Mohammad from Jordan moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA) for work recently and tells us of an experience with the American fast-food industry…
Although it may be a stereotype, it is common knowledge to all Jordanians that Americans love their fast-food and quite often devour it with fervor! In my small town there are no McDonald’s, Burger Kings or any sort of fast-food place in that sense. Cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets or sausage mcmuffins with egg, do not take prevalence over our much loved cuisine. I know that in Amman a few McDonald’s restaurants have opened in the past decade or so, yet my friends and I have never eaten there. Of course it was probably all the rage when the first one opened up, especially for kids, but to be honest it never really enticed me.
I was excited to have gotten the job in Milwaukee, but wasn’t sure what to expect from the American culture in general. I have had so many interesting experiences in the short time I’ve been here; it would take more than this blog post to tell! I’ll sum up one of the brief encounters I’ve had with the American fast-food culture…
My colleagues at the newspaper are all really interested to hear where I come from and what life’s like in Jordan and constantly bombard me with questions. During my first week at work, my supervisor decided it would be fun to have lunch in the conference room and give me a chance to chat with my colleagues and vice versa. He sent out an email in the morning containing ‘McDonald’s Lunch Menus’ which everyone was to choose from. Although I wasn’t really sure exactly what I would be getting, I chose the ‘Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal’, quite the mouthful, as is, I later found out, the burger itself! My colleague from the cubicle behind mine asked if I’d like to join her in picking the meals up later on. I agreed, thinking it would be good fun!
I had never really grasped the concept of the “drive-thru”. In Jordan, meals are reserved for chatting with neighbors, friends and family, to recount the day’s adventures and to relax and turn your mind off for a while and let your senses take over. Meals are also prepared fresh with the cooking process often taking several hours. In other words there’s nothing ‘fast’ about food in Jordan! Why would anyone want to quickly grab a humungous burger and stuff themselves with it whilst waiting for the traffic light to turn green?
Needless to say, that’s what we ended up doing. But I was in for a surprise. Sandra, my colleague asked if I’d like to do the honors and drive myself, I agreed since well, it would be a fun experience! First of all, driving in Milwaukee, as I would find out much later, is stressful, especially in rush hours, lunchtime being one of them. So once we finally got to the McDonald’s I was already sweating! And then came the next challenge: I was to speak into a box and rattle off the list of meals we printed out this morning. We stood in line for 20 minutes until our car was positioned by the ‘talk box’ and then I didn’t understand the lady who asked me what I wanted, especially since once I’d succeeded in reading everything, she repeated it and I could only hope we were going to get what we ordered. About five more minutes sitting in the car, we finally came to the pick-up window and I was practically bombarded with brown hot greasy paper bags and a larger woman bellowing names at me! With Sandra’s help I was able to check if the bags had an owner and then pay and off we were!
Although I am not sure exactly how I imagined that burger should taste, I was overwhelmed by all the ingredients, the colors and the smells. Especially in the car on our way back to the office. It was so intense! The funny thing is, it made me incredibly hungry and once back at work I basically scarfed down the burger and fries, and 3 minutes later I could have eaten another one!
Next time, I am going to leave out the drive-thru and have a ‘real American’ fast-food experience by going inside, ordering from the counter and sitting down to eat. Even though the place will probably be deserted, as my colleagues claims, I think it’ll be worth a try! At the very least it’ll be quicker than sitting in the car and impatiently honking my horn for 25 minutes! And I will also only order one meal, not fifteen!
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.