A Traveller’s Cardinal Sin, Or, The McDonald’s Conflict

by Brenna Holeman

McDonalds Phuket

Phuket, Thailand

I have a confession to make: the very first meal I ate in Venice, ever, was at McDonald’s. I have another confession to make: the very last meal I ate in India was also at McDonald’s. Do I have to hand in my passport now? Will the travelling gods banish me to hell, AKA a smelly night bus in Laos with only snoring men and crying babies and ridiculously loud pop music and lawn chairs for seats (yes, I’ve been in this hell, and it is the route from Phonsavan to Vientiane)? Should we feel guilty about eating at McDonald’s when we travel?

I have heard the question countless times from both fellow travellers and people at home: have you ever eaten at McDonald’s when you’ve been on the road? Yes, I have. Am I supposed to be embarrassed of that? Am I supposed to answer with a meek yes, my head down in eternal shame? A few bloggers have also covered this topic, but here’s my take on it.

Let’s go back to Italy. I had just arrived in Marghera, one of Venice’s boroughs. It’s a short train ride away from the heart of Venice, and I was staying there because it was much cheaper. I dropped off my bag at the hostel, but decided to keep my exploring of the city for the following day; it was night, and I was tired from the journey from Florence. “I’ll just get some food from a street vendor,” I thought, “or go to the supermarket.”

Wouldn’t you know it, by the time I ventured out, everything around was shut. Everything but… McDonald’s. I’m sure I could have kept wandering and found something else, but it was dark and I was wary of getting lost. So what did I do? I committed blasphemy, that’s what! I bought a large order of fries and a chocolate milkshake.

And it was delicious. Delicious blasphemy.

McDonalds New Delhi

New Delhi, India

My experiences in India with the proliferous restaurant were similar; I actually ate there twice, both in New Delhi. The first time was with my beloved friend Kisha. She had just started her year of living there, and we met up (because that’s what you do when you find out you’re both in New Delhi). We went for a walk, did some shopping, and then decided that we were a bit hungry. Whatever part of the city we found ourselves in, it was quite corporate and modern, and we didn’t see many restaurants. I don’t remember who suggested McDonald’s, but I was definitely intrigued: how does a chain restaurant famous for beef hamburgers survive in a country of sacred cows?

I’ll tell you how they survive: the McAloo Tikki burger. It is not a fair representation of aloo tikki, a delicious dish made from potatoes and spices, but it was pretty damn tasty.

McDonalds New Delhi 2

The second time I went to McDonald’s in New Delhi was on my very last night in the country. I was by myself, it was late at night, and the hotel that had promised, promised that I had my reservation booked didn’t, in fact, have my reservation booked. On top of this, they claimed that they didn’t have my backpack that I had stored with them for a week while I went to Amritsar. When I showed them my bag tag, another story emerged. Apparently the only man who had a key to the storage room had been in a terrible accident and was now in a coma in the hospital (I am not making this story up). It was only when I threatened to tell all of this to G Adventures, the company that had introduced me to this hotel when I first flew to India, that my bag magically materialized. It was covered in so much dust and dirt you’d swear it had been buried under the hotel for two years.

Fuming, I was led to a sister hotel down the street, one that had no hot water and no internet service, though it did have a TV with lots of reruns of Castle. At that point, I was so exhausted and so overwhelmed with the entire situation that the thought of venturing outside again for food left me in a near state of panic. I needed something cheap, fast, and something that I could bring back to the hotel with me to enjoy in all my Nathan Fillion glory. You see where I’m going here. McDonald’s to the rescue again.

I can think of a handful of other times I’ve eaten at McDonald’s when I’ve been travelling – a few times, while very intoxicated, in Chiang Mai, and another time in France, because of McBeer, obviously. I had an ice cream sundae in Arequipa, Peru, and breakfast at the airport in Malaysia. I also allowed myself the odd Big Mac in Japan. Does this mean that I didn’t eat any Thai food, or get to know Peruvian cuisine, or sample some of that famous French fare? When I lived in Japan, was I simply munching on cheeseburgers and ignoring all of the culinary delights of that country? Of course not. I don’t eat at McDonald’s that regularly (it’s been over six months since I’ve visited, in any country), but sometimes it’s just easy and cheap. Sometimes, you’re curious to check out all the different options another country’s menu might have. Sometimes, you just want it. And is that really so bad?

