It’s hard to think of a country in the world where you’d be surprised to see a McDonald’s restaurant, or at least a drive-through offering. The fast food giant is currently listed in 119 countries around the world with more than 36,000 restaurants, according to the company website. Combined, these establishments serve an estimated 75 hamburgers every second. That’s a lot of hamburgers.
You can find McDonald’s in some pretty far out locations: next to Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay prison, in the middle of the Negev Desert in Israel, beneath the Museum of Communism in Prague, and even inside an old grounded airplane in New Zealand. In China, McDonald’s even changed its name to something more unique for customers.
But still, McDonald’s isn’t everywhere. There are scores of countries around the world (mostly in Africa and Central Asia) where the Golden Arches have yet to set up shop. Then there are some countries that have outright banned the food company from entering their borders altogether.
Then there are countries that, after resisting McDonald’s best courting rituals for years, finally gave in and let the conglomerate in. However, some nations have some strong reasons to hold out. In these countries, you’ll never find a McDonald’s.
North Korea has never been a fan of big brands, especially U.S. brands, playing in its economic sandbox. In 2006, the United Nations imposed sanctions against the country for its nuclear weapons program and its poor human rights policies. So McDonald’s is effectively banned and can’t do business there.
In 2014, Bolivia’s McDonald’s served its last burger. Nobody banned it or anything, but the business was not doing well. Bolivians weren’t sold on the company’s concept of super-fast food — it didn’t vibe with their culture. The fast food giant was operating at a loss and decided to cut its losses and try again elsewhere.
The Bolivian government was on board with numerous nutritionists, sociologists, and educators with their negative feelings about the chain. “They are not interested in the health of human beings, only in their earnings and corporate profits,” said President Evo Morales in a statement.
For 16 years, McDonald’s lived and thrived in Macedonia. Then, the head of McDonald’s European office and the Macedonian McDonald’s franchisee crossed swords and the agreement was terminated, effectively shutting down all of McDonald’s seven outlets in the country, most of which were located in the capital Skopje.
Like many African countries, Ghana’s economy may not actually be strong enough to support opening a McDonalds. Most of its citizens don’t make enough regular income to become regular customers. It’s a frightening reality that’s hard for Western countries to imagine — that a dollar-menu, fast-food restaurant is out of some people’s price range. As the country’s economy steadily grows, though, there have been rumors that the food giant may be trying its hand in the capital city of Accra, where other food companies like KFC have been thriving for years.
More than a decade ago, McDonald’s tried to set up franchises in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, but a political storm led to a complete collapse of the economy. After that, international sanctions forced many big global brands, McDonald’s included, to perform a hasty retreat. In 2010, talks resumed over opening the first-ever chain in the country, but it has yet to make an appearance.
In 2009, Iceland’s currency, the krona, suffered a dismal collapse. All three McDonald’s restaurants in the capital city of Reykjavik were forced to close. While there are no plans to re-open, government officials aren’t keen to have them back either. Iceland is one of the healthiest countries out there. In fact, they’ve been looking at the possibility of setting up a local chain (it may be called Metro) with regionally sourced ingredients that would be better for growing their economy in the long run.
From Dubai to Abu Dhabi to Oman, there are McDonald’s aplenty in the United Arab Emirates. Yemen residents, however, are not feasting on any Big Macs. This is partly due partly to the dilapidated economy — McDonald’s won’t open a franchise unless the venture is economically viable in a territory, which is why the food giant is often used an economic indicator of a country’s wealth and financial stability. The absence is also partly due to threats from religious militants that they will target any U.S. establishments in the area.
In 1996 McDonald’s tried to build its first restaurant in Bermuda, but the local population pushed back so hard that a law was passed banning all franchised restaurants in the country. “It is not Bermudian. McDonald’s cheapens wherever it goes,” elderly Bermuda resident Phyllis Harron said at the time.
Just over ten years ago, a tiny mobile McDonald’s opened in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica. Business was brisk, but it didn’t last long. A report published in the Vienna Review suggested that it closed because the government of Montenegro did not want the fast food giant there, as it was concerned about the health of its citizens. The reporters sided with local food establishments that were resistant to having McDonald’s operate in the region. However, the government of Montenegro has since refuted this claim, saying that they have no official involvement in the establishment of businesses and that “all foreign investors in our country are subject to equal legal treatment as domestic investors.”
The Public Relations Bureau of the Government of Montenegro issued a press release to The Daily Meal assuring us that “no company, not even McDonald’s, is ‘forbidden’ to do business in Montenegro.” However, there is currently no McDonald's franchise in the country.
The world’s largest landlocked country is also the largest country that’s ever said no to hosting McDonald’s. That decision may (or may not) soon be changing — local media in the country’s capital Astana are reporting that a major shopping mall has confirmed the food giant will be moving in soon. In the meantime, you can get your fix of exotic McDonald’s locales by roving over our list of unexpected breakfasts the chain serves worldwide!