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McDonald's in disguise

By / September 11, 2002



Ronald McDonald, either as the most reliable purveyor of modestly priced meals or as standard-bearer for American junk-food imperialism, isn't making a big deal out of being American when he's abroad.

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Indeed, since Sept. 11, some foreign franchise holders have been making a big deal out of not being American. Some stores in Lebanon, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East have been hit by consumer boycotts over US policies. When the US bombing raids started over Afghanistan, Bambang Rachmadi put big green signs in front of his 85 McDonald's restaurants in Indonesia proclaiming their Muslim ownership, and piped in Arabic muzak.

At the Yogyakarta branch, a raised area with low tables is reserved for patrons who want to take off their shoes and eat sprawled on mats, in the traditional style of central Java. There they can choose a burger and fries or a "Rice Package," combining fried chicken, scrambled eggs, and rice. Dispensers pump out not ketchup, but the ubiquitous Indonesian chili sauce called "sambal."

In France, you can have your McDonald's cheeseburger made with Roquefort. In Turkey, customers order double kofte burgers, made with meat patties containing onions and flavored with Turkish spices.

In China, the Big Mac is still two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun. But its known as a "ju wu ba," which means "Great Imperial Warlord."

"Most people don't care that McDonald's is American," says An Ying, who manages a new 410-seat restaurant in Beijing.

"We never have incidents" over political disputes. "That's not how Chinese think. We just like fast food."

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