Life in Seoul

A Treatise on Korean McDonald’s

McDonald’s. Mickey D’s. Macdo. 맥도날드 (Maek-don-al-deu) It’s a global takeover.

Generally, I don’t desire to eat at American food chains during my stay here, when there is Korean food to try and fun, unique dining options around every corner. Today I needed to run some errands around Sinchon, however, and eating lunch alone is a daunting thing for me here when grabbing food is such a group-oriented activity in Korean culture – eating lunch by yourself at McDonald’s, however? Oddly, no judgement passed.

Given the chance to evaluate, I decided to pit Korea’s chains against the U.S.’s, and America is just barely edged out in my heart.

Pros

Environmentalism (?)

I’m not about to pretend McDonald’s is environmentally friendly, considering all we know about it and the metric ton of paper it uses for every meal, but the thick plastic cups you get for drinks if dining in are a plus. Washing and reusing cups has got to help a bit, and goodness knows the U.S. could adopt this to try to carve out even a little environmental responsibility. Paris may forgive us yet.

Kiosk Service

This is the BEST, especially if you’re facing a daily language barrier. Almost nobody at the Sinchon McDonald’s orders at the counter; the kiosks at the entrance offer full service where you can construct your meal at your leisure. Do you want to go crazy with a McFlurry without having to voice your indulgences aloud? Do you want to peruse the entire menu and compare prices and nutritional info easily? Switch between sides without making a fuss? I love it.

Let’s get with the technological times, America! Plus, I noticed about the same amount of human workers as ever – they don’t take as many orders, but overseeing the preparation of kiosk orders and keeping the dining area pristine makes up for it, if I had to guess.

To be honest, I welcome Korea’s dedication to sparking the robot takeover.

Aesthetic

This might just be that this is a big McDonald’s, but the seating area is gorgeous. You could eat at the main level by the floor-to-ceiling windows to gaze at the activity of Sinchon, or head down to the massive basement lounge. It looks really modern, there is a ton of seating, and it’s kept completely clean and orderly by an attentive staff. Plus, nobody gives you a second glance if you’re eating alone or doing work on your laptop.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen lovely American establishments too, but this McDonald’s dining section almost doesn’t feel like a fast food place.

Different Options

This is just by nature of the fact that I’m in a foreign country, but you don’t have to be a guilty American tourist if you order a bulgogi or shrimp burger. They also have pricier specialties like the golden egg burger or “Oriental chicken sandwich.” Be bold without leaving the confines of Western comfort food.

My favorite change is the option to get waffle fries, and I will fight anyone who calls them glorified chips. For me, the chance to ditch limp, skinny McDonald’s fries with a subpar crisp for these things is a definite plus. You can also opt for a Jeju tangerine salad instead of fries altogether. I would probably never do that, but you know, it’s an option.

Delivery

If you’re walking around Seoul, you run the risk of getting mowed over by a motorbike. That’s due to the dedication of McDonald’s drivers, who race around the metropolis blessing hungry citizens with a hearty Happy Meal wherever they may be. They may not care for traffic laws or pedestrians, but they get the job done. The U.S. cannot even compare in my eyes until McDonald’s begins delivering, and in that case, I can’t imagine they would have this much fervor for the job.

Cons

There isn’t a dollar menu! It’s tragic! My chicken sandwich cost 2,000w (<$2) instead of 1,000!

Overall, I don’t necessarily recommend making McDonald’s a priority on travels, I’m just saying it was a lot better here than it is forcing down a dinky dollar menu meal at 10 PM in a much sadder college establishment in the U.S.

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