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News and Trends
October 31, 2005


Burgers Fit for a Sheikh?
All Dressed in White
Offshore Tutoring

Burgers Fit for a Sheikh?
Veiled women stuff fries into paper containers and pack hamburgers into boxes while a movie about the life of the Prophet Muhammad plays on a flat-screen television overhead. After each sale, the cash register displays "Peace Be With You" in Arabic. Welcome to Beurger King Muslim, a fast-food restaurant in France that caters to Muslim immigrants. Located in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, the restaurant is halal, serving only food that conforms to Muslim dietary laws. The restaurant is the latest sign that France's Muslim population — largely second-generation immigrants from Northern Africa — is coming into its own. Hakim Badaoui, the restaurant's manager, says the company already has 30 potential franchisees. Menu items include the Double Koull Cheeseburger. (Koull, a play on the American slang cool, means "to eat" in Arabic.) How does Burger King feel about Beurger King? "We've heard from them," says Badaoui. "Right now, it's between the attorneys."

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All Dressed in White
A craze for Western-style "white weddings" in Japan has led to a decline in traditional Shinto ceremonies, and a new figure is taking over the altar: the gaijin (foreign) "wedding minister." Less than 2 percent of Japan's 127 million people are Christian, but Christian-style ceremonies now account for three-quarters of Japanese weddings. The person performing the ceremony is seldom an ordained minister or priest. Most are actors from English-speaking countries who perform the 20-minute ceremonies from a script. The passion for these Western-style ceremonies has been fueled by televised celebrity weddings and soap operas. Since 1996, the number of Christian ceremonies in Japan has nearly doubled, and hotels are replacing Shinto shrines with replica Christian chapels. Western weddings revolve around love and elevate the bride to a princess, whereas traditional Shinto weddings emphasize the merger of two families. Mike Clark, a Canadian who worked as a "wedding pastor" while living in Japan, found the experience "kind of surreal." But he took pride in his job. "My goal was to make at least one person cry at each ceremony," he says.

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Offshore Tutoring
Daniela Marinaro, an eighth-grader in Malibu, Calif., doesn't mind that her tutor is 20,000 miles away in Cochin, India. Connected by the Internet and using headphones, Greeshma Salin — who grew up speaking the Indian language Malayalam — tutors Marinaro twice a week in English, working through the intricacies of nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Marinaro is one of 350 Americans enrolled in Growing Stars, a service that is based in Fremont, Calif., but whose 38 tutors are all in India. There are now at least a half-dozen Indian outsourcing companies that specialize in homework help for Americans. As in other types of outsourcing, cost is the driving factor. Growing Stars charges students $20 per hour for individual tutoring, compared with the $50 or more charged by their American counterparts.

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