Some of you, right now, are thinking, “You brain-washed, meat-eating, hormone-loving, corporate-ass-kissing lemming! How dare you! You are ruining the world! You call yourself a traveller?!” Well, guess what? I often wind up at chain restaurants or stores when I travel. Of course I would prefer to support local companies, but sometimes, as seen in the examples above, it’s not always an option. I do not make a habit of it by any means, but occasionally it’s the most convenient choice, not to mention the restaurants are usually efficient and comfortable, with air conditioning, wi-fi, clean bathrooms, and excellent people-watching. And occasionally, as I said above, I just really crave fast food – like when, in Peru, a country known for its amazing cuisine, all Kerri and I wanted was a Subway sandwich.

Subway in Peru

And we enjoyed it immensely. Lima, Peru

Once again I envision the angry backpackers storming my doorstep, wearing their hiking boots and waving their travel towels in protest. “But how could you?” they chant. “It’s not part of the culture.” And here’s where I say something that may get me into trouble: it is. It is part of the culture. While we may not agree with the morals and ethics of a company, can we just expect a country to… not evolve? To not change? To not develop? To stay forever locked in our perfect image of that place, whatever it may be, one devoid of Starbucks and The Gap and KFC? As much as we may not like it, it’s not fair to insist on these idealised notions of a place. Countries are forever changing, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but as travellers, it’s not really our right to impose what we think a country should or shouldn’t be like, or should or shouldn’t contain.

One of my favourite stories from my time living in Yaroslavl, Russia, was told by one of my volunteer supervisors. She remembered when the Iron Curtain finally fell, and slowly but surely Western companies started emerging in Russia. When the first McDonald’s opened in the city, people treated it like the finest quality of American dining; she told me women wore their nicest clothes to eat there. It was a reminder that, even the everyday stuff we find common or boring, someone, somewhere, finds all of it extremely alluring and wonderfully foreign.

According to my statistics, most of my readers come from North America, the UK, and Australia. We are used to seeing the same chains over and over again. We don’t necessarily want to fly to what we consider an exotic destination only to be greeted by one of these same chains (I’m looking at you, Giza. The Great Pyramids of Egypt! Oh, and if you turn around, Burger King). Yes, it sucks to try to take a beautiful photo of Paris only to have those damned golden arches ruin the view, but we live in 2013. To expect a place to forever remain the picturesque postcard we have in our minds is to trivialize a place and its people. Imagine the reverse: if a Thai person flies to New York, and sees a Thai restaurant, does she bemoan the collapse of American culture? Probably not.

To be honest, I don’t care if I ever visit a McDonald’s again. I don’t plan on eating there anytime soon (unless desperate, or drunk, or if a McAloo Tikki is on the menu. Note: the same rules apply to my ex-boyfriend). But I can’t drone on about how horrific it is that McDonald’s is all over the world now – it’s just the way the world is changing. I don’t agree with many of the company’s policies, nor do I condone that way of eating or what it is doing to our environment and health, but, if one of their restaurants opens in a new city, and people want to eat there, that is their prerogative. I don’t judge people on where they want to travel, so I can’t start judging people on where they want to eat.*

McDonalds Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand

And now the dreaded question: have you ever eaten at McDonald’s or another fast-food restaurant in your travels? Why or why not? If not, do you judge people who do?

*OK, I guess if you flew to a new country and only ate at McDonald’s, I might judge you a little bit. Just like I judge the young man I met in Thailand who had developed scurvy from only consuming noodles and beer. Seriously, dude? Limes are like 5 baht!

