Gaijin Smash

I’m Lovin It

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on November 30, 2006

Gaijin Smash Original Content
It’s something that every foreigner in Japan has to do at one point. Whether you’re here for a one week vacation, a few month study abroad program, or a few years of work, you will resort to it eventually. You swear you won’t, but you know that it’s an empty promise, much like when Mom swears to you she’ll buy you that pony for Christmas but she never does.
I’m speaking, of course, about a trip to a Japanese McDonalds.
The one thing both Americans and Japanese people ask me about is the size. Japanese McDonalds is much smaller, right? When it comes to the burgers, actually no, I don’t think so. A Japanese Big Mac and American Big Mac are about the same. The fries and drinks on the other hand, are an entirely different story. Japanese large is what we’d call medium in America. Which means that Japanese medium is American small, and Japanese small is somewhere in between kids size, and the size you’d use if, somehow, an unborn infant where to walk into a McDonalds and ask for a Coca Cola.


Conversely, this means that American large is reserved for Godzilla, Giant Form Ultraman, and other 30 foot monstrosities. And super-size? Unfathomable. Whenever I go back to America, I like to bring back a super-size drink cup to show to the kids. I take it to class and ask, “Hey, what do you think this is?”
Kid 1: Hey, that’s a drinking bucket for horses!
Kid 2: No way, that’s one of those water storage tanks.
Kid 3: You’re all wrong. Clearly, it’s a family-sized swimming pool.
Me: Nope. This just happens to be a super-sized drink cup from McDonalds.
Class of 30 Japanese kids: Oh my God.
Kid 1: You mean that thing is meant for human consumption?
Kid 2: So, that’s for a family of four to drink from for one week, right?
Me: Nope. This is for one person.
Class of 30 Japanese kids: No.
Me: With free refills.
Class of 30 Japanese kids: *heads simultaneously explode*
The taste is more or less the same. A Big Mac and fries in America tastes the same in Japan, as far as I can tell anyway. The menu is slightly different though. Japan has a teriyaki burger, which is actually kind of good. I’m surprised they don’t offer it in America, as I’m sure there’d be quite a few people eating it (watch as the Japan-obsessed try to eat the Teriyaki McBurger with chopsticks). In addition to some various other seasonal items (Japan is big on the seasonal stuff) they also have a Shrimp Filet burger. Yes, a Shrimp Filet burger. As many of you may know, I have a severe allergic reaction to fish. As such, I’ve sort of declared a personal embargo on seafood all together. So maybe it’s just me, but even just seeing Shrimp Filet on the menu makes me cringe a little bit. They don’t have the quarter pounder, and considering their shock at the super-size drink cup, this is probably for the best.
Me: Hey, can you guess what this is?
Kid 1: An entire herd of cattle grazing between a cheese-filled sky and land made of bread!
One of the most amazing things about Japanese McDonalds though, is that the burger you receive actually looks like the picture! To an American, this shit is shocking. You order a Big Mac in America, and that thing comes to you in all sorts of disarray. It’s collapsed, the lettuce is all outside of the burger and you’d be lucky if the cheese wasn’t handed to you in a separate box all together. But in Japan, no, Big Macs stand tall and proud, perfectly assembled and ready for consumption. I got a Big Mac once that had like one leaf of lettuce that had fallen off the burger and into the box, and the McD’s cashier came over and apologized to me for such a sloppy burger.
Japan also features quite a few “Fancy McDonalds”, where the interior has been designed with plush chairs, suave tables, and mood lighting as well as music. To me, “Fancy McDonalds” is right up there with “Salad McDonalds” on my oxymoron list, as if I thought, “Hey, I’d like to eat healthly/fancy tonight!”, I most certainly wouldn’t think to go to McDonalds.
But perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of Japanese McD’s is the good ‘ol menu flip. While, as you would expect, the menu placed on the counter at the register is written in Japanese, the flipside has a carbon copy written in English. While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes a young Japanese girl at the register will spot a Gaijin waiting in line, and then flip the menu over before he or she gets there to display the English.
Why is this frustrating, you may ask? I suppose it could be viewed as an act of kindness, for those who can’t speak Japanese and would like to order. However, for those of us who have learned Japanese, or at least enough to be able to order at McDonalds, it’s a little bit frustrating to have the other person automatically assume we can’t speak Japanese and move to accommodate us in English.
When I get hit with the menu flip, I usually just flip it back to the Japanese side and give my order in Japanese. One of my friends however, who is more fluent in Japanese than I and *really* hates the menu flip, tries to make it a point to get to the register before the menu flip can occur and give his order. I watched once as he got to the register, put his hand down on the menu to prevent a flip, and the girl at the register began to pull at the menu with all her might, desperately trying to flip the menu despite the Gaijin giving her his order in perfect Japanese. It was quite a sight, really.
Friend: (In Japanese) This’ll be to go. I’ll have a Big Mac …
Cashier: Hold on a second… (heaving at the menu)
Friend: (In Japanese) Make that a value meal. Coke for the drink please.
Cashier: (Still heaving) Hungh…ermph…one moment please…
Friend: Are you listening to me?
Cashier: There’s an English menu, if only you would let me flip it over…
Friend: I’m speaking to you in Japanese, why aren’t you listening…
The other thing about the menu flip – while I suppose they mean well, it is ultimately a futile maneuver. Even if we did give our orders in English, they certainly wouldn’t understand it. Believe me – I’ve tried it.
Me: I’ll have a Big Mac Value Meal.
Her: Eh?
Me: Big Mac Value Meal. You know, french fries and drink?
Her: Eeeeetto
Me: Sigh. Biggu Makku Setto.
Her: Ah! Okay!
So even if we did try to order in English, we’d end up just pointing at the pictures, which we could do in Japanese anyway.
I know many of you are wondering at this point, why even bother with McDonalds? “But, Japanese food is SO delicious!” Trust me, there’s only so much sushi a person can take before you hit a breaking point. …I can’t even eat fish, so my options are even more limited! Sometimes, you just don’t want to go to a Japanese restaurant. Where the waitresses scream orders to the kitchen and you end up paying $4 for a “drink” which comes in a scientific test tube. And then when you get hit with menu items like “grilled jaw of boar”, “crunchy chicken gristles”, and “sauteed fish ovaries” (I’m really not making this up), those golden arches start to look really good.
All this talk about McDonalds only serves to remind me how much I miss Jack in the Box.

