schlitz. They said they were in America and wanted to drink American beer. I was unable to persuade them to try any obscure US craft beers, though I think they had heard of or tried Sam Adams.

For instance, I consume a lot of European and Asian products, but I have no idea if they're authentic products, or whether they have been marketed to seem authentic.

Well, marketing has to be considered. Just because a company is able to market a product overseas doesn't mean people are buying it because they think it's popular where the company is based. They are probably just successfully working a combination of marketing and/or taste-testing into local preferences. Just as with pizza seeming Italian or fortune cookies seeming Chinese (when both evolved their modern form in the US), there may be an aspect of cultural appeal as well, but maybe that's less important than it seems at first glance.

the Guinness you get outside of Ireland (in this case Canada) is not nearly as good as the stuff you get in Ireland

I believe this has been labeled as "the myth of the Liffey water" for decades.

Spam is supposed to be very popular in the South Pacific.

It's definitely a hit in Hawaii, where (truly) fresh meat is more expensive to come by, and I would assume that extends to other islands.

In other cases one must simply be aware that the US, say, is a large market. For one obvious example, The Economist -- seen as a quintessentially UK publication in the US -- has the bulk of its circulation in the US.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there is a reverse "Big In Japan" thing for the U.S? Something hugely popular and well-known in the States that is ignored, little seen, or not nearly as popular in it's country of origin.
posted by The Whelk at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2009


brandnew, you seem to be implying (in your question title especially) that you think Johnnie Walker is an American product. It's a Scotch whisky, of course; a product of the UK.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2009


Vegemite? Beg to differ. Vegemite is very, very popular in Australia, and incomprehensible to the rest of the world.
posted by lottie at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2009


For Australia, Coogi sweaters are a better example - Coogi seem to be bought exclusively by tourists. I have never heard of an Aussie buying a Coogi sweater for themselves.
posted by lottie at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2009


I've heard Fosters beer is particularly uncommon in Australia, but easy to access and relatively popular around the world.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 2:38 PM on February 1, 2009


I didn't imply that Johnny Walker is an American whiskey, did I?
posted by brandnew at 2:42 PM on February 1, 2009


Oh, yeah in the title... sorry about that
posted by brandnew at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2009


Not exactly a product, but Wild West re-enactment-ing(?) and all the associated stuff is popular in Germany.
posted by electroboy at 2:44 PM on February 1, 2009


most Southern European beer is just as vile
okay, I'm from northern europe. those guys down there are much better with wine anyway.

They said they were in America and wanted to drink American beer
yeah, that sounds about right. little secret: when I moved to LA to go to college the car I bought was a buick. it had a couch in the back, how awesome! (you see where I am going here, right?)
posted by krautland at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2009


Confirm the entries re Fosters.

Really, no-one drinks it here in Australia. Each area has its regional favourites - XXXX in Queensland. Tooheys in NSW, Victoria Bitter in Victoria, Cascade in Tasmania for example. Fosters is simply not drunk here.

But Fosters is made by the same people who make Victoria Bitter (VB), and here in Victoria VB is the normal base standard beer of choice for many (though the number of choices continues to grow of course).

As for Vegemite, that's actually the opposite to the question asked. Hugely popular here, almost to the point of rite-of-passage for many people. Its really strange, kids love it and eat it and take to it almost immediately- it must be something in our blood I think.

Yet OS it is dismissed as repellent, which gives Aussies a big laugh!
posted by chris88 at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2009


Vegemite...lol. I should be banned from posting before I've been awake at least two hours.
posted by Duke999R at 3:52 PM on February 1, 2009


Re Guinness being bland to American tastes- yup, that's how they like it in Ireland. It took me years to acquire a taste for American craft beers particularly the hoppy ones. The rest of my family adamantly refuses to drink them claiming they taste "half-brewed". They also dislike the high alcohol content in US craft beers (guinness in Ireland is about 4% abv, less than in the US). About the only American beer they will drink is MGD.

