I had a Big Mac in Narita (the Tokyo airport) Tuesday, and I eat fairly often when overseas at McDonald’s (or sometimes other US fast-feeders, though McD is by far most prevalent). I think I probably eat at such places more often (proportionally) when overseas than I do at home – though that’s not saying much, since I don’t eat a lot of Big Macs in the States.
I was hardly alone at the Narita McDonald’s. It was pretty busy, with probably about half the customers, while I was there, being Americans or perhaps Europeans.
Some people, I know, strongly disapprove of this practice. To which I say, “Stuff it.” OK, OK, I’ll back off on that. Some of those disapproving folks condemn McDonald’s in general and are of the Nanny mentality who think that no one else should be allowed to do anything of which Nanny disapproves. They are the ones who deserve that 'stuff it'.
But others feel that eating a Big Mac detracts from the travel experience. This is a reasonable viewpoint and deserves a more reasonable response than the above.
I can think of three good reasons for eating at McDonald’s in Tokyo (or in Prague or Shanghai or other places where I have done so). Two apply to me:
- It’s comfort food. Yes, I get homesick when I travel and I want a taste of home. McDonald’s may not be great food, but it’s sure as heck American food, and there are times when I need that.
- It’s reliable. I repeat that it may not be great, but you know just exactly how good/bad it’s going to be. If I ate at one of the sushi places in Narita (assuming I liked sushi, which I don’t) or one of their other restaurants, it might be much better than McDonald’s. Then again, it might be much worse. There are times I’m in the mood to experiment, and times I just want a safe (boring, if you prefer) choice.
A third reason for choosing McD instead of sampling local cuisine no longer applies to me:
- You have kids with you. While I was eating my Big Mac, I saw what looked like (based on the haircut, if nothing else) an American serviceman putting in his order; he was travelling with his wife and two small kids. Yes, you want to expose the kids to new things, but not all the time, and there are times (many times, as any parent can tell you) when you don’t need another fight over what’s for dinner. The kids want a Happy Meal? OK, we’ll get ‘em a damn Happy Meal and shut ‘em up.
So I will continue to eat occasional Big Macs as I continue my world tour. And I will continue to ignore Nanny's disapproving looks.