Category Archives: North American Culture

The Frenchified English of McDonald’s in France

I had the misfortune of eating at McDonald’s last Sunday when David and I decided to go on a drive to Chanaz, at the other end of Lac du Bourget. Unfortunately, we arrived at 2pm, when every restaurant in Europe closes because no one can possibly still be hungry at that time, so it was either starve (I normally eat breakfast at 11 and lunch at 2, I’m so unFrench!) or go to the only “restaurant” in this area that serves “food” after 2pm. So McDonald’s it was, though I think I should have chosen to just starve for a while longer.

I always have to laugh at fast food places in France because they try so hard to be American. Most of their menu is in English, though Frenchified English, because everyone associates fast food with the US, so of course you have to order in English to make the experience more authentic; and I’m sure it’s supposed to attract the Americans abroad. I got bored waiting at the drive-thru (that’s le drive in French) so I took a picture of their menu so I could see what ridiculous names they give the food. There’s the Big Tasty (Europe dropped the N’), the CBO (Chicken Bacon Oignons – why it’s 2/3 in English and 1/3 in French nobody knows!), Le P’tit Wrap Cheese & Sauce Ranch, and the value meals are called Best Of, though most burgers/sandwiches and the Happy Meal kept the same names.

Even though the spelling may be the same, the pronunciation is radically different, which basically means Americans who can’t speak Frenchified English can’t order at McDonald’s in France even though the menu is in English. Shortly after my arrival in France, the boulanger didn’t understand me when I tried to order un cookie because I pronounced it /ˈkʊki/ instead of /kuˈki/ and the whole time I was wondering why can’t it just be called un biscuit like I learned in French class. One little vowel and stress pattern changed and the word becomes incomprehensible. Though perhaps this should serve as a lesson why learning proper pronunciation of a foreign language is so important – especially the pronunciation of loan words that are deceptively similar to the original.

When we got home, I decided to look at McDonald’s French website for more “translations” – I highly recommend you don’t because the site is incredibly flash-heavy like most French sites – and came across this:

So I’m a little confused. Which is the English and which is the French? I’m pretty sure this is called a double cheeseburger in the US, but the translation seems to imply that Double Cheese is the English and that Double Cheeseburger is an appropriate translation into French. Why not just leave it as Double Cheeseburger and therefore have no need for that super helpful translation at the bottom?

Kentucky Fried Chicken in France

It’s Sunday and we have no food in the apartment because it’s Sunday and no stores are open. Ok, some stores are open in the morning on Sundays, but they are so crowded that I hyperventilate just thinking about it.

A KFC opened in Chambéry a few months ago and I was actually curious to see what it would be like (though I haven’t eaten at KFC in the US since I was in high school…) and David wanted to try it too since he’s never had it. KFC hopes to open 200 restaurants in France by 2012 and according to their awful flash-heavy website that takes 2 minutes to load, there are currently 93 restaurants open.

So I got some Crispy Tenders (the menu is mostly in English, of course). My first impression of a Frenchified KFC is: where are the mashed potatoes & gravy?!

Yes, they sell pieces of chicken in a bucket with Col. Sanders’ face on it but that’s about where the similarities end. The sides available with the meals are a salad, fries or a little corn on the cob that no one knows how to “make” and so they won’t even give it to you, but instead substitute fries without your knowledge.  The sauces available for the chicken are barbecue, sweet & sour or curry. The desserts are the standard ones you find at French McDonald’s and Quick: fondant au chocolat, tiramisu, tartes, etc.

No mashed potatoes, no gravy, no biscuits, no mac & cheese, no beans, no rice, no apple pie or parfaits.  I figured these things wouldn’t be served in France, but I still had a tiny bit of hope. And now I’m actually craving the mashed potato bowl – mashed potatoes with corn, chicken, gravy and cheddar cheese on top. It’s seriously no surprise to me that French people would not want to eat that, but now I do! And I can’t have it. ::sigh::

I suppose what bothered me most was the fries. I am so sick of French people complaining that Americans are so fat and Americans eat french fries at every meal, blah blah blah. I very rarely ate fries in the US and I have never had so many fries forced on me as I do in France. I can’t even eat fries anymore because of it. I used to just to be nice, but now I don’t care. You can do more to potatoes than just frying them, ya know, like boiling and mashing them!

One good thing is that it seems to be much cheaper than other fast food places in France. Compared to US prices, it’s still ridiculously expensive for not-so-great food.

And their Hot Wings? Not so hot.  France and spices don’t get along.

At least in December, some stores are allowed to be open on Sundays for Christmas shopping so we won’t have to resort to fast food. The law passed earlier this year allowing stores to open on Sundays for the entire year is only for Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Lille. Those of us in the boondocks get nothing because the law is supposed to be intended for tourists in tourist-heavy areas only because French people couldn’t possibly want to shop on Sundays!

Washington, D.C.

I finally saw the nation’s capital on Monday. I had been wanting to see D.C. for a very long time and since we were going to be close by (well, close enough) after the wedding, I talked my parents into stopping for the day. So for eight hours we wandered around the Mall and Arlington Cemetery, taking picture after picture and learning about the history of the presidents from our Tourmobile guides.

Here are just a few photos. I will upload the rest to a photo album on my Travel Photos page when I get back to France.

Lincoln Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam War Veterans Memorial

WWII Memorial

Washington Monument

White House

Capitol Building

Arlington Cemetery

View of D.C. from Arlington House

I will definitely go back to D.C. someday. I could spend days in the Smithsonian museums, and I love that they are free. I’ve always liked American history, and especially military history, and there is so much to learn and experience in that city. And I’m glad we were in Lexington before Arlington since Robert E. Lee had a strong presence in both places and I knew exactly what the guides were talking about. But I had no idea he (technically, his wife’s family) had owned Arlington House before the Civil War.

I gave all of my history books to my brother (along with the bookcase since there were so many) when I moved to France, but now I feel like reading up on the Civil War again. I know David has a few history books, but reading them in French just isn’t the same.

Multilingual is always better than monolingual

From the New York Times:

Nashville Won’t Make English Official Language

Published: January 22, 200

Nashville voters on Thursday rejected a proposal to make English the city’s official language and largely to prevent government workers from communicating in other languages.

The proposal was introduced by Eric Crafton, a metropolitan councilman. It was opposed by a broad coalition including the mayor, civil rights groups, business leaders, ministers and the heads of nine institutions of higher education.

“The results of this special election reaffirm Nashville’s identity as a welcoming and friendly city,” Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement.

Mr. Crafton had said the policy would encourage immigrants to learn English and save the city more than $100,000 in translation and related costs. The policy allowed exceptions to its English-only rule for issues of health and safety.

Critics said the proposal would tarnish Nashville’s reputation as a cultural mixing pot and drive away immigrants and international businesses. They also accused Mr. Crafton of worsening anti-immigrant sentiment and wasting at least $350,000 of taxpayer’s money on a special election.

[ Full Article ]

I can see the reasoning behind wanting immigrants to learn English, but forcing it upon them is not the answer.  Immigrants in France must learn French because it is the official language, but France has always had an assimilation policy. The US has no official language because we prefer the “melting pot” idea. Keep your culture, keep your religion, keep your language! Learning English will obviously help with everyday life in America, but it is not what makes you American.