Another note from our own Liz Hulley¬† —

This week, Russia celebrates 20 years of….McDonald’s!

I would like to leave the fast-food (health) debate for the moment and comment on the culture implications. This kind of anniversary is interesting when looked at in the light of what was going on the world at the time.

1990: I was almost 8 years old and probably didn’t know that the USSR existed. And I barely knew what McDonald’s was, as I wasn’t raised on fast-food.

Meanwhile, in Russia, an interesting “cultural” exchange was taking place. I enjoyed reading the accounts in Monday’s local paper (Metro) about people’s memories of the first McDonald’s opening in Moscow.

They speak of the lines, the intrigue, the scent of a new kind of food. People who had worked as servers describe the pressure they felt, then the relief as the idea took on.

I don’t know exactly which characteristics of American culture are represented by McDonald’s cuisine: Convenience? Mass-marketing? Consumerism? At any rate, in some ways this was a little crack in the cultural barrier. Something that could be “shared”?

An interesting excerpt from Metro (Feb.1, 2010).

How many hours do you have to work, to buy a Big Mac?

-in 1990: 2 hours, 10 minutes
-in 2010: 30 minutes

-in 1990: average salary was 297 rubles a month, a Big Mac cost 3 rubles, 75 kopecks

I asked a friend recently what her favorite restaurant was, and she said “McDonald’s.”

I suppose it is cheaper than other establishments in St. Petersburg, but it is still considered “eating out,” not something most people can afford to do regularly.