Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Your Choice at Belgrade McDonalds: Pay 20 Dinars for Ketchup or the Restroom

I almost never eat at McDonalds back home, but last night I needed comfort food after walking over the Sava River bridge to the Hyatt in Novi Beograd, Serbia and then back again.

This expedition was my husband's idea to demonstrate what a pleasant 20-minute stroll it would be for me to shop at the Stari Grad (old town) green market if we bought a stan in the Blok 21 skyscrapers on the other side of the Sava river. Yes, the sidewalk was very wide with plenty of room. And, if your idea of comfort is to walk high up over a wide river on a busy highway bridge that periodically trembles with heavy, smelly trucks and buses, then you would be in heaven.

As for me, after that experience I wanted McDonalds' fries and I wanted them pronto.

Four observations about the Stari Grad green market-area McDonalds:

1. It's a romantic hotspot. Especially if you are 16-20 years old, this is where a young man would take a girl in order to gaze deeply into each others' eyes while nursing a soda for hours. The very bright lighting is handy because for extra entertainment you can examine each other's cell phones for amusing text messages.

2. Do not presume to imagine that because you are an American that you can order without help from a local translator. For example, here the Filet-o-fish sandwich is pronounced so differently, involving a hard "t" among other things, that it would have been impossible for me to figure out by myself.

3. It is free to use the toilet, but only if you have a McDonalds' receipt proving you spent at least 20 dinars here within the past 3 days. Otherwise you need to pay 20 dinars to borrow the toilet key. (20 dinars is about 35 US cents, but given average salaries here, it feels like a buck.)

4. By sheer coincidence, the cheapest thing on the menu, a small packet of ketchup, costs 20 dinars. Yes, shocking to me, ketchup is not free.

After this experience, we continued by foot home to our rental stan in Vracar. And there on Slavia Circle, my husband happily bought himself a enormous burger-style sandwich from the locally-owned 'Gold Grill' fast food shack. It was half the price of my McDonalds meal, and ketchup was completely free.


Anonymous said...

After coming back to Serbia 10 years later for the first time, this ketchup thing caught me by surprise.

In Canada we'd load up on that push-button ketchup at the napkins/condiments counter where you can also refill your coke or what have you as often and as much as you like FREE :)))

Anonymous said...

McDonald's charges for ketchup and other condiments in UK and across Europe, not just in the Eastern part. In the USA, they charge for sweet and sour sauces and I bet the ketchup will be next.

marsupilami said...

I understand your husband completely. Before I became a vegetarian, I always had a strong urge to buy a pljeskavica after eating at McDonalds.

jeju said...

I guess you Americans pronounce 'fillet' as "filay" but in other English speaking countries it's "fill-it".

Anonymous said...

jeju, hot could an 'et' sounding work sound 'it'? seriously!!

i'd think filet in thick serbian accent would be fil-eht, not fil-IT

Anonymous said...

McDonalds doesn't charge for ketchup or the toilet in the UK..