Murphys is arguably even smoother than Guinness. People will happily argue about this all day.
posted by fshgrl at 4:52 PM on February 1, 2009


Do Swedes actually eat swedish meatballs? Often?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 5:08 PM on February 1, 2009


I see a lot of difference in the perceived eliteness of items between the US and Japan, such as Doritos (I think it was) depicted being served in a martini glass on the Japanese bag, and the fact that I could buy Shiseido hand cream in backwater Japanese convenience stores for pocket change. I realize anything imported becomes pricier and thus more special, but there seemed to be a lot of disproportionately exaggerated differences like this. (This is a little tangential to the question, but possibly still of interest.)

This also reminds of the "German" pickle Christmas ornament.

The American beer thing is really an issue. Multiple international clients have essentially said to me, "I'm a really serious beer aficionado. My favorite beer is *pause* Bud Lite." Now, I don't drink beer, but even I am fairly sure that--particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area--these two sentences don't go together. (This beer may sell well in the US, but as far as I can tell, not to self-identified "serious beer aficionados.")
posted by wintersweet at 5:33 PM on February 1, 2009


One more: corned beef and cabbage. I never heard of it until I moved to the US. Pretty much all St Patricks Day-as-a-party related things like parades and dying things green were invented elsewhere and imported to Ireland and they are still far more popular and numerous in other countries.
posted by fshgrl at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2009


In America, anyway, there are adaptations of foreign food unknown in the original country. California rolls are an obvious example - in Japan, Avocado isn't used on sushi. I can't think of anything else specifically off the top of my head - I went to a Thai restaurant in Washington state, and my dad, who is a food writer, was talking with the owner, who was explaining how a certain dish was a once a kind of street food popular in only one town in Thailand, and largely unknown elsewhere, but was now very popular throughout the west coast of America. I don't remember what the dish was, though. Also, Mexican fast-food at places like taco bell and taco time and wherever else (perhaps this goes without saying) are far from authentic.
posted by Rinku at 5:45 PM on February 1, 2009


From a world hoping friend:

McDonald's in Marrakesh being an odd mix of tourists and fairly well off local families who considered it a big treat. Mostly used as date-nights for well-dressed teens.

Kentucky Fried Chicken in China being full of middle class, couples dressed to the nines.

Starbucks in Russia is considered by some to be a high-end, ultra jet set thing to do, like dropping in at Tiffany and Co. and tooling away in your Ferrari.
posted by The Whelk at 5:46 PM on February 1, 2009


I realize anything imported becomes pricier and thus more special, but there seemed to be a lot of disproportionately exaggerated differences like this.


In Prague, the American wines were very expensive and they were all border gut-rot stuff. The nicer stores had some better wines but all horribly overpriced on many orders of magnitude. This could lead to them being seen as "better" next to the superior local wines.
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on February 1, 2009


People do drink Corona in Mexico, but no one I know prefers it. There are many other non-exported beers that are better.

Also, tequila. Jose Cuervo and other tequilas I don't remember are NOT popular here, there are some really nice tequilas here. In fact, it´s pretty normal to sip tequila here, but I remember in the States taking shots was the only option - and I think that reflects somewhat on the quality of tequila that is in the States.

Also, in reverse... Top Cat. I didn't even know who he was until I came here... ! But he seems to have quite a following.
posted by Locochona at 6:13 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Canada Moosehead and Molson beer is considered to be the equivalent of Budweiser but I see it marketed elsewhere as something exotic.
posted by canoehead at 6:19 PM on February 1, 2009


I hope to God that Guiness is not as popular in Ireland as it is here for "generic stout." Or maybe they just ship the bland, washed-out version abroad.

Guinness as served in the States, whether on tap or from one of the cans bearing the nitrogen "widget," tastes very different from that served in Ireland. Guinness served nearer the source (I assume that it is this that makes the difference) tastes more "food-like" and less "beer-like," but in a good way. I have never noticed so marked a difference with other European beverages.
posted by Morrigan at 6:27 PM on February 1, 2009


This thread is fun, but I have to dispute one of the OP's examples: Johnny Walker Blue is their "premium" blend and costs nearly $200 a bottle in the US. I have serious doubts that it would be considered "common" in Taiwan.

More likely they considered it "not exotic enough to be worth the ridiculous price," which most Scotch drinkers would agree with.

