My McDonald’s

My first encounter with McDonald’s was like an episode out of a comic movie. A young and energetic emigrant from Moscow, I arrived in Boston in 1981. By a stroke of good fortune I managed to get a job at an architectural firm, even though I could barely speak – let alone understand – basic English.

My greatest desire was to blend in with my new colleagues, to be as normal and socially acceptable as possible. I noticed that the architects would sometimes return from lunch and tell everyone about a new place they’d found for a good sandwich, and that this information would usually generate a lively conversation. One day at lunch-time, I wandered a little further than usual from my office. Suddenly I came upon a strange new restaurant. It was all red and yellow, and very brightly lit. The prices were just right for my wallet. I ordered at random and tasted something I had never tried before: a hamburger, French fries, ketchup…Back at the office, I made an announcement: “Well, today I found a really great place to have lunch. You guys should try it, too.” “Really? What is it?” several voices asked. “It’s called McDonald’s,” I said proudly. Nobody laughed or said anything sarcastic, but I could see from their faces that something was wrong…

What is it about McDonald’s that attracts children and immigrants alike? As a rule, immigrants, like children, are very sensitive creatures. In their desire to blend in, they are conscious of making the wrong gesture, looking funny or different, standing out in any conspicuous way. The simple experience of entering a restaurant, asking for a table, and talking to a waiter can be untimidating. IIn this respect, McDonald’s is the ultimate populist place. No one can be excluded, you can come and go as you please. It’s okay to bring your children and to make a mess. Toys are given away with nutritional information: there is something for everyone.

by Constantin Boym, Gastronomica (2001)


1. When the author got his first job in Boston, he
A. wanted everyone to recognize him as a foreigner
B. wanted to adapt thoroughly to his new environment and be accepted by his colleagues.
C. didn’t care much about being socially accepted.
D. was convinced he was superior to everyone else.

2. During a lunch break, the author
A. discovered a very expensive restaurant specializing in French food.
B. would usually stay in his office and refuse to eat.
C. came upon a brightly lit restaurant serving inexpensive food he’d never tried before.
D. would usually cook himself a typical Russian meal.

3. In the author’s opinion,
A. immigrants resemble children in being oversensitive to improper social behavior and personal mistakes.
B. immigrants are like children because they don’t care about the impression they make on other people
C. immigrants drastically differ from children.
D. neither children nor immigrants like going to McDonald’s

4. The author claims that McDonald’s is
A. the king of restaurant that only rich, sophisticated adults would go to.
B. the kind of place that is designed to make you feel accepted and fill you with confidence.
C. a place overused by the film industry.
D. run by a charity that gives people free food and toys.

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