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89 Responses

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  1. Rhufas said, on November 30, 2006 at 2:50 am

    Jack in the Box’s seasoned curly fries are delicious, I think those would be one of the first things I would miss if I were to move to Japan.

  2. Brad said, on November 30, 2006 at 3:03 am

    I think it’d be more fun to just jab your finger into the air and keep repeating, “Kore kore kore kore.”
    Okay, maybe only once.

  3. Kirone said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:00 am

    One thing I did like about McD in Japan they actually have a law that says: What you see is what you get.
    Finally a burger that didn’t look mutated

  4. crushice said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:15 am

    here in singapore, we can already see the difference in sizes between McDonald’s (very much localized) & Burger King. Obviously the latter has bigger portions.
    Is it any wonder that the last time BK had the DOUBLE WHOPPER (and we thought the Whopper is huge!), it lasted only a mere couple of months before it’s being taken down the list?

  5. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:19 am

    ugh, I never want to give in. Theres a McDonalds right downtown, but I usually walk past with averted eyes… perhaps in a few months, though… my host sister thought that the clown’s name was ‘donald mcdonald’ and was surprised that it wasn’t. I love that analogy of the ultraman size cup, i wish i had thought to bring one with me.

  6. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:19 am

    ugh, I never want to give in. Theres a McDonalds right downtown, but I usually walk past with averted eyes… perhaps in a few months, though… my host sister thought that the clown’s name was ‘donald mcdonald’ and was surprised that it wasn’t. I love that analogy of the ultraman size cup, i wish i had thought to bring one with me.

  7. Morwen said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:59 am

    I love going to american resturants in different cities. I lived in India for a while, and McDonald’s there was amazing…as cheap as the typical Indian resturant, but sparkling clean and air conditioned. And the shakes tasted the way they were supposed to!
    Of course, there’s no such thing as ‘big macs’ in India because they can’t eat beef–and when they tried to serve it with goat meat instead a Hindu sued them because of the sign saying “We do not serve beef”–saying that it was like saying beef was OK to eat. I love Indian logic sometimes.

  8. Amanda said, on November 30, 2006 at 5:08 am

    I ventured in to a McD once in the year I was in Tokyo. I had a coke and some fries as I was early for a class and was craving salt. Ergh. Just as nasty as they are at home but so much cheaper!

  9. CKX said, on November 30, 2006 at 5:14 am

    Do they still have the free smiles on the menu? A friend of mine ordered 3 smiles after ordering his food and the girl really gave him 3 (cute)smiles, nodding her head sideways a little bit at every smile. This was a couple years ago though. And is it only me or does McD really taste better in Japan?

  10. meiguo-what said, on November 30, 2006 at 6:21 am

    yeah, china’s got the same sort of thing too. We have what we call the “power-trio” of fast food: McDonalds Pizza Hut, and KFC. Now Pizza Hut I have to say is one of the nicest restaurants around, which is wierd to say the least. Plus when your drunk at two am, McDonalds looks reeeealy good.

  11. Barry said, on November 30, 2006 at 6:23 am

    Mercilessly crushed burgers in the US are the result of the final step in the burger-making process: the Gaijin Ass-Press. Yes, folks, the last thing you do, right after wrapping up that beautiful, picturesque burger, is sit on it. Of course, they do the same thing at all McDonaldses all around the world, but the meager Japanese ass is no match for the mighty American ass.

  12. Ted said, on November 30, 2006 at 7:40 am

    I remeber the free Smiles on the menu too!, but i didnt ask for them 😦
    What is smile in Japanese?

  13. Adziu said, on November 30, 2006 at 7:57 am

    Teriyaki burgers are sooooo good. Argh, now I’m hungry.
    Those little tiny milkshakes they do for 50 yen are great in the summer, too. Just right if you want something sweet and cooling. However, it must be observed that it takes several weeks for an uninitiated gaijin to be able to say, ‘Mirukusheiku’.

  14. Jeffrey Friedl said, on November 30, 2006 at 8:28 am

    How *silly* of them to assume that an American-looking guy does read English and doesn’t read Japanese, *especially* in a place like Kyoto where tourists never venture.
    They might see 100 “English-speaking-looking” people in a week, and likely 98 of them speak no Japanese. So their reaction is derived from experience, not the thought that you’re a moron.
    It used to offend me, too, but I got over it, realizing that it’s either a kindness or simply their batting average. Actually, I probably got over it because I stopped feeling that I had something to prove every time I went out. I’m more than happy now to not speak Japanese if someone want’s to converse in English. You probably haven’t been here long enough to attain that level of self-confidence, but it will come…..

  15. Azrael said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:09 am

    Yes, but if you were working in McDonalds in America, and you saw an “Asian-looking person” stroll up to the register, would you automatically pull out a Japanese menu?
    Your first impulse would be to say “But that’s different” …is it really that different?
    Couldn’t they at least wait for us to ask for an English menu first? Or at least look puzzled and confused?
    There’s the batting averages thing, yes, but it seems like you’ve never had people that have known and worked with you for YEARS question your Japanese ability over a very simple task. Now that gets to be annoying, no matter how much cultural understanding you try to extend.

  16. CKX said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Smile is sumairu in Japanese, so basically the same. Two more things, in Japanese McD’s it seems you never get burgers or fries that have been prepared like more than a few split seconds before they give it to you, while over here in Europe you never know how long ago your burger or fries might have been prepared and as Az mentioned in what state you’ll receive them. And they never forget to bring your order to your table when they have to, so you won’t have to go all the way down after you finally found a seat on de 3rd floor to get your burger and convince them you actually ordered it. BTW the shrimp burger is actually quite good for those who are not allergic.