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A Country Girls World July 11, 2013 - 4:21 am

I have actually had McDonalds while traveling, but only once. Sadly it was because we were having such bad experiences with food in France and had been eating croissants for 15 days straight! So, when we saw McDonald’s, you better believe we jumped on it! Normally, unless it is at an airport, I don’t eat fast food while traveling.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:24 am

I find I often eat at fast food restaurants in airports, too – it seems like they are the only options!

Jill July 11, 2013 - 5:22 am

Of course! Sometimes you’re in a pinch and that’s just the best option. I don’t have too many vivid McDonald’s memories (should I be keeping better track of that?) but Subway has definitely been a lifesaver for me on more than one occasion. And there was that one night in Colombo when my partner and I went on a wild goose hunt for the KFC that was supposedly right around the corner. It was one of those times when we just needed to see some familiar food. I’d rather be judged by judgey travelers than go hungry!

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:25 am

Ha ha – it’s strange, I thought I hadn’t been to many McDonald’s but once I started writing, all the memories started flooding in. And yes, haters gonna hate, but sometimes I need a cheeseburger!

Bailey@Lost&Found July 11, 2013 - 5:35 am

I ate at a Subway while in Krabi, Thailand- more than once during the two weeks I was there. My fiance and I had been traveling for about 5 months and a simple sandwich (with fresh veggies we hoped wouldn’t get us sick) sounded amazing. For short travels, I personally feel that fast food is a no no- unless there is no other option. But this is simply because traveling for me is so much about indulging in different foods. Also, I never eat fast food at home, so i must be pretty desperate to eat it while traveling.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:28 am

When I was in South East Asia I really missed fresh salads and sandwiches – it makes sense that you would want Subway! I rarely eat fast food at home, too, but I agree with you that I try to never eat it on shorter trips. If I only have a few days in a place, I would rather eat at local restaurants!

kathrynm1989 July 11, 2013 - 5:51 am

My last meal in Canada in May (before leaving on a year long trip around the world) was McDonalds. I was super embarassed, but I picked my little sister up from daycare to say goodbye before my flight left and it was the only place she wanted to go. We both got happy meals. And now I have a really sweet memory of home while I travel. If I ever do eat at a McD’s while I’m travelling this year I’m going to think back to our lunch together and smile! Even though I got some pretty wicked heartburn from my mcnuggets. lol

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:28 am

Aw, that’s such a sweet story! What a great memory. I laughed out loud at your last line…

Joanna July 11, 2013 - 6:58 am

I really don’t see the issue with eating fast food abroad! When I lived in Milan, I’d go to McDonalds fairly often and even in the most touristy areas, the customers were 99% Italian. Same when I lived in France. I totally agree with you that it’s selfish and patronising to expect a country to do without the little things that make our lives easier, because we want it to be historically “authentic”. I lived in a tiny village in Italy. 5,000 people and it had several chain supermarkets and a Benetton. Didn’t mean it wasn’t an authentic village experience!

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:29 am

Totally agree with you! I’m glad that other people feel the same.

Jay July 11, 2013 - 7:20 am

We’ve been to Subway and McDonalds abroad (probably others if I thought long and hard about it.) We don’t make a habit of it but every once in awhile, we just need easy and there is nothing easier than a chain restaurant when travelling. It usually happens when the days are fraught with problems and we couldn’t be bothered to try to find another restaurant. Either that or we’re tired of the ‘local cuisine’ and we long for a familiar taste. I don’t think it’s a cardinal sin, I think it’s reality.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:30 am

Absolutely – I only want fast food when I can’t be bothered to deal with anything else in the day. I agree that it’s reality!

kristine February 6, 2014 - 3:12 am

I read your post and I was laughing. I try to veer away from fastfood whenever I can, when I’mhome. I recently went solo travelling for eight days: Singapore – Chiang Mai – Ayutthaya and Bangkok. I had to go to the airport for four times. Sallying from place to place, I never had enough time to consider the best places to eat when I arrive at these places, when all I wanted was to reach my next destinations, without feeling too famished. Hence, I ate countless double cheese burger meals in Macdonald’s and 6-inch ham sandwiches in Subways.

