Fast Food Around The World

Fast food burgers (via Pixabay)

While fast food may have its origins in the United States, it’s something that has spread around the world.

Fast food provides that opportunity to the public. If there is an upcoming deadline for a news article that needs to be submitted in two hours but your stomach is rumbling, a fast food restaurant is a hop, skip and jump away from your office building.

There are so many different franchises scattered across North America, with McDonald’s, Burger King, White Castle, Chick-fil-A, and Taco Bell just some examples.

The McDonald’s franchise is one of the largest fast food chains in history, established in 1955 by Ray Kroc in San Bernardino, California, USA. There are over 36,000 restaurants worldwide and nearly 19,000 international restaurants.

(Photo by Akash Rai on Unsplash)

Fast food in a monochromic society

The United States is a monochronic society, meaning folks value their time. Every second counts and there is no time to stop, hence the desire for fast food.

Others live in a polychromic society, meaning time is infinite. There is never a lost minute and there is no pressure about being on time or late to an event, for example.

However, that hasn’t stopped McDonald’s from spreading out worldwide to countries that do not live the same lifestyle those in the United States do.

Many of the countries that have McDonald’s are more slower-paced and laid back about time, with people in those countries enjoying their meals. According to Lindsey Bradley, who has traveled to multiple countries outside the United States, “I saw at least one McDonald’s in every city I visited, sometimes up to four. In the five months I was [traveling], I only ate it about twice. Though, I didn’t see many Americans or locals — it was mostly tourists.”

Europe is not a fast-paced society, she added. So why do these polychromic societies need fast food restaurants?

Our eating habits are different, that’s why. Some examples are things like anti-social meals. Europeans are known to spend hours at the dinner table (i.e. three hours spent for lunch in France). So, is McDonald’s a culture all on it’s own? Or is it influencing other cultures and changing the way they view their food?

By ewageck

Raised in California and Colorado, U.S.A., Wageck believes each state has its own culture. In traveling the world, she is able to learn what she can share with society and other people. After traveling and truly experiencing the world, she plans one day to return “home.”


  1. I never really thought to think of why fast food restaurants exist, especially because they are so convenient. It does make sense that a go-go-go country like The United States would need quick, convenient, and cheap food like McDonald’s, When I first moved to South Korea, I was actually pretty surprised to see so many McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Taco Bells. It is interesting how the menu shifts to adjust to culture as well.

  2. I think it is important to talk about street food alongside fast food because street food is generally fast as well and can be found in many places outside of the U.S.

  3. I think it is important to talk about street food alongside fast food because street food is not only a form of fast food, but street food is present in other parts of the world outside of the U.S.

  4. I never really thought about how fast food is an aspect of culture. Food itself is a huge aspect of culture, but I never necessarily accounted for the amount of time taken to eat meals or how they are eaten. Americans I think (at least from my perspective as an American) view food as a very casual thing. By that I mean that meals aren’t something that need to be pre planned; you don’t have to sit down and make a meal apart of your day in American culture which is why such places like McDonald’s exist. This was a very interesting read, as it accounts for a number of cultural aspects that aren’t often mentioned.

  5. Being born in America, I have never really viewed fast food as anything more than a quick, cheap meal. However, after reading this article it is very evident that this long time American tradition is starting create news roots all around the globe. Stretching across country to country and culture to culture, fast food could possibly be a link in how different cultures are able to connect and relate with one another. Being able to travel and see a place such as Mcdonald’s that you are familiar with allows you to connect and experience different cultures in a more comfortable situation. Even being able to see the different tendencies and habits through these industries can help bridge a gap among multiculturalism education.

  6. This is an incredibly insightful article. McDonald’s is probably the most well knows food chain around the world, being associated with western world in some cultures. I do wonder is their are foods in certain McDonald’s restaurants, that are focused on the culture that the store resides in. Many parts of the world have street vendors that will have food, which is incredibly delicious, but McDonalds has found a way to be in every various countries around the world.

  7. When reading this article, it was interesting to hear about the contrast between America and other countries. The way that Americans values their time is much different from varying countries that prefer leisure and slow-paced days. I like how this difference was revealed through food and eating habits. Fast food has become a staple in American culture, as it balances our busy lives, and from my prior understanding, fast food chains in other countries are modified to fit their cultures. Not every McDonalds has a double cheese burger on their menu, but rather a more diverse cultural selection. It is interesting how American ideologies, stemming from fast food, have been integrated into other countries (even if they mainly attract tourists).

