When I made the decision to put “no Mickey D’s” as one of my ten New Years Resolutions I hadn’t truly considered the absolute dearth of Western options in non-tier-1 Chinese cities. A quarter of the way into 2016 my withdrawal is in full force and I regret ever setting out on this ambitious goal. To be sure, it’s not as if I/we/anyone ever completes every resolution but I felt as if this one is somewhat attainable. To keep a modicum of dignity intact, I shall not relent!
The inception of this radical anti-Golden-Arches stance began amidst a crazy run of a three-meals-a-day binge that isn’t healthy in any country. But, sometimes a man wants a sandwich. And sometimes said man can’t easily find it at his local grocer. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Thing is many Chinese say that they hate McDonalds. It’s evil. It’s foreign. It’s disgusting. And I categorically agree. (In theory.) But sure enough you walk into any one of these fine dining establishments and they are peppered with Chinese. Funny thing about this county is that although so many people say they hate the Big M, there’s still 1.35 billion people here so tens of millions of others are ordering a McDouble somewhere, somehow.
Side note: the amount of weird things you can get there is extraordinary. They had these black and white meat sandwiches (I have zero idea what meat they were) for a new Snoopy movie. Sometimes KFC will have the Portuguese egg tarts. They have fried rice. And recently the genius minds at McDonalds China outdid even themselves. They created the ultimate chicken McNugget. It’s literally a flat piece of breaded chicken larger than your hand in a paper sleeve. That’s it. I wish I had a picture to show but I refuse to walk into that dispicable factory-restaurant. (I think you have the capacity to imagine this anyways. Someone let me know if it comes stateside!)
Anyways, the way many people treat fast food here is nuts, including any quick-service Western chain: Macdos, Burger King, KFC, Subway or even Starbucks. These restaurants are gold. Infallible. Expensive.
Expensive you say? Yes. Mr. Ronald McDonald is actually reasonable but the others are comparable to Chicago prices or in the case of Starbucks even more. The cheapest coffee is over four bucks. But the way many treat it is shocking.
Example: I walked into KFC in a hurry and in need of some comfort (hungover) food. Impatient and fourth in line, I stood tapping my food incessantly while three groups in front of me asked for recommendations, flipped through encyclopedias of coupons and changed their minds more than Hillary Clinton. It’s honestly such shitty food and they treat it like a Zagat-rated restaurant. It took 15 minutes to get three orders.
我要这个。I want that. It’s universal code for foreigners meaning approximately, “I can’t read most of your menu, nor do I care; just give me a fucking chicken sandwich.” She proceeded to outline four variations of chicken sandwiches for which I obviously pointed to the cheapest. I get my Coke and fries immediately, and am told to wait for my sandwich; they need to make it.
Fries and Coke and twenty minutes gone (with no sandwich) it appeared that so too was Mikey. It’s a pity they put so much love into that chicken sangy. I wonder who got to eat it.
Branding obviously goes far anywhere so in no way do I claim that somehow it plays a stronger role here but it very well just may. 🙂 (Watch the Super Bowl or literally anything for that matter and you may claim otherwise.) The strength of some Western brands simply being Western is incredibly powerful. This isn’t to suggest that there are legions of Chinese being duped into buying subpar foreign products, but there definitely are. KFC should never ever be as full as they are here (or anywhere.)
If I leave my building at work there are literally three McDonalds within a five minute walk. I’ve had this conversation before:
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Cmon…” (I say with a wry smile indicating that of course I do.)
“Alright which one?”
We had to debate the merits of the three McDonalds and ultimately we decided on the one with less fresh fries but faster service. It’s a pity that so many students eat there too. It’s unbelievable that so many young students in China are walking around with bags of Coke (yes beverages are always placed in a bag which is an obviously awkward way to carry something with straw and a lid that yearns to be popped off.)
In short I have such a love-hate relationship with the Golden Arches (to the extent that I’m writing about not eating it) but I will certainly stick out the next nine months. It’s a beautiful, vile establishment and quasi-necessary in this Western restaurant desert, but I must carry on.
Until 2017 you stupid clown.