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uni'wissen 02-2012 ENG

people with jobs generally lived with their par- ents. Most cities didn’t yet have a coffeehouse culture with drinks and snacks at affordable pric- es, and restaurants were much too expensive for young people. And in the booths at Karaoke bars, the operators themselves provided the ladies for their patrons. “McDonald’s was not just popular because of the food but because the chain pro- vided a new space in which young people could escape from the influence of their parents.” The book does not provide a completely ac- curate representation of reality, says Henning- sen, but it does play an important role: “Fictional texts serve as a kind of guidebook that helps readers to orient themselves in the jungle of con- sumer society.” They provide knowledge about the products, define their role in everyday life, and show what one can do with them and how one can interpret this use for one’s own identity. “To a large extent, the popular books explore the phenomena of modern consumer culture. They convey an urban lifestyle that includes interna- tional brands as well as features of upscale Chi- nese consumer culture and elements of so-called high culture” – da Vinci and Shakespeare side by side with Rolex, red wine, and Chinese tea. In addition, although the fast food chain McDon- ald’s has now become primarily a meeting place for the elderly and a place for children’s birth- days, it is still seen as the embodiment of the American way of life. “Many Chinese now know that the food at McDonald’s is unhealthy, but par- ents still go there with their children because it also provides something of an educational expe- rience,” says Henningsen. A few years ago, the cool hipsters all began congregating at Starbuck’s. The coffeehouses serve innumerable coffee specialties and offer the added attraction of comfortable armchairs and oversized sofas. Henningsen has observed that many of the people who patronize the cof- “Fictional texts serve as a kind of guidebook that helps readers to orient themselves in the jungle of consumer society” Harry Potter and an imitation: Plagiarized copies of the series of novels were among the best-sell- ing books on the Chinese black market when the first film adaptations hit the cinemas and ignited a Harry Potter boom. feehouses work in the creative industries, from authors to graphic designers. They enjoy reliable Internet access and can work more or less in peace at Starbucks, because not everyone can afford this exclusive atmosphere. The coffee of the day costs the equivalent of around two eu- ros – half the price of a bowl of noodle soup at the snack bar around the corner. Oftentimes the patrons only order a small coffee, but it has a big effect: The consumer goods serve as a kind of cultural bridge to the modern and elegant “West,” says the Sinologist. “The people see themselves 22