Now, I have a deep regard to Mcdonalds, which saw me through my days in foreign lands. 🙂

Brenna Holeman February 7, 2014 - 2:14 am

Ha ha – you gotta do what you gotta do! I totally understand your situation, it’s called “fast food” after all.

Briana C. July 11, 2013 - 7:28 am

Okay, I have a confession… I eat at McDonalds in every country I visit. *hides face* It is something we started as a family while we were living in Europe and so I still do it. We actually don’t eat at McDonalds much outside of that once in a country. And I like to argue that eating at McDonalds is very cultural. They differ SO MUCH by country that you really can learn a lot about different countries. I also do the same thing with cokes. I don’t drink coke at home, but while I am on the road I love to sample them from each country. Because yet again, they change based on the country.

And on our last trip, I was traveling with my mom and she got a stomach bug. So we did default to fast food a couple of times: Subway once, McDonalds twice. I see no problem with it, unless that is all you ever eat. In that case I would totally judge someone. But we did eat local food and we always do! It is just nice to have that little traveling tradition. 🙂

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:34 am

What?! Don’t hide, that’s awesome! I think it’s a really cute tradition – a friend of mine does it, too. The restaurants really do differ from country to country.

Here’s a blog post I did about drinking coke in different countries! https://www.thisbatteredsuitcase.com/2010/06/yaroslavl-russia-tondabayashi-japan.html

Ruth Dear July 11, 2013 - 9:41 am

I think these major international chains are a necessary evil! Like you say, sometimes, as a traveller, they come to your rescue as somewhere familiar, with wi-fi and air con! Other times you see one plonked next to an ancient temple or ruin and you despair at the state of the world! I remember being very underwhelmed the first time I visited the Trevi fountain in Rome and directly opposite was a united colors of Benetton. I don’t know why, but that really took away from the magic of the fountain!

But then again, after two years in Seoul, I was elated upon eating in Mccdonalds outside the Kremlin in Moscow and ordering a fillet o’fish (they only have shrimp burgers in Korean McDonald!)

When the Starbucks in Insadong, Seoul opened the local shop owners tried to get it shut down, as that area is a real traditional Korean street with many antique stores. Although they weren’t successful in getting the place closed, they managed to get them to change the sign into Hangeul and make the inside of the store more like a traditional Korean place! In fact I’ve heard quite a few stories of places resisting the big chains, McDonalds in France being burned down and the Starbucks in the Forbidden City closing down after 7 years of protest, and all McDonald closing in Bolivia after operating on losses for 10 years as Bolivians don’t eat there!

I definitely agree with you that it’s interesting to see the variations in menu in different countries.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:43 am

Great analogy – a necessary evil. I was just at the Trevi fountain and thought that was sort of weird, too, although I’m also so used to seeing chain stores/restaurants around famous landmarks.

That’s really interesting about Seoul – I’ve seen a few of these more “traditional” fast food stores and wondered what the deal was.

Pratyeka July 11, 2013 - 10:08 am

Perhaps for people who can only travel abroad for a week or two, and have the trip carefully planned, never eating at recognizable chains is the way to go – I can understand that thinking. You want it all to be unique and memorable and completely unlike your own country. After spending a long time traveling or living in another country/countries, though, things come up – you don’t have time, or you don’t have energy, or you just want a taste of home. I don’t like eating meat, so I don’t frequent McDonald’s, but I do love Subway and Starbucks here in Japan, and there are plenty of Japanese chains I’d be happy to see in the West – Mos Burger, with their kinpira gobo rice burger, Mister Donuts, Coco Ichibanya Curry House…
Also, although I don’t eat there, I really loved seeing the Dragonball-suited Colonel outside of KFC when they were promoting the movie recently: http://www.kanzenshuu.com/2013/03/06/third-phase-of-kfc-smile-set-db-items/

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:45 am

I can understand that thinking, too. I totally agree with your comment! And that Colonel is hilarious, ha ha…

