Russian Vodka (Made In Latvia) And Other 'National' Products

Aug 10, 2013
Originally published on October 9, 2013 4:01 pm

Activists around the world are trumpeting a call to "Dump Russian Vodka" — Stolichnaya, in particular — a protest against the implementation of several anti-gay laws in Russia, the latest in a marked surge in anti-gay sentiment and violence in the country.

But as NPR and other media have reported, the Stoli boycott may be misguided: the vodka that everyone in the world outside Russia drinks isn't made in Russia at all, but in Latvia.

And that got us wondering: What other beloved national products have pulled the old switcheroo and are made somewhere else?

Here are a few we came up with:

Levi Strauss & Co., with its iconic label featuring a couple of cowboys and a shout-out to San Francisco — where the Gold Rush of the 1850s drew Bavarian immigrant and company founder Levi Straussclosed its last two U.S. plants in early 2004. These days, the majority of its manufacturing is done in contract factories in Latin America and Asia.

But contrary to popular belief, not all manufacturing is flowing east.

Take the Honda Civic, for instance. The popular model from the Japanese brand is made around the world in North America, Asia, Europe and Latin America — but not in Japan. (Though the company did recently open its first new car factory in Japan in nearly half a century.)

Britain's beloved brown sauce held on longer: The quintessentially British condiment HP Sauce (for Houses of Parliament, which feature on its label) was made in Britain for 100 years before the last bottle rolled off a Birmingham factory line in 2007. The decision to move production to the Netherlands sparked a rooftop protest by none other than Britain-personified, John Bull (aka Brummie Ray Egan). He told the BBC: "I love my HP sauce. ... I feel we are losing another bastion of Britishness. ... It's like we're selling the family silver."

Across the English Channel, the French bid adieu to their iconic Gitanes and Gauloises cigarettes in 2005. That's when a factory in Lille, France, produced its last batch of the dark-tobacco smokes favored by glamorously louche celebrities like chain smoker and man-drunkenly-about-town Serge Gainsbourg. (A 2002 biography of the French singer, songwriter and lover of beautiful women was called A Fistful of Gitanes.) The brands live on, and are manufactured in Spain.

But in a sign of how the winds of change have blown, these days even noted French smokers like actress Catherine Deneuve are trying to kick the habit.

And finally, the Volkswagen Beetle, also known as the Bug. A project of Adolf Hitler's in the 1930s, the Volkswagen Beetle — "the people's car" — grew to be beloved around the world, with a special place in the hearts of American hippies and surfers. VW ceased production of the Beetle in Germany in the late 1970s; sales of what was once one of the world's most popular cars saw huge declines beginning around the same time. The last factory making the classic Beetle was in Puebla, Mexico, and VW ceased all production of the original model in 2003. The company's "new" Beetle, introduced in 1998, retains the external look of the classic Bug, although is a completely different vehicle on the inside.

We close with a bit of nostalgia: a 1969 screening in Las Vegas of the Walt Disney movie The Love Bug, aka Herbie, for an audience of Beetles. RIP Little Bug.

The list of iconic national products made somewhere else is long. What did we miss? Let us know about your favorite in the comments below.

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