In Search of McDonald’s~

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 7. Travel 2.0, Shanghai by Yuka Niwa3 Comments

After spending an entire morning and afternoon indoors due to heavy rain, my friend and I decided to go out for a walk in search of McDonald’s. It was around 8pm when we left and being used to McDonald’s being literally everywhere, we thought that it would be an easy task. However, even though McDonald’s in China has a “delivery in under 30 minutes guaranteed”, when we called to have our “Filet-O-Fish” delivered we were apologetically denied due to the apartment being outside of the delivery areas and that was not enough to convince us that there was no McDonald’s relatively close by. In fact, that is what motivated us as we set out in the direction of the nearest international supermarket because that was the only place we were familiar walking to hoping that there would in fact be a McDonald’s in that relative area.

We arrived at the supermarket hoping to buy water as we continued on our search, however, it was already closed. I could see the white, green, and blue led sign of ‘Family Mart’ up ahead and instead of making the smart decision of turning back and going home, I convinced my friend that we could grab a quick snack and that there had to be a McDonald’s further down the road. After all, he had pointed out that “there are 516 McDonald stores in Beijing”. When the cashier asked if I wanted to ‘wechat pay’, ‘alipay’, or ‘use cash’ I realized that I had forgotten to bring my phone with me, while my friend left his phone because he thought that I had brought mine. I frantically searched my pockets looking for cash and as relieved when I found 80 kuai. Since we had already made it this far, for the first time since I became absolutely dependent on my iPhone and subsequently google maps, I asked the cashier for directions for the closest McDonald’s. She told me that she wasn’t allowed to check her phone during working hours, however she knew that there was a KFC close by on ‘so-and-so road’ and to ‘ just turn left here and keep walking straight”. After walking for another 20 minutes down a road lined only with trees and dead-silent villas, the only other living creature on that road besides my friend and I was an old man on an evening stroll. I felt sorry as I frantically ran up to him asking for directions, to which  he responded by turning 180 degrees around and walking in the opposite way.

Thankfully, we were able to catch a cab a couple minutes later who searched on his phone for the nearest McDonalds which was in fact in the opposite direction. However, by the time we got there we were 16 kuai down from our mere 80 kuai and the McDonalds had just closed. Again, we had to ask the staff for directions and were relieved to hear that the KFC the cashier had told us about at Family Mart was just across the street. With our 64 kuai, we managed to share a combo meal and have enough money for a cab home (with 1 kuai to spare).

This experience made me realize how dependent I am on my phone and the GPS within it. It was interesting having to ask for directions, which in my mind is something I used to see my parents doing not myself. Also, asking directions was something I was initially hesitant to do and not used to doing, in addition to requiring courage. Although I myself rely on my phone so much, it was surprising to discover that no one seemed to know where anything is nowadays without their phones. I guess it will be a new goal for me to learn to navigate myself better without Google Maps whether it is in Shanghai or anyplace else.


  1. Hi Yuka Niwa, I had similar experiences in the past Summer in Beijing. Since its an extra large city, anywhere we wanted to go took us more than 30 mins and 50 kuai. I cannot imagine trying to figure out the exact place with no navigation apps. I just dont remember how I manage to go to places with no phone back when I was much younger. And also, people nowadays never know their place as well. I tried asking people for directions but turned out everyone seems to be an outsider of the city. I hope with your goal of learning to navigate yourself better you can eventually call yourself a Shanghainese, just like how they call themselves New Yorkers.

  2. Hi Yuka Niwa! I completely understand the fear of having your phone dead in China, as I’m in Shanghai as well. Once it’s dead you don’t have alipay, wechat, any sense of direction, or basically any sense of purpose. Apps have become such an essential part of daily life here that’s it’s difficult to imagine a day without them. I feel the same way where I feel like I should be learning my way around Shanghai without my phone, however, I do not know if that is actually going to happen! At least there is a McDonald’s close by our dorms!

  3. Hi Yuka Niwa,
    this frenzy of trying to find a Mcdonalds is almost unfortunately a universal experience. Becoming dependent on an object isn’t always the funnest feeling, too, as you describe. Once this semester actually, I had a parallel experience, in which it was about 6 AM and my friend and I ventured out into a rainstorm to get Mcdonalds. I’m still not sure if it was worth it… Anyways, I think being able to navigate without devices is a lofty goal, but a good one! I believe in you!

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