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.
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?
I agree! It’s a comfortable, familiar place to sit and eat and relax and you always know what you’re getting. Sometimes I’ll pay a lot more for a lunch or dinner at a local restaurant and it ends up being not at all worth it. McDonalds is a safe bet. My list includes China, Thailand, Russia, Greece, Morocco, India, Colombia, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Egypt… many more.
Hey, sometimes you just need to eat a burger. And there’s something comforting about food that reminds you of home.
my wife hates it, but i like to stop in mcdonalds in other countries too – probably started when I saw pulp fiction with the ‘royal with cheese’ scene 🙂
This post caught my eye in BoardingArea. I also have a travel habit of eating a Big Mac in every new country I visit. My love for McDonald’s stems from road trips with my grandma as a kid – we used to go to a city that had a McDonalds and she bought me lunch there every time.
My favorite McDonalds travel memories are: eating a Big Mac overlooking the Luxor temple in Egypt, and trying the Big Maharaja Mac in India. It was a chicken burger with curry sauce = disgusting.
Awwww. That’s a wonderfully sweet memory of you and your grandmother.
I am glad to hear there’s another person with a similar travel habit — I always thought I was a bit of an oddball since people don’t usually rave about McDonald’s. I don’t like curry at all. I can’t imagine what the chicken burger with curry sauce tastes like, but I’ll take your word for it. 😛
McDonald’s abroad is just so much tastier and better quality. There’s also a much larger selection. McDonald’s in other countries is considered a delicacy that not everyone can afford. I’ve met many peoole that are extremely disappointed with McDonald’s in the states after trying it abroad. I love your idea of trying it in every country. It’s definitely a very unique, affordable option.
To be fair, I must add that I generally find the portion size of McDonald’s food to be smaller abroad than the McDonald’s in the states — so it always felt like a little less bang for the buck.
I dont like KFC in the states but I like it in Japan?
I’ve tried the KFC in Russia, and American KFC doesn’t even come close
Must admit when breakfast is $30++ at my hotel I find it more prudent to do a $5 eggs or McMuffin and juice/coffee at a nearby McD in Asia.
[…] Why I always try to visit a McDonald’s whenever I travel abroad. – Hey, sometimes you just need to eat a burger. And there’s something comforting about food that reminds you of home. […]
[…] WHY I ALWAYS TRY TO VISIT A MCDONALD’S WHENEVER I TRAVEL ABROAD – I’m not much of a fast good guy but I like the concept of seeing how chain restaurants are different all over the world. […]
Can we use a gift cards purchased in the states?
Never tried, and it doesn’t appear so: https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/services/arch-card.html
“Valid only at participating McDonald’s restaurants in the US”
I do the same with Starbucks, but mainly to get a coffee mug from the location. Yeah it’s a silly fun hobby. I wouldn’t feel (too) guilty to do one or two stops on a week long trip to a McDonalds or other western type chain overseas to at least try different menu items. I’ve had escargot at Pizza Hut in Shanghai and an excellent ham and cheese scone at Starbucks in Hong Kong. Sometimes your family is craving pancakes on an early Saturday morning and the only quick restaurant open in the Marunochi district of Tokyo is a McDonalds.… Read more »
Yeah, I actually quite enjoy linguistics, so I always try to make the effort to learn the language. Though some languages are harder to pick up than others, but that’s for another day.
With food, it’s easy. You eat it, it’s gone. I am curious — I’ve bet you’ve got tons of Starbucks coffee mugs. Do you have a shelf space for them? What do you do with all of them?