Along with cowboys, skyscrapers, and natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, strip mall landscapes have become representative of American culture. Tourists visiting the United States expect to see this kind of excessively commercial landscape, cluttered with nothing but the signage of enterprises ranging from small to multinational, and consider it exotic.
Tourists visiting France, on the other hand, expect historic urban centers, picturesque villages, and impressionist landscapes. The sight of regions filled with chain stores and enormous supermarkets comes as a surprise to many visitors, especially in light of France’s reputation for quality and refinement, not to mention its reputation for protesting the presence of such typical American brands as McDonald’s and Disney. Yet, more than most European countries, France has adopted American retail innovations as part of an embrace of progress and practicality. Much of the countryside is relatively flat, farm lots are large, and the government has not been aggressive about protective zoning.
Unlike in the United States, these car-based developments have not yet made obsolete the historic centers of towns, but there is a growing concern that the rural landscape is being blighted —globalized and corporatized—losing its traditional function.
It may be that the French are concerned about this type of development not because they seek to prevent a foreign influence, but because they have already enthusiastically participated in it for long enough to have experienced and become wary of its homogenizing effects on local culture.
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, 2003