  17. Nidoking said, on November 30, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Actually, “sumairu” is just another one of those English words that the Japanese have adopted for who knows what reason. The French are trying to remove English from their language (sort of like the “freedom fries” eyeroll) while the Japanese move closer and closer to speaking English with Japanese grammar.
    “hohoemi” is one Japanese word for smile (the noun form of “hohoemu”), and I believe “egao” is similar.

  18. Warui Tanuki said, on November 30, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Last time I was in Japan, I got a teriyaki & egg burger at McD’s. It had a teriyaki burger pattie, an egg, like in a McMuffin or something, and sauce. It was quite tasty. By the way, Az, I have a fish allergy too. Interestingly enough though, whatever chemical my body doesn’t like is created when the fish is cooked. I can eat raw fish just fine, even if the same type of fish gives me a reaction when it’s cooked.

  19. frank said, on November 30, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    I ate at McDonald’s more than once in the two weeks I spend in Japan. I too can’t eat fish and it really makes it hard over there. Seafood is such a huge part of the Japanese diet that telling them you can’t eat fish is practically tantamount to telling them you’re allergic to water.

  20. Yitzy said, on November 30, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    I never knew about the flip menu. I went to three different McDonalds in Japan, in three different cities (It’s not that I’m addicted to McDonald’s or anything, it was usually because I was in a rush or I needed a place to sit down or I wasn’t in a good enough mood to take my chances ordering something tradiditional) and none of them had the flip menu or if they did, they didn’t flip it. I mean, it was pretty easy ordering in Japanese anyway, even with my limited Japanese skills. And like you said, it probably wouldn’t of helped anyway (at the one at the Hiroshima train station, it was obvious that NOBODY working there knew English. The “Oh shit…” look the cashier made as about 8 of us walked in was pricelss).
    And as CKX said, they really do make everything right after you order it. I was with two other people, and all we ordered was the 100 yen small fries, and they actually brought them out to us. And they were hot!
    And in addition to the Shrimp Burger, if you order the 6 piece chicken nuggets meal, you get 3 chicken nuggets and 3 shrimp nuggets.

  21. Dave said, on November 30, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    You’re joking aren’t you…?
    It’s not just Japan which is smaller than the USA.
    In England, where a third of the population is officially “overweight”, the cups and fries are MUCH smaller than America.
    You get a litre for supersize right? Or a gallon? Or a fucking Atlantic Ocean?

  22. Vori said, on November 30, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    We had a Japanese artist-in-residence at my school this October, from Osaka. She was describing to me how she went through the drive-thru at Local McDonald’s one afternoon.
    Yumiko: Hello, I would like a teriyaki burger prease.
    Drive-thru cashier: Whuuuuuuuuuuut?
    Yumiko: ?? A teriyaki burger prease?
    Drive-thru: … Whuuuuuuuut?
    Yumiko’s impression of this “whuuuuut” was positively amazing. She made the best “stupid American cow” face I’ve ever seen. Slack jawed and everything. I pretty much died laughing.
    She told me “I didn’t realize that teriyaki burger doesn’t exist here… yes, it’s very good… I miss it.”
    LOL.

  23. Cool Bones said, on November 30, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    ”Yes, but if you were working in McDonalds in America, and you saw an “Asian-looking person” stroll up to the register, would you automatically pull out a Japanese menu?”
    How is that even related?
    1- Even if the asian-looking person did not speak english, why would you look for the JAPANESE MENU? There are a lot more chinese and other asians than japanese people in america. So why would you assume the person is japanese if there is a bigger chance that she’s chinese?
    2- Most asians in america speak english while most foreigners in Japan don’t speak japanese.
    When most foreigners will speak japanese they will stop assuming that most foreigners can’t speak japanese. It’s simple really.
    3- English is the international language, almost all foreigners in Japan speak english, no matter if they are french, german, russian, italian, etc. So it is correct to bring out the english menu if they are not japanese looking because they most likely will be able to read it while only a tiiiiiny proportion of them will be able to read the japanese menu.
    ”Couldn’t they at least wait for us to ask for an English menu first? Or at least look puzzled and confused?”
    That would be great but they will be asked for the english menu 98% of the time. They waste less time by just fliping the menu upon seeing you.

  24. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    I could never eat McDonalds it makes me physically ill. Even at a good one. Burger King isnt much better and forget about Hardees…BLEH Im not allergic to fish but im not a fan of them ether. Why eat something that tastes like the bottom of a lake bed or a bait shop?

  25. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    I could never eat McDonalds it makes me physically ill. Even at a good one. Burger King isnt much better and forget about Hardees…BLEH Im not allergic to fish but im not a fan of them ether. Why eat something that tastes like the bottom of a lake bed or a bait shop?

  26. Ganesh said, on November 30, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    Me: With free refills.
    Class of 30 Japanese kids: *heads simultaneously explode*
    simply great….
    hahahaha
    i must leave boring ass germany…
    but 1st i have to learn a 3rd language…

  27. Brad said, on November 30, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    I still remember briefly stopping by a McDonald’s near our hotel in Paris. (It was late and the McD’s was the only place open that I knew of.)
    Their featured items were Castillian-themed foods. So I got Spanish-style food from a French installment of an American restaurant.
    I have never felt so multicultural.
    (Yeah, I already posted once. Sue me.)

