Photo Gallery: McDonald’s Around the World

Like it or not, you can’t ignore the fact that McDonald’s is one of the largest companies in the entire world, with restaurants stretching into virtually every country. The classic golden arch remains the same no matter where you are — a neon stamp of globalization; it’s proof that an idea, an “American dream,” can spread like wildfire across our globe. But not every McDonald’s is the same.

“If a Mongolian restaurant seems exotic to us in Evanston, Ill.,” said Pico Iyer in his brilliant essay, Why We Travel, “it only follows that a McDonald’s would seem equally exotic in Ulan Bator — or, at least, equally far from everything expected.”

Your reaction to this, to something like finding a McDonald’s were you least expect it, is often used, unfortunately, as a basis to generalize how you experience the world outside your own. Scoff at the idea, and you’re a “traveler”; stand in line for some McNuggets when you could be dining on local cuisine, you’re a “tourist.”

“… perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don’t,” Iyer continues. “Among those who don’t, a tourist is just someone who complains, ‘Nothing here is the way it is at home,’ while a traveler is one who grumbles, ‘Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo — or Cuzco or Kathmandu.’ It’s all very much the same.”

So before you immediately belittle the idea of a McDonald’s in Bombay, stop and take a look. What’s different? How has the local culture left its own one-of-a-kind mark on an American tradition? Leave your assumptions at home, and see each and every spot on the globe unique in its own right, even if there is a McDonald’s on every corner.

P.S. The point of this post was to direct you towards this “McDonald’s Worldwide” photoset on Flickr, which showcases the differences in McDonald’s across the globe. I got carried away there. Oops!