Why Do We Eat at McDonald’s When We Travel?

November 20, 2020 Admin

Travel blogger Johnny Jet had a fun piece on his blog yesterday, a list of reasons why people eat at McDonald’s when they’re on the road.

And it got me to thinking about past travels and the times I’ve (yes, I admit it) ducked underneath the Golden Arches when I’m travelling.

Johnny said he thinks some folks do it to check out how things are done differently around the world. And that’s a good point. I know in Hawaii they sometimes have Portuguese sausage on the menu at breakfast, which is awesome. I think some outlets sell Spam musubi, which is white sushi rice topped with a slice of Spam (many Hawaiians love it) and wrapped with a bit of seaweed. (Highly recommended, and hardly any calories or salt!)

I don’t dine at McDonald’s too often during my travels, unless you count mornings in U.S. cities where I get up and grab a coffee and Sausage McMuffin to save time and money. That I do a fair bit. (I love those things but I don’t feel the need for the cheese, so I peel that off.)

But lunch or dinner in Paris? Not so much. I remember being hungry once in Frankfurt after a long trip and craving a burger and stopping at McDonald’s. I also had a strange experience in Rotorua, New Zealand a few years ago when I was short on cash and wanted something cheap for dinner. I went to the Mickey Dee’s in town and, since I don’t like ketchup and have never liked the onions they have at McDonald’s, asked for a quarter pounder “with extra pickles and extra mustard only.” The kid behind the counter scrunched up his face and said, “Only extra pickles and mustard? Don’t you want the meat?” And they say good help is hard to find…..

Anyhow, I enjoyed reading the comments from some of my fellow travel writers, and I think they make a lot of sense. Travelling is fun. It’s exhilarating. But sometimes we get tired of looking at menus and trying to remember if a “courgette” is an eggplant or a zucchini, or what “senf” is when you’re ordering a “Frankfurter mit senf” in Holland (a lesson I had to learn on my first trip, back in 1979). Sometimes we just want something cozy and familiar when we’re on the road, and that means McDonald’s. Or Starbucks. Or even a Tim Hortons in Britain.

My friend Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington told Johnny she feels guilty about it but will sometimes stop in a foreign city for a quick Filet O’Fish because she knows what she’s getting.

It’s like we have this internal clock. Sure, we’re in Rome or maybe Bangkok, but after five or six days of local cuisine we walk through the city at 11:30 a.m. and spot a McDonald’s off in the distance, and we’re drawn to it (some of us) like a moth to a flame.

Ordering North American fast food on the road when you’re tired or in a hurry is a perfectly normal thing to do. I’m sure Parisians who visit Canada or the U.S. get sick of our cuisine after a few days and go searching for a place with steak frites or bouillabaisse. Mind you, they have to pay a lot more to satisfy their cravings than we do. Ha!

(On a related note, if you ARE a fan of Mickey Dee’s on the road here’s a fun chart I wrote about the other day that shows the cost of a Big Mac in cities around the world.)

Thanks to Johnny for giving me a distraction from border closures and cruise line postponements. It’s fun to talk about something else for a change.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s YOUR go-to North American treat when you’re on the road? If you have time while you’re in line at McDonald’s today, drop a comment in the commenting section and let me know.

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One response to “Why Do We Eat at McDonald’s When We Travel?”

  1. Lorraine Wilson-Saliba says:

    McDonald’s on the Champs Élysées was my favourite, followed by the little delivery bikes in Egypt (and a great souvenir beach towel)!!

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