  28. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Things are just different in other countries than they are here. I work in Starbucks in Breezewood, one of the largest travel centers in the north east. We get people who look like they might end up speaking a foriegn language all the time, but we don’t flip over a menu written in the suspect language every time.
    Why? Because this is America and if they can’t speak English Fuck em! They can damn well pantomime, pissing off everyone in the store and then leaving with thier head hung in shame. =)

  29. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Things are just different in other countries than they are here. I work in Starbucks in Breezewood, one of the largest travel centers in the north east. We get people who look like they might end up speaking a foriegn language all the time, but we don’t flip over a menu written in the suspect language every time.
    Why? Because this is America and if they can’t speak English Fuck em! They can damn well pantomime, pissing off everyone in the store and then leaving with thier head hung in shame. =)

  30. RustedBrolly said, on November 30, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Ha ha ha…I remember my McD excursion. I ordered the chicken nuggets to spite the bird flu scare. I ate four of my nuggets, then bit into my fifth…And got a mouth-full of shrimp. I’m not allergic to seafood, but my mom is, so I never developed a taste for it. Suffice to say, I was grossed out.
    And I had Wendy’s, which was better in Japan, in my opinion, plus there was a japanese guy who was literally seven feet tall. It was awesome.
    And the KFC chicken isn’t prepared the same, it’s more tempura style than anything.

  31. Saiyanid said, on November 30, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    Yea I have fish alergies to everything but Shrimp. But anyways, what I wanted to say, this story actually reminds me of when I went to McD’s in Mexico. It had been 2 years since I’d been to a McD’s but this time I was in Mexico, and shity Mexican quizine had make me hunger to clog up some arteries. So once my friends and I had enough of it we went to McD’s and ordered some Big Macs. I was never so happy to have had McD’s in my entire life. What was good about it was that they had a condiments section with Jalepños and all that good stuff. It was made quite well I must say, especially with the Jalepeños.
    I still got a kick though, from when I spoke perfect English with my friends and then switched immediatly to perfect spoken Spanish to order my meal. Their faces were priceless!

  32. Genibibiou said, on November 30, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    I made the fatal mistake of checking this site during class today. I was in the middle of Civics this morning, and a lot of the girls at my high school bring laptops to take notes. I, however, had gotten one of my friends to email me the notes beforehand, so it gave me the opprotunity to whip out my laptop and put the school’s wireless internet to good use. I came here after checking some email, and scrolled down. What did I find? “Original Content!” I thought with glee, “Boy Howdy!”
    It was when I reached the part about the “menu flip that I lost my control.
    Friend: (In Japanese) This’ll be to go. I’ll have a Big Mac …
    Cashier: Hold on a second… (heaving at the menu)
    [[Me: *Smile* Heh heh…]]
    Friend: (In Japanese) Make that a value meal. Coke for the drink please.
    Cashier: (Still heaving) Hungh…ermph…one moment please…
    [[Me: *smile gets bigger- covers mouth to stifle laughter* Hee hee hee!]]
    Friend: Are you listening to me?
    Cashier: There’s an English menu, if only you would let me flip it over…
    Friend: I’m speaking to you in Japanese, why aren’t you listening…
    [[Me: *SNORT* BWAHAHAHAAAA!!]]
    EVERYONE in my class turned to look at me. The teacher just had this look of complete horror on her face. I didn’t really get in trouble, but I knew I was on thin ice, so I paid attention from then on. At least, I WAS paying attention, until I got about 9 Instant Messages from different classmates reading, “What were you looking at? What was so funny?”
    I told them all about it. Congratulations, Az. I got my whole Civics class into your website.

  33. schiebs said, on November 30, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    i recommend the shrimp filet burger whole-heartedly

  34. Chibi said, on November 30, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    haha, I’ve also experienced the same thing in the japanese McD’s resturants: they always flipped the menu in order to make it easier to order. but I always politely said that I am not from an English speaking country (true, I am from Sweden) and thus doesn’t speak english (which is quite false), so if they could flip it back then I’d be most grateful. it almost always works. just once have it failed, and the cashier tried to speak in english all the time, mostly becuase my swedish friends had ordered in english way ahead of me.
    but they do look surprised to say the least when I perform it on them. funny thing is that our japanese language techers back home in Sweden didn’t know that McD offered english menues when we had the “going to McD” exercise just last week.
    and I’ve got to say that japanese McD are way ahead of our swedish counterpart. ours are sloppy quite tasteless burgers. the japanese ones are the counterpart, and they only cust half as much.
    (a menu in Sweden is about 60 crones, or US$9 at the moment)

  35. paully said, on November 30, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    az– c’mon man, you know japanese people don’t work like that. give someone the benefit of the doubt? you know the score:
    – you dont speak japanese
    – you have sex with hundreds of japanese women, who you pick up simply by making eye contact
    – you’re an incredible athlete and anytime you pick up a ball or a racket people stop to look
    – you’ve shot someone
    – you will never be able to attain the dexterity necessary to use chopsticks (and if you are, you will be praised by individuals who have seen you use them 100 times)
    – “nihonshoku tabereru?” (no. i am unable.)
    – etc
    (and on an unrelated note, people will remind you of the air temperature (or something else completely obvious) every 3 seconds.)
    spot on about the McDs. i lasted 5 or so months the first time i was here. to all americans: just do it. eat it. you wont regret it. even tho everyone in the restaurant will be thinking, “ah, yes, an american. clearly s/he is incapable of consuming our food.”

  36. Camander Bun Bun said, on November 30, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    I toured around the baltic for about a month and for convience sake, because OMG it takes forever in reasturants, the kathup was different it tasted more like a BBQ sauce and less greasy but portions were similair. And it was still all messy like ours *I guess big Communist ass works similair to Americans*

  37. flash_fox said, on November 30, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    I was in Australia last year and we went to McDonalds 2 or 3 times. Their Mcdonalds not only sells quality subs and cook their burgers so they are less in calories, but every McDonalds in Australia has an attached coffie cafe that has a fine selection of cakes for sale. And I don’t mean something like hostess, I mean actual slices of cakes on display.
    So my question is… Why the hell don’t we have that? I mean, didn’t McDonalds start in America? How come the best that McDonalds has to offer can only be found over seas?

  38. Mr. Bomberman said, on November 30, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    That article just made me spit my soda on my laptop. Good job.
    But one thing.. please answer this: What’s the Japanese’s obsession with eggs in hamburgers?

