Thousands of miles away from home, nothing screams “America” like the golden arches of McDonalds. Brazil’s McDonalds offered the wonderful Ovaltine Shake and a delicious late night ice-cream fix. India tested our patience as we emerged from the Hyderabad airport, tired and hungry, and came face to face with the McChickens and McFlurries. Someone spoke up, “I don’t even care if they only have chicken!” And we realized that we wouldn’t be getting any juicy Big Macs while in India—they don’t eat cows.
China, though, has taken McDonalds to a whole new, should I say, dangerous, level. For better or worse, McDonalds delivers in Beijing—right to our dorm. Our PittMAP cohort was amazed by this phenomenon. We asked one of our Chinese Buddies, “Isn’t it weird that your McDonalds delivers?” She replied, “Isn’t it weird that yours doesn’t?”
One night, tired, hungry, and freezing cold, I didn’t feel like leaving my room to go find food. What better time to order some McDonalds? I grabbed my handy Survival Guide, generously provided by the CET study abroad staff, and looked for the number for McDonalds. Uh oh. No number. Perfect.
I found Abby, remembering that she had ordered McDonalds the day before, to ask her how she had managed. She warned me that she had had a terrible time trying to place her order. “They didn’t understand what I was saying. Eventually we had to go downstairs to get someone who spoke Mandarin to help us.”
Hannah and I set to work Googling McDonalds in the Beijing area. I was trying to find one within walking distance. Hannah was in her room trying to find a number for us to call. I think I might have figured something out!
Hannah came over with a phone number, dorm address, and McDonald’s menu at the ready. Well here goes nothing. First try, a Chinese woman tried to give me a different number. Second try, a different Chinese woman hung up on me after I asked for English. Third time’s the charm! Finally my call made it through.
I made sure that they would actually deliver—I still couldn’t comprehend this idea. “What is your name?” the woman asked. “Lizz…?” “No, your street name.” I was caught off guard, expecting that I would place my order first. I scrambled for Hannah’s room card and attempted to read out the address. “83 Cee-san-huan North Road”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” “83 Shee-san-who-an… Cee-shan-han… I’m just going to spell it. 83 X-i-s-a-n-h-u-a-n North Road.”
After a long pause, the woman read back the address with perfect pronunciation. More questions: “What building?” “What room number?” I was starting to think that it would have been easier just to go downstairs and buy a noodle cup from the convenience store.
I was so caught up in relaying the address, I forgot what it was that I was supposed to be ordering. One McDouble, one McChicken and two fries later, the lady thanked me. The delivery man would arrive in 45 minutes. “You did great!” Hannah went back to her room to continue working on her homework.
Twenty minutes later, I jumped at the sound of my room phone ringing. I answered it and was greeted by an onslaught of Mandarin. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Chinese.” The line went dead. A second later my cell phone starts ringing. Same man, more Chinese. “Umm… McDonalds?” I’ll never know what he said, but it sounded like an affirmation.
Stepping out of the elevator, I found an Asian version of Ronald McDonald—a bright red McDonald’s coat, black army pants, black knee pads and a red helmet. He was standing in front of the door with a mini refrigerator strapped to his back. I responded with “Ni hao” (Hello)—the only Chinese that I felt confident saying. He chuckled, took my money, and handed me the food. The French fries were cold and my McChicken was more like mystery meat, but I was too busy laughing as I tried to tell Hannah about my encounter with the McDonald man to worry about it.
A week later, once again too cold to go outside, Allie, Hannah and I decided to order McDonalds. I already had the number in my phone. I knew the secret—skip the broken Chinese, just spell out the words. Address in hand, I told the man on the phone that I wanted to place an order for delivery.
“Of course and you are Elizabeth Schellin at 83 Xisanhuan North Road, correct?”