Katie @ Domestiphobia.net July 11, 2013 - 1:21 pm

Yes. And I’m actually shocked (though not really) that people get all up-in-arms about it. Here’s why:

1) It provides a nostalgic taste of “home.” After two months in Costa Rica, I needed something besides rice and beans, and when we finally came across a McD’s, it definitely helped overcome a small bout of homesickness. Look. I don’t even eat at McDonald’s here because the ingredient list is atrocious and I mainly try to eat “real” foods with real ingredients that don’t poison my body. But food laws in other countries – especially in Europe – are way stricter than North America and especially the U.S., so the odds are that fast food there is actually better.

2) It still has the arches, but it’s always fun to see what else is on the menu. I thought it was way cool I could order a beer at McD’s in Germany. That IS travel – seeing how one country differs from your own. So anyone who says it’s not “real” travel to eat at certain restaurants in certain countries comes across as ridiculously elitist and also pretty closed-minded. I mean, look at your McAloo Tikki burger – I’m dying to try that!

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:48 am

I barely eat fast food here, either, and it’s nice to know that it might be slightly, slightly healthier in another country…

And yes, seeing what’s on the menu is such a fun part of travelling. I hate that talk of “real” travel – I can’t stand people who judge like that. You’re right, so elitist and close-minded.

Christine July 11, 2013 - 2:07 pm

I totally understand and I don’t judge people who eat at McD’s as long as you eat other local foods, haha.

I sometimes need free wi-fi and Mcdonald’s saves the day and I buy something so I don’t feel so bad using their wi-fi. I did that in Portugal and it was fine.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:38 am

Totally – and I must admit that the local food is almost always much better!

MacKenzie July 11, 2013 - 3:02 pm

Sometimes a girl just needs a clean bathroom and some fries!! And free WiFi didn’t hurt either. 🙂

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:35 am

Amen! I should have deleted everything else and just written that.

Carolyn July 11, 2013 - 4:14 pm

The Piri Piri fries that you shook in a paper bag were the bomb diggity

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:36 am

Ha ha – indeed!

JenniferMP July 12, 2013 - 12:18 am

I have eaten Mcdonalds in Spain, France, Peru, and Amsterdam…. Once in each place. Its fun to see the different menus, each sandwhich has its own unique sauce ect. Sometimes your budget wont allow you to splurge on anymore nice meals… Sometimes you ate the local food enough, and its time for a cheap convinient familar meal…. Im ashamed to admit it too, so you are brave!!! Lol 🙂 but we all do it!

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 2:38 am

Maybe we all do – I’ve definitely encountered travellers (and non-travellers) who really turn their nose up at people who eat fast food. I don’t see what the big deal is, as long as it is in moderation!

liveletlive July 12, 2013 - 3:22 am

I actually watched a documentary once on how mcDonalds and other chains like Subway change menus to fit countries. Just because you eat at an american chain doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a little culture! lol

Also, Travelers need a little home confort every once in a while too! Especially long term constant traveller like you.

Alyssa James July 12, 2013 - 3:46 am

“…can we just expect a country to…not evolve? To not change? To not develop? To stay forever locked in our perfect image of that place, whatever it may be, one devoid of Starbucks and The Gap and KFC?”

So true! I think that die-hard travellers often get caught up in this “authentic” experience thing and then end up projecting their own ideas about what is authentic to a place. You’re totally right to think about what this McAloo Tikki means in the wider scheme of things.

In Jamaica, especially 10-15 years ago, eating at KFC was the ish! Not in the “black people love chicken sort of way,” but being able to afford to eat KFC instead of ground provisions and porridge was a sign of status and/or wealth. I sort of recognized this in Dominica as well, which has been late to the fast-food party (and as a result has the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world).

You know it’s a great post when you get people thinking about wider issues! Sehr gut.

Yours in Travel,


This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 5:08 am

Oh God, I know. What is the “authentic experience” anyway? Makes my blood boil.