  39. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    When i worked at a McDonalds in NJ i never had someone that didnt speak enough english to order something off the menu. Most of time tho we get people that automatically know what they want. The hardest thing when working there was the drive-through and with a heavy accented person going through it is quite a trip.
    I then worked in a grocery store and i have had people that didnt speak a lick of english. From french to german to chinese to spanish to greek to mute/deaf’s. I never had much of a problem helping them because most of the time you can read their body language. The hardest one i have ever done was spanish speakers for some reason? Got me.

  40. Anonymous said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    When i worked at a McDonalds in NJ i never had someone that didnt speak enough english to order something off the menu. Most of time tho we get people that automatically know what they want. The hardest thing when working there was the drive-through and with a heavy accented person going through it is quite a trip.
    I then worked in a grocery store and i have had people that didnt speak a lick of english. From french to german to chinese to spanish to greek to mute/deaf’s. I never had much of a problem helping them because most of the time you can read their body language. The hardest one i have ever done was spanish speakers for some reason? Got me.

  41. RedComet said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Uh, I know of people here in the states who put eggs in their big-bottom hamburgers in order to keep the meat from falling apart in the pan.
    Az, that article was hi-ho-freakin’-larious.

  42. Mick said, on November 30, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    Im from Australia.
    After Supersize me came out Michael D’s in Aus started bringing out Deli choice rolls and salads and stuff. The McCafe (Cakes, coffees etc etc) all came out a bit after I think cause everyone thought it was so bogan (white trash) to go to Maccas.
    These changes made it a bit more acceptable, and a fair bit healthier to eat at Maccas.
    You still open a burger box and find the contents looking like they took part in a car crash.
    Good work Az

  43. Azrael said, on November 30, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    The basic problem with the menu flip is this – before I have even opened my mouth or done anything, just from a first glance Japanese people have already assumed at least two things about me – that I speak English, and that I don’t speak Japanese.
    You can say it’s an innocent maneuver, or talk about averages or whatever, but the bottom line is that before I have done anything, they have automatically typecast me. A McDonalds menu flip is no big deal, but that’s not where it ends, as paully outlined above.
    A vast majority of black people in Tokyo are Africans hawking gaudy sex clubs. If I were in Tokyo, would it be right for a Japanese person to assume I was an African working for a sex club just by looking at me? Even if 98 out of the 100 other black guys they’ve seen have fit that mold?
    It’s just a stupid behavior. And yeah, once upon a time, I tried to justify it. “They don’t mean harm by it”; “They don’t know any better”; “That’s just what happens when you have an isolated society and closed minds”. But I’m tired of making excuses for them. You wouldn’t say to a child who kept running into traffic, “Oh, he’s just a kid, he doesn’t know any better”, you’d tell him to stop running into traffic.
    I’m not particularly angry about it. After three years I’ve sort of learned to live with it. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to patronize it. If everyone took that attitude, nothing would change. …Granted, I don’t think that preventing a menu flip will cause revolutionary changes towards the way foreigners are viewed in Japan. All I’m saying is that it’s a bad mindset and I don’t particularly feel like making excuses for it anymore.

  44. Zantetsu said, on November 30, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    I feel for you man, I feel for you. Most people who see me (or most Maltese men) abroad think of us as potential terrorists considering how we look… Especially this one time when I was about to return from England and spent hours (missing my flight) being checked for weapons or bombs when all I had was a GameCube and several dozen games.
    Anyway, as much as I agree with you on this I can’t help to believe it’s impossible to fix this kind-yet-demeaning stereotype Japanese label with foreigners. As my tutor told me once they train their children to be extra polite to foreigners since Japan is isolated and being so expensive to reach tourists are difficult to attract.
    I’ve considered to carry a pair of sunglasses when I head there as to not be “gaijinated” but that wouldn’t help if you’re not dark-skinned I reckon. Tough luck Az.

  45. l33t_sas said, on November 30, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    I’m also from Australia and would like to add that most McDonald’s don’t actually have a McCafe attached althouth the McCafe existed long before Supersize Me, the rolls did not.
    And I think the subs at Maccas suck…

  46. Jordan said, on December 1, 2006 at 12:49 am

    When I was in Russia, I managed to avoid Mcdonald’s pretty much entirely for the first semester; when I finally broke down over winter break, it made me nauseous. But in my second semester, I’d treat myself to a burger and fries after finishing a paper or something similar. It’s sad to see what the menus do to the Russian language: instead of translating the names, they just transliterate them directly into Cyrillic: Big Mak, file-o-fish, chizburger.
    The differences are interesting, though…the McD’s near my apartment was a lot bigger and classier than American ones. No apple pies, though, just cherry. And Latvian McDonalds had no cherry, but strawberry and “forest berries” or something.
    And I look Russian enough that no one made any assumptions.

  47. Greg said, on December 1, 2006 at 1:16 am

    You make an excellent point.

  48. Tyra said, on December 1, 2006 at 1:42 am

    It’s funny actually, I’ve been to a few McieDs in Japan and no on has done the menu flip to me. I’d go with a Chinese friend so they’d assume that he speaks Japanese, he’d order (in Japanese) then I’d point to the items I wanted on the Japanese side.
    Though I have gotten the english menu while at resturants with out asking for it.
    I love the drink and meal both in a paper bags inside a platic bag.
    -Because America and Canada are so mulitculural we expect people to get our culture, and we assume that if they are in our country they can speak, or should be able to speak english.
    the Japanese think that because we’re not Japanese we couldn’t get their culture, and we’ll never be able to do ‘Japanese’ things.
    both are completly silly.
    but people are people and if they don’t know any better then….
    ah but anyways.
    on with the show, another day, another story.
    Az, you should ask your mom to put a supersize cup in your care-package she sends you! I’m sure that it wont come as to much of a shock, esp after the condoms 😛
    peace!

  49. Gunlord said, on December 1, 2006 at 3:06 am

    Man, you’re allergic to fish too? I think my dad’s allergic to certain types of seafood, I remember him getting pretty sick after eating some when I was young :-/

  50. Jeremy said, on December 1, 2006 at 5:33 am

    The size adjustment also goes for bra sizes. A Japaese C-cup is equivalent to an American B-cup, a Japenese B-cup = American A-cup, and Japanese A-cup gets you an apology from the girl once you get her top off (no, really).
    This may go for condom sizes, too, though I’m not brave enough to try and find out (haven’t found horse condoms here, yet).

