Saturday, 9 June 2012

Heavy metal and the McDonald's Project

If you're not a fan of jangly guitars and mind-meltingly fast drumming, turn away now: I'm a huge heavy metal fan. And when I travel, I try to muscle in on as many metal clubs, gigs and bars as I can. A subterranean bar with sweat running down the walls, packed with bearded punters in Krakow? Loved it. A Gothenburg rock club with fittings plush enough to please even the campest of vampires? I didn't want to leave.

The very rock n' roll Fallen Angel Statue in Madrid
Photo by Anita
Performing my usual internet trawl to find out Madrid's best venues for eardrum-thumping music (answer: they're everywhere), I wondered whether I'd turned into the kind of traveller who makes a beeline for home comforts as soon as they hit the road. I might not be obsessing about the lack of Kellogg's cereal or a nice cuppa tea, but I'm still hunting for familiar ground.

An old travel buddy of mine let me in on her own travel weakness: the McDonald's Project. Every new country she visits, she heads straight for the nearest McDonald's to sate those junk food demons and check out the quirky cultural differences. Even in the monocultural world of McDonald's, where pressed frozen burger patties are shipped uniformly from miles around, little tweaks to that familiar menu exist: gluten-free burger buns in health-conscious Sweden, rice buns in Singapore, the Israeli McFalafel, a glass of wine to accompany those fries in Italy... Turns out my friend isn't the only one fascinated.

And sometimes in the middle of cultural overload, the most intriguing insights can be found in the little differences, whether that's a Japanese shrimp McMuffin or the particular brand of death growls echoing around the local rock bar. The smaller differences help you to find a steer in unfamiliar ground and also make a connection.

So it is a cop-out to hunt familiar favourites, or is it a great way of going local? Either way, you'll find me in the loudest bar.