McDonalds international menu: Why eating at McDonalds is more cultural than you think

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(Last updated on: 19/10/2020)

Did you know that the McDonalds international menu is often more cultural than you might think?

McDonalds has been a dominant player in globalisation and can now be found all over the world. Whilst most outlets do serve the usual Big Mac and fries, McDonalds does make a wonderful effort to adapt its menu according to the local culture. In fact, you could loosely argue that visiting a McDonalds restaurant on your travels is a form of cultural tourism!

For many years I used think that eating at McDonalds when I travel was uncultured, but now I know that I was wrong… read to find out why eating at McDonalds is more cultural than you think…

McDonalds international menu

Why we don’t usually choose to eat at McDonalds…

I would like to start off by explaining that when we are at home we never eat McDonalds. We do not like McDonalds in our family. We don’t like that’s in unhealthy. We don’t like that it’s full of chemicals and questionable ingredients (I mean, we’ve all the rumours about the mouse in the chicken nuggets….) We don’t like that it’s uncultured, or is it?

There are times where needs must. Like the first night that we arrived in China and we were terribly jet lagged, didn’t understand the language at all and there was a McDonalds conveniently located outside our hotel lobby. After twenty hours of travelling with a four month old baby, a two year old toddler and 17 pieces of luggage! (yes, the extra baggage fees were high…) that Big Mac was always going to go down well! But McDonalds wouldn’t typically be our choice of evening meal.

I mean, seriously. Have you seen the crap that goes into this food?! This image below gives you some idea, but I recommend that you take a look at this article to get the full low down.

And don’t forget that McDonalds is outrageously fattening! I’ve had two babies and I’m approaching my mid thirties… I’ve gotta make a bit of effort with this mummy tummy these days!

And have you seen the film Super Size me? Seriously scary stuff!

Super Size me was a controversial film released in 2004.

And then there’s the question of ethics… how much meat is actually in those chicken nuggets? Should we be enticing children into McDonalds restaurants with play areas and free toys? Oh My God- the salads have more calories in them than the burgers!

There are plenty of reasons NOT to go too McDonalds…

Cultural adaptations in McDonalds international menu

Whilst many McDonalds menu items are always the same, and I mean EXACTLY the same no matter where you are, each country has its unique menu items too.

I first spotted this when I was teaching in Thailand. I was all ‘riced out’ and so I went to the McDonalds in the local shopping mall for some much needed Western cuisine. However, I thought I had stepped into the wrong fast food restaurant when I saw that everybody was eating RICE. WHAT!! McDonalds don’t serve rice…. or do they?!

What I learnt at this time, was that McDonalds will alter its menu to the local tastes. Yes, this means no beef in India and rice in Thailand. Oh and the McFlurry ice creams in Australia are AMAZING!

Because we (well, most of us) are so familiar with the staple goods found on the McDonalds menus at home, visiting a McDonalds in another country can actually be a very interesting experience. And if you’re not one for experimenting with the local food, then a quick visit to Mcdonalds can give you a brief and interesting cultural encounter!

My favourite McDonalds international menu items

There are some amazing items on the McDonalds international menu! For all their woes, you have to give McDonalds credit for their innovation and adaptation to differently worldly tastes!

Here are some of my favourite McDonalds international menu items that I have encountered on my travels.

Bubblegum Squash McFlurry

Country: Australia; New Zealand 

When travelling to Australia I was impressed with the variety of ice cream on offer in McDonalds restaurants, and the bubblegum flavour really got my attention!

This soft white ice cream is blended with marshmallows and bubblegum-flavored syrup. It’s super sweet and lots of fun!

McNürnburger

Country: Germany 

If it’s German, it must include sausages! This is the only country where I have come across sausages in McDonalds.

A cross between a burger and a hot dog, three Bratwurst sausages are served with mustard and onions in a bun.

McCurry Pan

Country:: India 

You would never guess this menu item came from McDonalds! The McCurry pan is a crispy pan of curried vegetables baked in a cream sauce.

The exciting part? You can eat the pan!

McNoodles

McNoodles Chicken Curry: Original asiatische Weizennudeln mit gebratenem Hühnerbrustfleisch, frischem Asia-Gemüse und köstlicher Curry Sauce. McNoodles Chicken Süß-Sauer: Köstliche Weizennudeln aus dem fernen Asien mit feinstem Huhn, knackfrischem Asia-Gemüse und pikanter Süss-Sauer Sauce.

Country: Austria 

Who knew McDonalds did such good stir fry? This bowl of noodles is packed with veggies and was for sale in Austria for several months when the population was ‘stir fry crazy’.

Taro Pie

Country: China 

Popular throughout China, this pie is filled with taro-root, which has a similar taste to sweet potato.

Similarly to the well-known apple pie, it doesn’t actually resemble a pie in the slightest.

Sausage and Egg Twisty Pasta Breakfast

Country: Hong Kong

I have never heard of people eating pasta for breakfast, but apparently they do at McDonalds!

This McDonalds international menu item is found in Hong Kong and is essentially a pasta and vegetable soup topped with a sausage patty and hardboiled egg.

McShrimp

Country: Russia 

Prawns in a burger? Why not!

The McShrimp is generally eaten as a side dish in Russian McDonalds restaurants. This is an alternative to fries.

Chicken McDo with Spaghetti

Country: Philippines 

Fried chicken and pasta might not be your typical combination, but it sure is popular in the Philippines!

McDonalds Around the World menu

It seems that word has got out that McDonalds have some wonderful dishes in various parts of the world! So in the USA the restaurant recently launched it’s McDonalds Around the World menu, to provide people with a little taste of travel, without leaving their home town.

Here is a taste (pun intended) of what’s on offer…

McDonalds International menu: To conclude

So, there we have it- a bunch of examples that prove that visiting a McDonalds restaurant on your travels might be more cultural than you think!

Have you tried any of these fast food items? Or do you have any other interesting examples? Let me know in the comments below!

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ABOUT

Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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