Burger Diplomacy

America's burger chains have troubles enough these days opening new franchises in the United States. They often draw sneers from snobs who detest fast food and Mac-architecture.

But those woes pale in comparison to the frying they are getting overseas as symbols of "American imperialism." This prime export of Yankee culture is a visible target for outrage against the US. Here's a recent tally:

*French farmers trashed one McDonald's last month in retaliation for US tariffs on Roquefort cheese, foie gras, and other European luxuries.

*Mobs in Serbia vandalized McDonald's during the NATO bombing, forcing 15 of the burger joints to close.

*At the same time, the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade led protesters in China to attack McDonald's and other American food chains.

*A Burger King that opened in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank was ordered closed by the Miami-based headquarters under threat of a world boycott led by Muslims.

All this is enough to send US diplomats back to school for a course on burger diplomacy, and how to prevent attacks on American symbols, from french fries to flags.

By and large, though, American burger shops are welcomed, studied, and copied overseas. They may not be high taste, but they're highly admired. A McDonald's in Moscow was ranked as the busiest in the world.

Even The Economist magazine compares the prices of Big Macs in over 100 countries in a light-hearted index of how currencies differ in value.

Someday, this cultural export will not be seen as American. Already, there are tales of Japanese tourists visiting the US and saying in surprise, "Oh, America has McDonald's, too!"

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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