That’s really interesting about Jamaica – I think quite a few countries have been like that with fast food restaurants (like the Russia example). And that’s such a cool fact about Dominica, although that doesn’t really surprise me!

Audrey Bergner July 12, 2013 - 4:49 am

I’ve had a lot of Subway and McDonalds while I’ve travelled. Sometimes it’s the only option when I’m waiting to catch a bus or a plane, other times it’s the most affordable option, and then there are instances where it’s what I’m craving.

This Battered Suitcase July 12, 2013 - 5:06 am

Absolutely! In fact, all of this talk of McDonald’s has me kind of craving some fries, ha ha…

Brittany July 13, 2013 - 8:31 am

Funnily enough, I go out of my way to eat McDonalds in every country I visit because in each place you visit, not only do they have different options on the menu (as you pointed out in India) but their base foods (i.e., Chicken Nuggets, Fries) taste different in each country.

I’ve never seen it as an embarrassment and honestly, it’s no one else’s business what I eat unless it was a serious problem.

This Battered Suitcase July 14, 2013 - 4:42 am

For sure! I totally agree with your last sentence, it’s nobody’s business what I eat!

Nells July 14, 2013 - 12:51 am

Done it here in Jakarta on more than one occasion. However, when I was in Singapore on a day trip fro Jakarta, I stopped at a Subway. Subway is not available in Indonesia so I ate my Italian BMT with relish.

This Battered Suitcase July 14, 2013 - 4:42 am

I totally get it! Sometimes we just need a sandwich.

Liane M September 22, 2013 - 9:43 am

When I backpacked through Europe with my friend, we managed to go through eleven countries without any McD’s or other fast food. Where did we falter? After a (very long) night out drinking in Prague. After getting back to our hostel at 5AM and only getting a few hours of sleep, needless to say we were pretty hungover the next day. Not wanting to miss out on another day in Prague though, we walked over 5km’s into the heart of the city to sight-see some more. Then, after an hour of walking in the heat of the summer while being completely hungover and not having eaten anything at all that day, we spotted it – the golden arches! We both got a big mac with large fries and a coke, and it was (to this day) one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

Brenna September 22, 2013 - 5:17 pm

Ha ha – classic tale of the need for McDonald’s while hungover! Good on you for resisting so long, though. I have definitely faltered more often than I’d care to say…

Janelle September 30, 2013 - 12:15 pm

And there is also the very handy fact that I know that I can get change for big bills from an ATM at Maccas that I would not be able to use at a little market stall or somewhere – and a 50c ice-cream cone is a very handy way to need change on a hot day 😀

Brenna September 30, 2013 - 1:17 pm

Ha ha – fair point!

Jade November 15, 2013 - 12:32 am

I have “indulged” in the culinary delights of McDonalds (or Maccas as we say in Australia). I remember mum and I had it one night in Los Angeles, because really who wouldn’t want to experience a traditional American McDonald’s meal? I also went to china for a school trip and if we had options of a free night to get your own dinner we would choose Maccas…. It was a strange experience, there were definitely a lot of different things on the menu, and they love chicken so there was definitely a lot more of that than there was beef.

Brenna Holeman November 15, 2013 - 3:03 am

Yes, I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to try some of the local fast food! It’s fascinating how much it varies around the world.

Thanks for your comment!

Eating McDonald's is a Crime - Bubble of Blah | Bubble of Blah February 8, 2014 - 8:16 am

[…] A Traveller’s Cardinal Sin, or the McDonald’s Conflict […]

Katie February 13, 2014 - 8:36 pm

I loved this post 🙂 I’m of exactly the same opinion as you. I’d eat McDonald’s while travelling if it was convenient, but it definitely wouldn’t be on my day-to-day menu (although I have to admit when I lived in China I did eat there when I was craving something familiar and plain!).

Brenna Holeman February 13, 2014 - 10:56 pm

Definitely! Sometimes it’s just got to be done.