  51. Kosetsu said, on December 1, 2006 at 7:47 am

    I should reaaaaaally stop posting here when I’m supposed to be studying for Psychology.
    Anyhoo, I have but one question for you: is it true that they only give out one ketchup packet per customer?
    I mean, I only use the one, and it goes on my burger (I like a lot of ketchup on my Quarter-Pounder), but my brother likes to put a packet of ketchup each on his fries AND his burger… no matter what fast food restaurant we go. It’s pretty much a given that if someone at our table gets up to fetch ketchup packets while my brother is there, they will fetch at least one extra packet.
    I was thinking about this during Japanese class, as my teacher had gone through an “order at McD’s” lesson with her 101 class prior, and when I asked what counter one would use for ketchup packets (-Mai? -Pon?), she had no answer for me – in fact, she was perfectly flabbergasted by the very idea of using more than one. It amused me no end, but at the same time, I never got an answer.

  52. Anonymous said, on December 1, 2006 at 8:13 am

    “You order a Big Mac in America, and that thing comes to you in all sorts of disarray. It’s collapsed, the lettuce is all outside of the burger and you’d be lucky if the cheese wasn’t handed to you in a separate box all together.”
    It’s that way in the States too? I always presumed they were just screwing us East Europeans over and you Americans get all the “real” Big Macs.

  53. Anonymous said, on December 1, 2006 at 8:13 am

    “You order a Big Mac in America, and that thing comes to you in all sorts of disarray. It’s collapsed, the lettuce is all outside of the burger and you’d be lucky if the cheese wasn’t handed to you in a separate box all together.”
    It’s that way in the States too? I always presumed they were just screwing us East Europeans over and you Americans get all the “real” Big Macs.

  54. theflipimage said, on December 1, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    quality…
    not quantity.
    it also helps that all employees are not fat and messy looking with their lower lips hung open like giraffes and going HUUUUUHHHHHHH????? because they couldn’t hear you…

  55. Janus said, on December 1, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    I WISH I got the English speaker treatment….everywhere I went in Tokyo people tried to speak to me in Japanese first…
    The highlight was when Janus the White accidentally wandered into Koreatown (or something like it) and still was accosted by Korean restauranteurs in Japanese…then Janus the White answered in Korean and the Korean-Japanese’s heads exploded.

  56. Tower said, on December 2, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    That would have been awesome Janus.
    The Australian MacDonalds are getting better for making stuff when you order, and you don’t really get the dodgy burgers (All over the place)
    very often (2 times in the last year or so). I miss the supersizes though.
    Only place they have free refills here is Hungry Jack’s, which is a re-badged Burger King, but I can see myself over in Japan giving the cashiers head explosions
    “What’s wrong?”
    ‘Look at his order’
    “so, his friend must be late”
    ‘He’s going to eat that all himself’
    On a side note, Aus larges are about a pint, how much are the Americans

  57. Christina said, on December 4, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    I’ve been an expatriate child living in Malaysia, China, and now in Australia (Perth, to be exact). I can verify that the McDonald’s burgers in Malaysia and China are actually presented in a much better form than the ones I’m getting in Perth. The burgers are always squashed (like they get compressed before being given to you) and there’s no free sauce. ARGH!! And if memory serves me right, the McDonald’s burgers are actually bigger in Malaysia and China as well.

  58. Erica said, on December 5, 2006 at 11:53 am

    I was under the impression that McDonald’s phased out Supersize in the US in 2004 as part of a huge PR shift after the release of “Super Size Me.” I’ll admit I have never gone to a McDonald’s to verify this. Am I wrong?
    Here are some articles about it:
    http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/03/02/mcdonalds.supersize.ap/
    http://www.newstarget.com/000960.html
    http://www.mindfully.org/Health/2004/McDonalds-Super-Size21apr04.htm
    Sorry, no more cheap Japanese swimming pools. You’ll have to try 7-ll Big Gulps instead.

  59. Silvertail said, on December 6, 2006 at 6:56 am

    Honestly not terribly dissimilar from when I was in China. For the record I only ate at American fast food places there, in order to treat hangovers. The biggest differences I noticed were, that they had beer on the menu as a beverage, and that the quality of the food was much better. To eat at an American fast food place, at least in Hang Zhou, cost about the same as in the states. But just imagine walking into a Mc Donalds and seeing beer on the menu, at the same price as a soft drink. Actually it was more like Mc Donalds meets Starbucks. I still loved the Chinese food better, and it got odd to

  60. Silvertail said, on December 6, 2006 at 7:09 am

    Might as well go in to my next story, since it kind of relates. In China, if you are a foreigner, you are automatically an American, and speak English. At least they think so. A friend of mine and myself would often act as if we did not when random people tried their English on us. We usually told them, in bad Mandarin, that we were from South Africa. Since I doubt anyone in all of China speaks Afrikaans, they could not call us on our bluff. It was most amusing. Anyway, it is an option, and a very fun one. When someone tries to talk to you in English, you can always tell them you don’t speak English, in their language of course.
    Point aside, even despite your various tales of whoa I still want to teach in Japan… Is it really as hard as you say?

  61. Raenon said, on December 8, 2006 at 2:21 am

    On a side note, Aus larges are about a pint, how much are the Americans
    Posted by: Tower at December 2, 2006 10:46 PM
    An American large cup at McDonald’s is 32oz, or two pints. Even our medium is 21oz, the small finally takes it down to 16oz (one pint).
    Of course, that doesn’t take into account the ungodly amount of ice they pack into our beverages, but it’s still an unhealthy amount of soda for a single sitting.
    And yes, I still sometimes supersize it for the ultra-drinks when I’m eating lunch on the cheap.

