Saturday, March 10, 2007

Would you like fries with your order?

When I was a child, I remember when the first McDonald's restaurants or "Maccy Ds" (the vernacular) started to spring up in my home town. One would walk into a McDonalds to be greeted with a plastic grin. Upon asking for a big mac and coke, the person behind the counter would ask "Would you like fries with your order?". This was an attempted cultural crossover that failed.

These were the McDonalds Corporation's mistakes:

  1. We Brits (or is it just me?) tend to not trust people who smile too much. It comes across as a bit shifty.
  2. People didn't like being asked if they want fries. The attitude was (and is) "If I wanted fries I'd have asked for them."
  3. Many customers who wanted "fries" would ask for "a big mac and chips", only to have the person serving them behind the counter correct them to the usage of the word "fries". Although the policy came from on high and we all knew that the person serving us had to say "fries", many still found it annoying.
These days, all McDonald's staff no longer ask us if we want fries (or, sometimes, apple pie), they no longer feel it essential to grin or be polite and they no longer insist that chips are called "fries". And most Brits are all the happier for it.

Since living here, someone once asked me how Americans are perceived in the UK. Although the answer to this question is multi-faceted and so difficult to answer, here's a Catherine Tate sketch of an American themed restaurant in the UK (don't you just love YouTube?). It goes a little way to answering this question, but it more illustrates how differences in culture do not always translate. It also reminds me of a restaurant near where we live called Spinner's Grill, with the tagline "The home of the dancing wait staff." The restaurant is a music themed diner, with disco balls and coloured lights hanging from the ceiling. Now and then (I've only been there once when this has happened), the lights go down, the disco lights and music come on and all the waiters/waitresses do a bit of a song and dance before they start serving again.

4 comments:

Stephen C. Carlson said...

That was hilarious.

P.S. I will never want to go a place that features a "dancing wait staff")

Stephen C. Carlson said...

P.P.S. I'll make an exception as long as they don't dance the way they danced in that Catherine Tate sketch.

Jacqui said...

That was just hilarious!

I hate the way we seemed to try to copy the Americans because they can never be out done with their total professional and utter belief in tackiness.

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