Walk two blocks, cross 50 (the big road ’round here), read the Big American Texas Burger sign and giggle, open the doors, and there you are. McDonald’s. It sounds the same (annoying ringing bells), looks the same, and smells the same, but the experience couldn’t be different.
Look around at all the signs you can’t read and try to figure out how to communicate what you want to the cashier. Pointing and profusely apologizing (“sumimasen” in Japanese) has been my strategy.
The cashier will greet you with a big smile. You order the best you can – say po-tay-toe for french fries and make sure to order hamburger, not hamburg (some kind of meatloaf concoction). Use your fingers to indicate how many you want. Say, “arigato gozaimasu!” and take a seat because they bring the food TO you.
Now, from what I can tell there’s no ketchup in this joint, but your 100 Yen cheeseburger comes complete with mustard, ketchup, onions, and pickles. It takes EXACTLY the same, but looks worlds different. Imagine a burger where the meat is actually in the middle of the bun, the cheese is intact and not half-sliding off the patty into the wrapper, the ketchup isn’t overflowing and the fries are hot, not over-salted, and delicious.
Take a big breath, apologize to your arteries, and dig in.
Photo courtesy of Michael Bennett, with a bit o’ Photoshopping by me.