  62. Nils said, on December 8, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    They haven’t got Quarterpounders in Japan? o_O
    Those are the only reason for me to go McD! Of course, the Quarterpounder is called “Royal” over here in Germany…
    I prefer Burger King, though.
    I happen to like seafood, so I might be quite comfortable in Japan. I also like curry rice, ramen, miso soup, and I’d really like to try oden, even if I have to cook it all by myself. I should ask my friend Yuko to show me how to cook it.

  63. Steve said, on December 9, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve seen a couple fancy McDonald’s in the US as well. Once, while driving through Pennsylvania, we stopped at one that had a vase of artificial flowers on each table, and leather couches and armchairs surrounding a fake fireplace. It was almost high class, except for the food.

  64. christian said, on December 17, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    you should try mos burger
    have you?
    is it good?

  65. Ichigo said, on December 24, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    First time posting, love everything Az!
    Why, since you’re in Kyoto, would you go to McD, when you have MOS-burger!?
    Anyways, keep it up!

  66. Captn_Muesli said, on December 28, 2006 at 7:07 am

    I guess it’s less frustrating if you’re an English Native Speaker and get your menue flipped, but as a German (ok, many of us do speak english, but that’s not the point, i could be french or anything) it’s frustrating to get your menue in just another foreign language…

  67. Jimbojones said, on December 30, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    theres too many comments at this point to try to see if anyone else has said it but i know in missouri we certainly have alot of these “fancy” McD’s popping up

  68. Jonah Rapp said, on January 12, 2007 at 4:44 am

    Hey, Az. I only wish we’d both been in Japan at the same time. I would have loved to hang out with you. My favourite hobbies were being asked if I was a rock star, and making schoolgirls blush by looking at them whilst they were giggling behind their hands at me. From time to time, I’d smile and wink at one and watch her have a stroke.
    It’s fun being me…
    My only problem with McDonald’s in Japan was the eerie perfection of the food. I’m used to things leaking and spilling all over the place. Burgers are supposed to be messy! *heh* As for the fancy vs. cheap. I don’t really care. The best McDonald’s I was ever in was one nearby in East Bremerton that used to do a Friday evening “all-you-can-eat” special. $7 and a hand stamp. Place your initial order, take a number, and go find a seat. Your order would be brought out to you. And the staff would periodically make the rounds to refresh your drinks and take orders for anything else you might want. We used to stuff ourselves and then stuff our pockets. It was great.

  69. devildogmre said, on January 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Just left Hawaii after two years. Spam and rice any one?

  70. Caroline said, on January 17, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    I would like to mention one thing… I’m fairly certain that in Canada, an American medium is also our large. Hehe I’m not sure if this is true, but I know it is for other places, such as Tim Hortons. All the sizes are moved one place. I think you guys just have big drink sizes… possibly.

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  72. Erik said, on March 15, 2007 at 7:36 am

    I’ve actually been wondering about their McDonalds for quite a while, thank you for clearing that up. It doesn’t sound as bad as I had previously heard, and I’ve been given plenty of advice about it. One of the things someone told me was that their counter tops were unusually shorter.
    meh.

  73. Random5 said, on April 8, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I’m from Australia and a friend who recently travelled to America said that our large is about the size of your small… so it’s not just Japan! And we are nowhere near that skinny over here either 🙂

  74. bbnflpn said, on April 9, 2007 at 7:14 am

    lol, just wait till they see the new mc donalds invention, the 1/3lb burger (and dont forget the double quarter pounder.
    i do understand the call of mcdonalds (even though i dont eat there regularly) i would probably go if i were in another contry just to see what it was like.
    when my dad was statoined in japan, he would send us gift boxes, with japanese mcdonalds menues and other interesting things (which i have forgotten and sort of wish i still had some where) it was always an interesting show n’ tell day when i would bring them in.
    and when my cousin was stationed some where in the middle east, we sent her a care package, and as a joke we sent her the wrapper to a cheese burger, she sent us a letter back saying how that was the best gift ever, why you ask, because there just happend to be a little peice of cheese stuck there, and since there was nothing remotly like mcdonalds out there (other than arbys) she actually ate it. yah shes strange, at least it was cheese and not something else, and whats worse her bunk mates were jelous.

  75. brue68 said, on April 21, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    hey, this is my first post. Absolutely hilarious, and just because no one has bothered to answer any questions about the precise sizes of American McDonald’s, I will. (I worked there for 2 years, and I would read the boxes and things)
    American small = 16 oz (0.473176475 liters)
    American medium = 19 oz (0.561897064 liters)
    American large = 32 oz (0.94635295 liters)
    American supersize = 42 oz (1.24208825 liters)
    hope that’s clearer than “their large is our small etc . . .”

  76. Anonymous said, on May 17, 2007 at 2:57 am

    I could be completely wrong, but maybe they assume that even if you can’t read English, you could make sense of the roman alphabet? If I really had to, I could somewhat decipher something written in Spanish or French, even though I know basically nothing of either language. If I had to read something in kana, I’d be fucked, If I was asked to read Kanji, I would be completely and totally fucked.
    Or maybe they assume that even if you’re European, you’ve learned English in school, since Americans can’t be bothered to learn another language other than English.
    Or maybe they just assume that since you’re not Asian, then well, duh, you’re American.

  77. Anonymous said, on May 17, 2007 at 2:57 am

    I could be completely wrong, but maybe they assume that even if you can’t read English, you could make sense of the roman alphabet? If I really had to, I could somewhat decipher something written in Spanish or French, even though I know basically nothing of either language. If I had to read something in kana, I’d be fucked, If I was asked to read Kanji, I would be completely and totally fucked.
    Or maybe they assume that even if you’re European, you’ve learned English in school, since Americans can’t be bothered to learn another language other than English.
    Or maybe they just assume that since you’re not Asian, then well, duh, you’re American.