Jacquelyn March 13, 2014 - 6:27 am

I agree with you, as long as you only eat it occasionally, and anyone who makes you feel bad probably secretly craves it as well! It’s cheap, reliable, and sort of comforting. In Australia, where the burgers are quite different, McDonald’s was the only place I could (mostly) satisfy my craving. During one of the worst hangovers of my life in Thailand recently, when the sight and thought of most food made me sick, McDonald’s saved the day.
Comparing menus from country to country is also fun, and even cultural as someone argued. Now I want some fries!

Brenna Holeman March 16, 2014 - 10:10 pm

Thanks for the comment, Jacquelyn! I agree – sometimes McDonald’s can save the day. I also ate it one very hungover day in Austria a few months ago!

Victoria April 12, 2014 - 2:47 pm

This post is so funny Brenna and yet so true! I tried McDonalds in India too and I wanted to do so to see what is was like LOL. I never go to the Big Mac in English-speaking countries but I must tell you that even though it’s cheap for us, it isn’t for them. In fact, the locals who go to corporate chains tend to be middle-class or higher.

I live in Berlin and a big Mac is about €8.00. A proper meal for lunch with soup and a salad is €5.00. As far as the locals are concerned corporate joints like Starbucks is for the rich, the tourists, and the expats!
Great post. 🙂

Brenna Holeman April 12, 2014 - 5:49 pm

I was shocked at how expensive McDonald’s in Austria was, but on that hungover day, I needed it! Thanks for the comment, Victoria.

Michele May 29, 2014 - 12:24 pm

I have travelled on most continents to a lot of countries. When I need a clean toilet and some food quality (and I don’t mean quality of ingredients, but having a fair idea of what I am going to get) McDonald’s is the only place to go. Definitely the cleanest toilets in Asia (except Singapore)!!!

There is absolutely no shame in going for the familiar when stressed, tired, afraid, etc, etc.

Love your site!!

Thank you


Brenna Holeman May 29, 2014 - 1:31 pm

Thanks for the comment, Michele! I definitely agree about the clean toilets thing…

Tracy Askew July 17, 2014 - 6:02 pm

Yes, 3 times and of all places Italy. Venice, just because eating got to be a budget buster, in Florence, just because it was late and nothing else was open and Granada Spain, I was craving that Special Sauce!

Brenna Holeman July 17, 2014 - 8:52 pm

Sometimes it’s totally necessary!

Eating McDonald's is a Crime - Kristine Can November 22, 2014 - 11:26 am

[…] A Traveller’s Cardinal Sin, or the McDonald’s Conflict […]

Sarah November 29, 2015 - 8:59 pm

I had KFC and Mcdonalds in Beijing, and the KFC was the most amazing I’ve ever had (one of the spicy crispy chicken burgers or something), but the McDonalds was nasty. I had a double cheese burger, and although it smelled awesome, the taste was horrible and I ended up throwing it out.

Stefan January 20, 2017 - 7:20 pm

Hey Brenna, I know this is an old post but I just came across it. I had a mind blowing experience in Peru because of McDonald’s that you might appreciate. I didn’t eat there, but I was lamenting to a friend I had made in Lima, the fact that there was one in the central square in Cuzco. She was a native Peruvian, had grown up in the repressive government times, and had an amazing response. She said, “Peru has a huge gap between the very rich and the very poor. Where there are very few rich, there are many many poor, and they are very very poor. But McDonald’s to all of them is the equalizer. They both can go there, get something that to them is fancy and for that moment be at the same level as the rich, the poor, America, and the rest of the world. So when you see a McDonald’s in the middle of the square, you are disappointed, but Peruvians see it as hope, as opportunity and equality”. I like to think I’m well traveled, and well aware of other cultures, and in that minute, she taught me I still had a lot to learn.

On the flip side of the coin, I have eaten McD’s in Japan and Korea (really you haven’t lived until you have a shrimp burger).

Brenna Holeman January 21, 2017 - 1:20 am

Oh wow, that is a great story, thank you so much for sharing it here! I really appreciate you taking the time to tell me. Happy travels, Stefan 🙂


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