One of the greatest things about traveling is experiencing new customs and new cuisine. Whether it’s sampling new flavors, trying unique food combinations, or biting into something you’ve never heard of before, eating abroad can be a lot of fun.
Yet after a while whether it’s because you’re homesick or because that eighth gyro just doesn’t taste as amazing as the first you find yourself craving something familiar. It may also be that you simply aren’t adventurous with your food and prefer to eat the same thing day after day rather then take the risk that you won’t like something new. Whatever the case you may find yourself wandering over to a McDonalds looking for a Big Mac, Coke and fries to give yourself something familiar to snack on.
Well it turns out that things operate a little differently across the pond than they do here in the United States. McDonalds changes things around all the time to accommodate different customers and different needs and because no two cultures are the same, no two countries’ McDonalds are the same.
Here’s a list of 20 wild things about McDonalds in Europe that don’t exist in the US.
20 Nice Buildings
McDonald’s buildings can be hit or miss in the United States. Some provide a pleasant experience while eating and others you’d only ever get your food through the drive-through because the inside is so bad. Generally speaking there’s a level of quality with most buildings that suggests it’s a fast food restaurant and not the kind of place you tip the workers or hold business meetings.
In Europe the McDonald’s are much nicer, boasting trendy modern décor, interior decorating, and a variety of paint schemes to make the place a comfortable experience when dining. Some are so nice you’d think you were in an upper class restaurant.
19 UK Fries Have A Third of The Ingredients
When looking at what goes into McDonald’s fries in the US you’ll be surprised by just how long the list is and the variety of different chemicals that go into making those crisp golden sticks. Some chemicals are likely harmless and are what make it taste good, but other chemicals like Dimethylpolysiloxane, which McDonald’s states is an “antifoaming agent” make you wonder just how healthy they are.
The UK however has mandated through both law and culture that their fries are made with healthier ingredients and fewer chemicals, a third of the chemicals in fact. There also hasn’t been any news stories about foaming fries so their recipe seems to be working.
18 No Growth Hormones
The United Kingdom is a stickler for what goes in their food. Earlier in this list we mentioned that their fries had a third of the ingredients, but their beef is also lacking some of the chemicals commonly found in American burgers.
Due to country laws McDonalds does not include growth hormones in the production of their beef in the UK. It’s interesting that this is relatively exclusive to the United Kingdom and hasn’t gained traction in the United States given the recent campaign against chemical inclusions in food, but it shows that McDonalds is willing to listen if enough consumers in a given market demand it.
17 Table Service
In the states you are expected to go to the counter to place your order and then wait for your number or name to be called in order to retrieve your food. For some in the United States it’s a fun gimmick to give the workers a tough name and watch them sweat as they try to pronounce it.
Diners in Germany however demanded a different level of service after placing their order. Instead of going back up to the counter after their meals are ready a McDonalds’ worker will bring it to the table. You still have to wait in line to order your food and you have to get your own drinks, but having your food brought to you is a nice touch that’s unfortunately absent in the US.
16 Chicken Big Mac
The United States has plenty of chicken-based sandwiches and that list is growing all the time, but it’s odd that they wouldn’t take their signature burger, the Big Mac, and give it a chicken alternative.
In Spain however, you can order the Chicken Big Mac if you want to forgo red meat for white meat. It’s the exact same as the beef Big Mac with buns in the middle, lettuce, tomato and choice of sauce, but for whatever reason it’s just not offered in the United States. It’s especially strange when you consider that their chicken sandwiches use the same patties as the Chicken Big Mac.
15 Chili Cheese Tops
Another side item to come out of Sweden, and found in parts of Denmark, are the Chili Cheese Tops. This scrumptious looking dish resembles the blessed union of hush puppies and jalapeno poppers. Filled with smoked cheese and spicy chili they come served with your choice of chili dip, in case it wasn’t spicy enough, or a creamy cheese sauce. The one downside to these babies is they only come in fours making them a taunting appetizer, so be sure to grab more than one order with your meal.
14 Greece's Big Mac
McDonald’s burgers in the United States may experiment with the bun every so often, but it mostly remains a standard bread bun. In Greece however, diners are given the option of a Big Mac wrapped in a gyro. The bread is a traditional pita and there’s a creamy yogurt sauce called Tzatziki that replaces the traditional cheese slices found in McDonald’s burgers. If you’re timid to try new foods this could be a great burger to ease into Greece's cuisine while still retaining some Big Mac familiarity, it’s too bad you can’t supersize this.
13 Paris’s McCafe
Perhaps the wildest thing about McDonalds in Europe that doesn’t exist in the United States is Paris’s McCafe. It’s a delightful little restaurant that has counters displaying dozens of desserts ranging from chocolate croissants to macaroons. There’re also more types of coffee then you can shake a fist at and it appears to be the perfect little café to sit back and enjoy being in France.
What’s extremely bizarre about this McCafe is that there are no burgers or fries served within. It’s a McDonalds without everything McDonalds is known for. While the McCafe franchise isn’t exclusive to France it is absent in the United states. Perhaps because diners in the US would be startled to find themselves in a restaurant owned by McDonalds yet unable to buy burgers, fries, or chicken nuggets.
12 Cutlery Served With Burgers
Nothing says fancy like eating a burger with a fork and a knife. In France any of the gourmet burgers are served with a set of cutlery so diners wont have to dirty their fingers when biting into the juicy, cheesy burgers.
What’s more is that the knife and fork isn’t your typical white plastic set commonly found in the United States, but an eco-friendly recyclable version. Both the serving of cutlery and the recyclable feature are part of McDonalds’ way of appealing to the inhabitants of what most people consider the cuisine capital of the world.