Unrelated anecdote: A friend was dating a man from Iraq, and he insisted that we try his special "Iraqi tea" that he had gone to a great deal of trouble to find locally. The package said "Earl Grey".
posted by mmoncur at 6:32 PM on February 1, 2009


Singha Beer is marketed and sold as a premium beverage outside of Thailand, but in Thailand it's just your basic brew. I have heard that the export version is a different formulation, but it tastes the same to me: like crap.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:44 PM on February 1, 2009


Beer in general is ripe for this type of situation. Your basic Bud style lager is made in every country in the world, and for good reason. A nice standard lager is tasty, refreshing, delicious, and has the best beer taste for mass appeal.

There is very little variation in quality between beers like Bud, Fosters, Becks, Heineken, Corona, Saku, Labatt, etc. People looking for variation and some exotic flair basically end up buying the same beer from halfway around the world.

So, a beer geek in the US who hates Bud (RICE OMG!) will happily buy something like Sapporo. (even more rice and if you buy it in the US made in Canada, not Japan)

Beer drinkers from everywhere are guilty of this, which is why you have Europeans visiting the US asking for Bud.

Damn, at least try some Yuengling, at least it's a little bit different.

I love to try local beer when I travel, the key is to look at what is really available, don't just ask for the beer you see on all the signs. That will just be the standard lager, you will end up with Stella in Belgium when you have the most amazing variety of beer in the world at your fingertips. (Nothing against Stella, just throw it in the "standard tasty lager" list)

The thing is. the the crazy beer varieties beer geeks love are really niche tastes, someone who wants to try beer from all over the world is bound to end up with Fosters if a Dopplebock or Belgian Abbey Ale doesn't taste good to them. It's still good fun to try another take on the standard concept.

--
Beer derail over, I would add the popularity of Jerry Lewis in France and David Hasselhoff's singing career in Germany.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:03 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do Swedes actually eat swedish meatballs? Often?
Yes, especially this or this brand.

Lipton Yellow Label Tea is sold in 150 countries, but not in the UK, where it was introduced in 1890.

Coca-Cola sells Urge (or Surge) only in Norway these days.
posted by iviken at 1:52 AM on February 2, 2009


How about Swedish Fish, do you eat those?

And, as I forgot to drop this anecdote in the current Denmark Rules Cuz It Secular thread on the blue:

I once interviewed a band that was touring on a stipend from Denmark's Arts Ministry, and I had to ask: What's your favorite kind of Danish? Do they even have Danishes over there?

And the guy looked at me and said, confused, "I'm sorry, I'm just not that into cake."
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2009


How about Swedish Fish, do you eat those?
Yes.

Do they even have Danishes over there?

Yes, but in Scandinavia, they're known as wienerbrød (Viennese pastries).
posted by iviken at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2009


in Central America, Pizza Huts are sit-down restaurants with dishes brought by well-dressed servers. hee!
posted by changeling at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2009


Spam is very popular in the Philippines. It is actually delicious with eggs and rice for breakfast. And there is actually a restaurant in the Philippines that serves nothing but spam.
posted by AceRock at 5:34 PM on February 2, 2009


Corona in Mexico is what you drink when you run out of decent beer, like Negra Modelo, Bohemia, Victoria, Negra Leon, etc. It's actually not bad at the beach, especially in Coronita form, which is a smaller bottle designed to be drunk quickly so as not to get warm. It's loads better than Sol and Modelo, which are just undrinkable. By the way: Mexican beer is not, NOT, drunk with lime.

Taco Bell and such places are an abomination unto God and no decent Mexican would ever be caught dead eating there. If they do, we confiscate their passport and renounce them, dooming them to a lifetime in the U.S., without proper salsa.

As for tequila, just don't. Really. Unless you know your stuff and frequent places where they care about such things, you'll be served something that is probably disgusting and maybe even dangerous. If you insist in going down this uncertain and perilous path, at least make sure that the bottle says "100% agave" and "denominación de origen" and that it was made and bottled in Jalisco, México. Oh, and be prepared to shell out some serious cash, especially in Europe.
posted by Cobalt at 6:10 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


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