  8. I found this refreshing to read especially because not many news outlets that I recall will discuss the cultural differences surrounding food. More specifically, fast food and it’s relation to time. I think, using the United States as an example, a monochronic society like that is so focused on constantly producing that it’s become more rare–or at least something that we must actively pursue–to take our times at meals. I’d be interested to look into the psychology behind it as well. Are there overall patterns to the types of restaurants seen in other countries depending on monochronic or polychronic? Can it tie back to economics? Even just this brief article made me rethink that and want to delve into the idea of cultural food differences even more.

  9. This was a really intriguing read. I learned something in a class a few semesters ago that I think is really applicable to this article and might effect the demographic of people that eat at fast food restaurants when they travel. When a chain opens up in an entirely new country they usually adapt the cultural preferences of that area to an extent. For example, a Starbucks might advertise cappuccinos in London while in the US they might advertise iced lattes more. I wonder if the same marketing efforts are used in McDonalds making people want to eat there when they travel versus not eating there when at home?

  10. Having traveled to and lived in several countries, myself, I’ve always been fascinated and delighted by the cross-cultural phenomenon that is fast food. While I make a point of eating local street food or dining at restaurants that serve regional food, I do eat at a McDonald’s, once, everywhere I go. The specialization of the menu and dining experience to suit whatever location the restaurant is serving always delights me. In France, the “Macdo” seemed luxurious compared to the boiler-plate drive-throughs I visited in High School. In Korea, our local chain had an automated delivery system that used pulleys and belts to send food to diners. In Hawaii, I ate at open-air lanais with a menu that highlighted the tangy flavors of Polynesian cooking. It’s fun to experience the diversity of the global community through food.

  11. Having grown up in the United States, I’ve only ever thought of McDonalds as a cheap, “last resort” option for a meal. While I was aware that the restaurant is located in multiple other countries, I’ve never really thought about the fact that the stereotype of McDonalds is not universal, and varies by culture. For instance, I’ve recently learned that the McDonalds in Hong Kong is actually one of the most upscale restaurants one can eat at. It’s interesting to think about, because in the United States, foreign restaurants such as “Hibachi Grills” are often considered upscale, and McDonalds is fast food. Culture really does mediate everything in our lives, even the simplest things such as sustenance.

  12. This was a really interesting article! I’ve never thought about fast food, more specifically McDonald’s, being a culture of its own. Having been able to travel to a few different countries myself, I have been able to see that McDonald’s is extremely relevant all around the world, but a lot of countries tweak the food to make it more traditional to that particular country. I think that aspect of international fast food restaurants is very interesting.

  13. I think I knew that McDonald’s was every where in the world. I guess I just never really thought about why and how this is possible. I remember as a kid growing up in Mexico we had some amazing hamburgers all over the place. We never really craved fast food restaurants because they just did not taste the same. I know I have heard that different countries have a lot of different menu items unique to each country. I always thought that was super cool, I try to imagine if countries like Mexico have these items too and what they are.

  14. I really enjoyed reading through this article, it brings up the notions of globalization and its impact on the culture around the world. Though I did find it surprising that our fast food environment in the U.S. is not duplicated in other countries, very interesting!

  15. I really relate to this article because I have a friend from Hungary who talks about how different fast food is in her country. In America, fast food is very popular and is something that is often stigmatized as unhealthy. In her country, the fast food restaurants like McDonalds are a lot nicer and even healthier. She said that it is a place they usually go to for special occasions, which is so interesting when you compare to our culture and I think it is fascinating. It really opened my mind to other places and how they are different. I always thought that fast food was the same everywhere but I think it is cool that it isn’t.

  16. This was very interesting as fast food in other cultures is a thought that hasn’t crossed my mind! My dad went to Prague in his 20’s for a semester (grad school) and tells us about how the European lifestyle is much more slow paced. He jokes about how he saw a McDonalds about 6 weeks into his studies and how it was overwhelmingly refreshing to have a quick burger, something he was missing to that point. It was that rare back then to see something like a McDonalds, and because of hearing this, I had a perception that fast food options were more scarce in these regions. Even though fast food caters to the fast paced lifestyle, there are many additional reasons to enjoy fast food in a slow paced lifestyle. I like how this article touched on the social aspect and how grabbing a quick bite perhaps caters to the anti-social individual or tourist. Perhaps, they see going to a fast food place as stepping up the game despite its reputation in the states. Perception changes everything, even when it comes to the understanding of fast food by varying cultures. I wish there was a little more to learn and read about this in this article as it was very fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

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