It’s 2016 and “authenticity” is all of the rage. Instead of popping open a Bud Light for the football game, our generation turns to a locally brewed craft beer. Starbucks, while still popular, represents American consumerism ruining the independently owned coffee shop down the street. Burgers and fries will forever be popular, but eating at McDonalds is the lowest of the low when you could buy your burger at a “fast casual” restaurant instead of a “fast food” one.
As a 23-year-old living in New York City, I am in total support of our small business loving and corporation hating generation. While I will forever be a Starbucks girl (what 13-hour a day NYC career girl isn’t?) you would never see me step foot into a McDonalds or order a Coors Light at the bar. In fact, McDonalds could quite actually be the antithesis of my dietary choices. It’s not one of those places I will find myself every few months when I need to grab something quick.
It literally does not even cross my mind to walk through those doors. That is, until I found myself in Japan- a magical country-but one that consumes raw fish, beef, and chicken. I am the definition of a picky eater, so what Japan prides itself upon in the culinary department was my downfall.
After 3 days of trying to pick around meats, eating noodles, and satiating hunger with endless sugar, I broke down when I saw the golden arches in the distance. I practically sprinted through those doors and ordered chicken nuggets and french fries. Is this a sad little tale? Yes it is. But nothing says “you are home” like walking into a McDonald’s or a Starbucks when you are abroad.
Walking into McDonalds is a safety zone when you are an American. McDonald’s, for better or for worse, is a symbol of America to the rest of the world. When you walk through those doors as an American, you are suddenly in 100 square feet across the globe where you can speak English and act “as American” as you would like. Because this is McDonald’s and this is yours.
I would make the same argument for Starbucks, and while those who know me know I’m an addict to begin with, seeing a Starbucks when I am travelling is my safety net. If I can get my coffee (the specific way that I like it), then I can conquer whatever Japan, or Budapest, or Rome is going to throw my way. The staff always makes an effort to speak English, and when they cannot, there is no impatience as we try and communicate via finger pointing and motioning. Starbucks is American, so as an American you get a free pass.
Had I been a 23 year old in the 1960s or 1970s, I probably would have been averse to travelling. I am as picky as they come, and this is something I sincerely wish were not the case. What you can’t stomach, you can’t stomach and had I gone to Japan in a world where it was local cuisine or you aren’t eating… then I would have spent the entire trip starving and unable to enjoy myself.
It’s 2016, and I can go almost anywhere on this planet and get a happy meal or a caramel latte and be on my way. McDonald’s and Starbucks help me feel like home is never to far away, and this is something I do not take for granted. As cultured as I strive to be, having the safety net of what I know and am comfortable with is something to be incredibly thankful for! Branching out and trying the unknown placed in front of you doesn’t feel as scary when french fries are around the corner. Thank you consumerism, and thank you America.