Much of the research about online reviews has focused on English language reviews. But online reviewing is a completely global phenomenon, and reviews are written in many other languages as well. For this reason, my colleague, Alice Chik, and I have been comparing reviews of restaurants in Hong Kong (written in Chinese, and posted on a local review site called OpenRice) with reviews of restaurants in New York (posted on Yelp). To try to keep things consistent, we selected only reviews of “Asian” restaurants which had received 1 Michelin star.
We found a lot of similarities in reviewing practices, for example, in terms of average review length as well as in many content features. But we also observed some interesting differences. For example, Hong Kong reviewers are a lot more specific about food-related details, whereas New York reviewers are much more focused on matters of service and ambiance. Hong Kong reviewers also tend to get very descriptive about individual dishes, attending not only to taste and texture, but also to particular smells. (Not to get all Whorfian here, but as Dan Jurafsky points out in The Language of Food, Cantonese does have a particularly rich olfactory vocabulary…)
To learn more, look out for our article “A comparative multimodal discourse analysis of restaurant reviews from two geographical contexts” (Chik & Vásquez) in a forthcoming issue of Visual Communication.