11 Vegan Burgers
Yes, there are some vegan alternatives here in the States, but there’s nothing quite like Finland’s vegan friendly burger El Veggo. This soy bean burger with lettuce and tomatoes caters to the anti-meat crowd and the McFeast sauce loaded with mustard, spinach and various seasonings makes it a tasty meal.
McDonald’s other vegan burger the McVegan won the hearts of the people of Finland last year and both are getting attention in the United States. Even though El Veggo is supposed to be a limited edition item, considering it’s one of the few veggie burgers McDonald’s has it probably won’t be off the menus for long.
10 Paper Straws
Going green is a common push throughout the globe, but Europe has had more success convincing corporations to cut down on waste and provide recyclable solutions. Many of the McDonald’s in Europe are abandoning plastic straws and turning towards paper that biodegrades when thrown away.
Some of the abolishment of plastic is due to country laws that ban them, but it also has to do with the culture of Europe's countries that demands greener alternatives. McDonalds has floated the idea in the US, but it hasn’t taken root like it has in Europe.
9 Bacon Roll
Part of catering to unique cultures and customs is introducing local food products or preparation techniques. One of the more successful products McDonalds has introduced to the United Kingdom is the Bacon Roll.
The UK Bacon Roll looks to be something that would do amazing in the US but is tragically only found in the UK. This delicious sandwich has large strips of bacon served in a small loaf of bread that can come with ketchup or Britain’s own tomato based brown sauce
8 Fry Sauce
The United States certainly has access to many sauces at a McDonalds. Apart from the standard condiments like ketchup and mustard you can get sweet ‘n sour, tangy barbecue, tartar, spicy buffalo and a few others that taste great with fries, except tartar of course.
In France however, they offer their own sauce known as Pommes-Frites-Sauce. Unlike the pinkish fry sauce found in Utah or the west coast that consists of ketchup mixed with mayonnaise, France’s fry sauce is described as a Bearnaise-like mixture that’s white.
7 Green Logos
In the United States foodies are accustomed to seeing the golden arches surrounded by red in every state in the country. The roofs and often the inside of the building will follow this same color scheme as part of its brand recognition strategy.
In Europe however, McDonalds follows a different color scheme and puts its golden arches against a dark green background. Supposedly the executives at McDonalds made this decision to help appeal to the green friendly culture common throughout Europe and the result are logos and buildings that look very different from their US counterparts.
6 Smaller Drinks
To clarify when we say the McDonald’s drinks in Europe are smaller it’s not that they only offer drinks under medium, but that their sizes are different than what’s advertised in the United States.
In the United States large drinks come with 30 ounces (about 887 ml), mediums are 21 ounces (about 621 ml) and smalls are 16 ounces (about 473 ounces). Yet in the United Kingdom for example, large drinks are 16.9 ounces (500 ml), mediums are 13.5 ounces (400 ml) and smalls are 8.45 ounces (250 ml). That means the large drinks in the UK are almost half of what’s offered in the large drinks in the US, their larges are almost the same size as US smalls. It makes you wonder what’s worse, that the US is getting twice the sugar or that the UK is getting half of what they pay for.
5 Potato Wedges
Out of all the country specific food items on the list this one makes the least amount of sense. Despite numerous restaurants and fast food places in the United States serving potato wedges, McDonalds, for whatever reason, refuses to serve this delightful side dish stateside.
Yet if you were willing to fly a ridiculous number of miles to Europe you’ll find that potato wedges are included as an option in many of the restaurants in many of the countries there. There’s no telling if McDonalds will ever include this on their menus in the United States, but it would surely be a huge hit if they did.
4 Fish McBites
Sure you have the Filet-O-Fish in the United States, an honestly good fish sandwich. But in many parts of Europe they’ve taken it one step further and offer a bite-sized alternative. These little nuggets of fishy goodness have a similar appearance to their chicken nugget cousins and are served with your choice of dipping sauce, though tartar is often recommended.
Supposedly they were around in the United States, but it proved unpopular with American palates and now you can only find them across the pond. Perhaps one day they’ll make a return, but for now United States citizens must content themselves with chicken nuggets.
Ah the hotdog, one of mankind’s greatest, yet also creepiest inventions. The result of ultimate recycling and a chef who watched the movie Frankenstein one too many times. The hotdog is a common staple at many American activities from barbecues on the Fourth of July to baseball games.
It’s incredibly surprising then that McDonalds would choose to release the McHotDog to European diners and not put it on the menu in the United States. Supposedly they released it for a limited time in the United States, but it proved very unpopular and hasn’t been back since.
2 Sweet Cheese and Raisin Dessert
Everyone is familiar with the McFlurrys that never seem to be available, the apple pies, and the occasional holiday pie around Christmas time. But Romania offers their own dessert that’s made using local ingredients and follows a common traditional recipe.
The Sweet Cheese and Raisin Dessert looks like a cream cheese filled hash brown patty with little raisins tucked inside. To clarify the casing is most definitely not a hash brown and probably more a crispy bread commonly found in pastries. It honestly looks really good and it’s too bad this sweet dessert is only found in Romania.
1 Flat Fries With Truffle Mayo
Fries are a go-to fast food item for many in the United States and its hard to imagine a more radical change to fries then what Sweden’s cooked up. Instead of the standard golden, crispy cuboids you find in the States, Sweden serves gourmet flat fries that look a lot like waffle fries.
They’ve also gone and replaced the usual tomato-based ketchup for a truffle mayo. Truffle mayo sounds like something you’d find in a fancy restaurant instead of the same place that boasts a dollar menu.