  78. JT said, on July 22, 2007 at 2:22 am

    I quit eating at McDonalds almost 7 years ago now.
    The food just made me sick, particularly the fries. The sad part is I figured out what it was. McNuggets. Used to be the McNuggets & Filet O’Fish were never cooked in the same oil/lard/shortening/bucket ‘o’ chemicals as the fries. At some point this changed and the fries suffered. Then the burgers began to go south until my stomach protested at the thought of eating one.
    Now I eat at Wendy’s if I’m going for fast food.
    Anyway, the drink size reminded me of how that too has changed at McDonalds over the years.
    Back when I was a kid, the supersize didn’t show up until the mid-80s, and when it did, it was a then gargantuan 32oz cup. Prior to that, What is now the Medium was the large, the current small was the medium, and the size you get in a happy meal was the small. Rhat 42 oz Supersize they have now is damned ridiculous.
    Same deal with the fries. The little paper bag size was the small, then there was the large, which is now the medium size I think. I don’t remember there being a medium until the orginal supersize became the large, and they introduced the box ‘o’ fries they call Supersize now.
    Also, Supersize meals were a limited time only thing, ususally in the summer when you could actually burn off 32oz of soda and all those fries.
    I miss the double cheeseburger sometimes; but I don’t have the metabolism of a 12 year old going through growth spurts anymore, and they taste terrible now, so I’ll stick with the fond memory.

  79. Liv said, on August 5, 2007 at 2:17 am

    Holy cow! McDonald’s has an English menu? I have lived here for 7 months and didn’t know that. Not one staff member has tried the flip on me, although one has pretended not to understand me when I said “konnichiwa – chikin naggatsu onegaishimasu!”
    i actually find the Japanese McDonald’s tastier – I also don’t feel like I’m going to die after a meal there. Go figure.

  80. Anonymous said, on August 12, 2007 at 6:02 am

    as i was reading this, all i could think of was: “can you imagine an in-n-out in japan?!?!”

  81. Anonymous said, on August 12, 2007 at 6:02 am

    as i was reading this, all i could think of was: “can you imagine an in-n-out in japan?!?!”

  82. neil said, on September 5, 2007 at 9:19 am

    i hate the menu flip too!!! Makudo is possibly the best place in Japan to practice your katakana, and they go and flip it on you. When they do, I ignore the menu and order off the sign behind the counter. “Mochikaeri, bee-otch!”
    McD’s is definitely better in Japan than in the US (at least in NYC). Better tasting, cleaner, and faster. One gets the sense the employees actually have some sort of desire to do a good job. Astounding.

  83. Heimdall said, on November 14, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Now if they freak out at the thought of a flimsy McD quarterpounder, I don’t really want to think about what they’d do if they were handed a quadruple whopper with extra cheese and chili sauce .. hell, I even I was scared the first time I ordered one of those beasts .. are there any Burger Kings in Japan anyway?

  84. Leushenko said, on January 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Anyone who thinks there’s nothing wrong with Japanese staff automatically assuming that, as an American, you only speak English, should try comparing it to how offended some of us get when they also assume that, as gaijin, we are all American and speak English *at all*.

  85. Saknika said, on March 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I laugh at people who eat burgers with forks, but CHOPSTICKS… I think I’d die. xD
    But seeing as I don’t eat fish and can’t eat McDonalds… I’d be jolly well fucked in Japan. xDDDD

  86. Marijica said, on July 2, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Honestly, Az, I don’t see why the “menu flip” is such a big deal. If anything, it’s partly you Americans’ fault that things are like that in the first place. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Eastern Europe the image we have of Americans is that they generally know very little about anything that isn’t somehow connected to the US – let alone speak fluently the language of the country they’re in. I have yet to see a foreigner (any foreigner, really… except maybe for the Chinese, they seem to have a natural knack for our mangled language 🙂 who is able to spit out a decent sentence in Serbian (I’m from Belgrade), and I won’t even mention the proper pronunciation… Furthermore, WE are all expected to speak English, and the only comment you would get from a person who couldn’t order something in English is that the service sucks. Basically, I have to admit that English is in a way what Latin used to be to the educated people in ancient times – a language widely used for international communication…
    Oh, and just to illustrate the “lost-in-time-and-space” point: my boyfriend was floored to hear an American woman saying how she is shocked that people around her are speaking Italian, and not English. Obviously, English is supposed to be one of the official languages in Switzerland.

  87. Jonathan said, on November 24, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I’m surprised I read through this post and all the comments without one mention of the Mega Mac! Is it a relatively new invention in Japan?
    Basically, a Mega Mac is a Big Mac, but with 4 meat patties (wherever there is 1 meat patty in a Big Mac, picture two there). Unfortunately, there is no extra cheese slice, so the meat/cheese ratio is a lot worse.
    I bought one just for the hell of it, and it was alright. It was a little big to fit in the mouth, so I think I’ll go back to a regular Big Mac.
    I will have to try the teriyaki burger sometime. I also tried the egg-burger, and it was pretty good. The only place in America I know that will let you add an egg to a burger is Fatburger.
    McDonald’s was never my favorite of the fast food places, but I have not seen any other American burger places in Japan (I would love a Rally’s [Checker’s], Jack-in-the-Box, Wendy’s or Carl’s Jr. here).
    They also have some KFCs, but not in my city. I have to go to one of the larger cities in Mie to get that.

  88. Pete from Australia said, on May 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

    In Australia, Hungry Jacks (Burger King couldn’t get local rights to the Burger King name so they use this name here) absolutely trounced McDonalds with an advertising campaign with the double-entendre jingle “It takes two hands to handle a whopper!” (Big Macs had been undergoing diameter shrinkage for a while, so they were actually rather pathetic and tiny by then). The only way McDonalds could finally counter the ad was by temporarily introducing a Whopper-sized burger (and removing it later on).
    Hungry Jacks and the international Burger King chain aren’t on the best of terms, which can be the only reason Burger King hasn’t used the ads in the States.

  89. ThatMan said, on June 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    A bit of a late post, but in certain parts of the US they have what my friends and I refer to as the “Che McDonalds”, which is a fancy-pants version of the regular, but with nice furniture and expensive looking chandeliers.


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