Do you have a certain habit when you travel?

I know it might come across as strange, but I always try to visit a McDonald’s (yes, the golden arch, fast food restaurant chain) whenever I travel abroad.  There’s just something irresistible about it — those deliciously salty french fries and a tasty cheeseburger coupled with a cool cup of Coca-Cola.  Such. guilty. pleasures.

Let me be clear.  I always try out the local cuisine whenever I travel, so I am not missing out on the local experience.

Since McDonald’s has a presence in many places, I am always curious about how the McDonald’s abroad are similar (or different) from the ones in the states. Granted, it’s not all curiosity, all the time.   Sometimes, I see a golden arch and I simply want to fulfill a craving for junk food.

Healthy Relationship with McDonald’s

As a kid, I’ve always enjoyed my visits to McDonald’s.  They weren’t frequent occurrences, except when my family did road trips.  Then we’d often stopped at the rest area to grab a bite. I always remembered having fun with the Happy Meal toys.

I visited McDonald’s less often as an adult, except for a period when I visited on a near weekly basis.  There was a McDonald’s on my way back home from tennis practice.  I’d get an ice-cream cone or a light happy meal to replenish my energy after hours of workout, and I see it as a little personal reward.

It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I might have been considered a “regular” then.  Once, having not visited for some time, the cashier recognized me and greeted me with, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while.  Where have you been?”   I think my face might have turned just a little red.

While eating at McDonald’s on a regular basis is not healthy (ever seen the documentary, SuperSize me?), I’ve  maintained a relatively healthy eating relationship with McDonald’s — everything in moderation.

How It All Got Started

Many years ago, I remembered visiting Paris and came across a McDonald.  I decided to check it out and I came out beaming because I was able to order my meal with my limited French speaking skills.    The food was not particularly memorable or even different, but an idea was born:

I decided that I would try to visit a McDonald’s whenever I travel abroad.

After all, McDonald’s are in lots of places.  It would be easy to compare the experience, not just with the food, but also in the ordering experience and the interaction with the local staff.

Experience Visiting McDonald’s Abroad

Since then, I made an effort to visit a McDonald’s whenever I travel abroad.  Some notables:


Aside from indulging in chocolates (and we got scammed on the waffles!), I remembered the McDonald’s in Belgium was one of the first McDonald’s I visited that include apple slices as part of the Happy Meal.  The apple slices are now a standard part of the Happy Meal.


I loved visiting the McDonald’s in Geneva, but for a different reason.  Switzerland has a high cost of living, and a happy meal came out to be in the $8-10 range.  I thought, “That was one of the most expensive Happy Meals I’ve ever paid anywhere!  At least it was affordable compared to everything else here!”


I goofed up my order in Beijing. I only wanted French Fries at the time and not a meal, but I didn’t know how to say Fries in Mandarin properly.  Let’s just say I confused the poor staff, though I ended up with hash browns.  In Japan, I stuck to ordering by the meal number, though I added in an order of the ice cream cone.  I put in time studying how to order food in Japanese, and it was a great way to put what I learned to the test!

Start a Travel Habit

Sometimes I just don’t end up visiting a McDonald’s at all.  For example, I missed the one in Athens though it turned out there was one near Syntagma Square.  I also missed it in Seoul, though I ordered from Burger King at one of the food courts.

a tray with food and drink on it

A Chicken Burger at the Burger King in Seoul


I never realized that when I started the McDonald’s travel habit, it would end up being something I look forward to checking out on most of my trips.  It sounds a little strange because most people don’t rave about wanting to go to a McDonald when they travel abroad, but it’s a little quirk of mine.

There is just something a little different and familiar at the same time when visiting a McDonald’s abroad.  I find it to be a little adventure– and it brings back a kid-like joy — to experience McDonald’s in a different way.  It’s a lot of fun, and it’s almost magical.



Do you have a similar or other travel quirks when you travel?