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9 Countries That Have Banned McDonald’s

Despite what you might think, the fast-food giant is not loved the whole world over.

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In the United States, you can barely be 100 miles from a McDonald’s. Because of this, it might come as a surprise that some countries don’t have a single one. But it’s true; everything from economic collapse to political strife has resulted in these nations being free of the Golden Arches. Here is exactly how far you can be from a McDonalds in the U.S. 

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Until 1995, there was only one McDonald’s restaurant on this island. Now, there are zero. The country has a law banning foreign fast-food joints that has been in place since the 1970s. McDonald’s, however, managed to find a loophole in 1985 by building a Mickey D’s on a U.S. Naval Air Station. That station closed in 1995, however, and the McDonald’s closed with it. According to mic.com, the franchise took another crack at breaking into Bermuda in 1999, but this time, the law won out.

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In recent years, relations between this Middle Eastern country and the United States have been tense to say the least, and Western franchises like McDonald’s have been collateral damage. There hasn’t been a set of Golden Arches in Iran since 1979. However, that hasn’t stopped people from wondering whether the chain could eventually make a comeback. Further complicating matters, Iran has created its own McDonald’s substitute, Mash Donald’s. You won’t believe what these familiar products are called in foreign countries.

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This small European nation, located in the Balkans, used to have a few McDonald’s restaurants; seven, to be exact, with several of them in the nation’s capital, Skopje. In 2013, the person running the Macedonian McDonald’s lost their license, causing all seven stores to permanently close. Rumor has it that the Macedonian franchisee and the European CEO of McDonald’s had a falling-out. Learn which European nation has the most expensive McDonald’s in the world.

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On one hand, this Middle Eastern nation’s economy is a little shaky, so McDonald’s doesn’t believe that opening restaurants there would be “economically viable.” On the other, extremists in Yemen have threatened militant action against any McDonald’s that dares show its arches in the country. Yikes! Did you know that the McDonald’s arches might have a secret scandalous meaning?

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In 2003, McDonald’s bought a tiny store in this tiny nation; it was just a “mobile McDonald’s,” opened with the hope that it could lead to something more permanent. Though many people embraced Mickey D’s food in all its greasiness, the government teamed up with local businesses to prevent Ronald McDonald from making a permanent home in Montenegro. Since then, the franchise has kept its McDistance. Here are some mind-blowing facts about McDonald’s. 

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North Korea

Unsurprisingly, this totalitarian regime is pretty averse to American businesses, and McDonald’s is no exception. According to the Telegraph, though, some elite members of the North Korean government have had McGoodies smuggled into the country from South Korea for their own personal consumption. Find out which U.S. ingredients are banned in other countries.

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In 2000, McDonald’s was in the midst of an attempt to introduce itself to this African nation when it suffered a massive economic collapse. (Zimbabwe, not McDonald’s.) The McDonald’s folks promptly backpedaled, and Zimbabwe has remained Mickey-D-Free. There is buzz that it may try again in the near future, but McDonald’s International Franchising claims that there’s no concrete plan. Can you guess which U.S. capital city doesn’t have a McDonald’s? (Yes, there’s only one!)

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While McDonald’s isn’t outright banned in this South American nation, the last Mickey D’s in Bolivia closed in 2002, ending a tense relationship between the fast-food giant and the nation’s government and citizens. According to the Daily Meal, McDonald’s failed there because the people of Bolivia didn’t want to flock to a massive corporation to buy burgers. And the current Bolivian president made his feelings about the franchise very clear, claiming that it is “not interested in the health of human beings, only in earnings and corporate profits.” Ouch. Regardless of how you feel about McDonald’s, you should probably avoid ordering this drink there for health reasons.

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Like Zimbabwe, Iceland suffered a major economic crash that crushed McDonald’s prospects in this island country. Unlike Zimbabwe, though, Iceland had McDonald’s before the 2009 crash, in its capital city. Rumor has it, though, that the government of Iceland wasn’t that happy to have Happy Meals in the first place, since Iceland is an incredibly health-conscious nation. Despite all that, though, there’s a chance Iceland could leave this list in the near future. According to Iceland Mag, McDonald’s has “development plans” under way there. Next, learn the coolest McDonald’s locations around the world. 

[Sources: The Daily Meal, The Telegraph]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.