Comfort in Arches: A little piece of home

And that’s when, in you’re moment of need, you look up and like a pair of descending halos, you see the golden arches of McDonalds.

Is it the best burger? No. Does it have the best coffee? No, but then again the coffee is pretty good and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

But the redeeming thing about McDonalds is this, they’re all the same. The food, the coffee, the black visors, are the same. I could be in Seattle, or Tokyo, or Rome but when I step into McDonalds I feel like, yeah, I know this.

And for Americans living abroad who grew up bombarded with McDonalds happy meal toys and ball pens, you start to look at those arches as much of a symbol of American as the star and stripes.

But here’s the twist, the first McDonalds I went to as a child was in Japan and that was in the 80s.

There are now generations of people all around the world who too grew up with McDonalds and other fast food chains. When they travel or live abroad, I wonder if they too feel a little bit of comfort, a little bit of familiarity when they step into a McDonalds?

Or do they associate McDonalds as just, foreign American food?

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

3 comments… add one
  • Gord Sellar Sep 19, 2014, 8:29 am


    Ha, well, I can say that when my friend took me to a McDonald’s in Delhi, I did not say, “… yeah, I know this.” Most of the menu was uncharted territory in a way: cheese burger really meant cheese–paneer, not meat. Most of the menu was vegetarian.

    Also, McD’s coffee was a mainstay among expats back in Iksan when I first arrived in Korea. The only café that did 완두커피 in our neighborhood–which was the local uni district, and the most happening part of town to begin with–opened around noon, so if you wanted anything other than machine coffee, you hit McDonald’s on the way to work. Given the changes in Jeonju (one cafe turned into dozens in a few years) I’m sure that’s no longer the case in Iksan, either.

    • Joe Milan Jr. Sep 20, 2014, 3:17 am

      You know that makes sense about Delhi. But outside of the food, which will also adjust a bit for the local taste (Hawaii has spam, eggs and rice, and there’s the Bulgogi burger), but I imagine that outside of the menu, the place itself had a sense of the familiar.

      • Gord Sellar Sep 20, 2014, 11:40 am

        I know what you mean, and definitely the rare occasions I ventured into a Korean Rotten Ronnie’s, they reminded me of the places back home… much more than Starbucks in Korea reminded me of Starbucks in Canada, actually. And the seating and the back-of-counter sounds in the Delhi McDonald’s were familiar, but there was one difference: in Delhi, McDonald’s was actually relativelt expensive in local terms, so the clientele was way better dressed than in your average McDonald’s in, say, Montréal. Maybe not, you know, like a French restaurant, but certainly more like a “family restaurant” than a fast food joint. They looked solidly upper-middle class to me, which was interesting.

        Oh, and speaking as a Canadian, happy meal toys never made me think of the Stars & Stripes. I never even consciously realized McDonald’s was American till, good grief, maybe middle school or later. But that’s Canada. Koreans still definitely see Mickey D’s as American…

        And now you’ve succeeded in reminding me of a funny story about McDonald’s and anti-American boycotts back in my first year in Korea, but to hell with it, I’ll blog that at my place and link you…

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