I am going to let you in on a tiny secret that the French don’t want spread. It’s so secret, it could shatter their reputation around the world. It is also so upsetting that most French are in total denial and will protest by saying you are complètement wrong for thinking such foolish things. Unfortunately, it is very much true and a new reality for the French culture. And while it even pains me to write this, I have to state the facts and report what’s truly happening. Yes, the French do love McDonald’s. Gasp! Shocking!
While I haven’t set foot in a McDonald’s – McDo en français – in over 10 years and I’m not planning on going anytime soon, I am always amazed at the number of people filling the McDonald’s restaurants in Paris. It’s always busy, always full and it looks like there are customers just waiting in line at any hours of the day. How come? Are they all tourists? Well, it’s possible a majority of them are but the truth is that there are a lot of French eating there too. So why is it popular? And how is it even possible in a country where the local food and gastronomie were just added to the UNESCO’s list of world’s intangible cultural treasures?
If you ask French teenagers these days (ages 12 to 17) where they go to hang out with their friends in between classes when they have a break or after school – their answer: McDo. Why? “It’s cool”, “it’s where people go”, “it’s different”. And if you want to meet your friends after dinner for a “night out” between 8 and 10pm, where do you go? – their answer: McDo. Why? “You can get a small soda and McApple Pie for cheap”, “it’s the place to hang out and where everyone meets”. There you have it, the popular place to hang out, the “exotic”-different-cool-away-from-home secret joint to meet friends, vent about parents and laugh together before the imposed curfew. It’s that thrive for the American Way Of Life… you know, “to do like they do in the TV shows”.
As I was reading on the topic, I was amazed to find the following information:
– who’s the biggest consumer of McDonald’s behind the U.S.? France.
– which country has the biggest opening number of new restaurants behind the U.S.? France.
– which country saw its profits increase the most between 2004 and 2008 behind the U.S.? France.
– which European country has become a key and the largest market for McDonald’s? France.
Tell that to a French food purist and you’ll hear that something must be wrong with the study.
Now what you probably don’t know about McDonald’s France and how sizes go is that a small U.S. Coke = a large French Coke and a small U.S. fries portion = a large French fries portion. Burgers are smaller too. So you can imagine what a large U.S. Coke looks like to a French tourist coming here for the first time… yes, it looks like an insanity. Also sodas are made with sugar, not the lovely high fructose corn syrup which sneaked its way into the American food supply in the 1970s making people bigger and bigger.
To appeal a bit more to the French, McDonald’s France created sandwiches made with baguettes, that way it feels familiar and close to home. Overall, the French tends to spend more time eating at McDo than Americans and last but not least, McDo workers in France are all slim and meant to be representatives of a “healthy” faux façade geniusly crafted by McDo France Marketing. Bon McAppétit?