Welcome to McDonald’s

Welcome to the McDonald’s in Vienna. It’s at once the weirdest and most wonderful place you’ve ever been. Forget everything you thought you knew.

No more ball pits. No more fluorescent lighting. No more unwashed teenagers sullenly staring at you from behind a register/relic from the 1980s. No more window clings promoting the latest deal. No more vinyl seating, cracked and peeling at the seams, and no more goddamn Ronald McDonald statue out front for children to climb on. Hell, no mustard-fingered children climbing anywhere.

Instead, enjoy blooming roses, two at every table. Modern tables, by the way, with cleanly designed chairs surrounding them. Low tables, high tables, rows of plush seating without tables for those casual Europeans who want to lounge. Did I mention the free WiFi? Or the artistic display touting carrots as an important food group, a display made of smudge-free glass and actual carrots?

You know those commercials you see for the McCafe back at home? The ones where a remarkably diverse cast of characters drink and flirt over a McDonald’s coffee? That actually happens here. Here, the McCafe is not a terrible substitute for real coffee, but a separate location within the greater McDonald’s restaurant (yes, I called it a restaurant). They’re connected in the middle, but the McCafe here has its own separate entrance and eating area, and there’s a clean glass case full of assorted cakes and baked goods. Get a cappuccino that actually doesn’t suck, and then go relax in one of the arm chairs while you drink it. Settle in with a newspaper if you like because parents don’t bring their screaming toddlers here. There’s not a single plastic booster seat to be found in the McCafe.

Also, the bathrooms are so nice. There’s no toilet paper on the floor, and the faucets aren’t dripping water like we’re in some sort of underground cave. There’s a zen motif to the decor, all bamboo and water-covered rocks and that soft glow popular with fancy iPhone apps. The sinks and countertops are actually made of porcelain, not laminate. The floor is also a natural material. Of course everyone’s in a good mood here; the whole staff probably meditates in these shiny, white bathroom stalls.

Does this seem weird to you? Oh, you’re not from here? That’s okay. There’s a self-serve area where six shiny kiosks allow you to order your food in the language of your choice, in case you don’t speak the native tongue. Once you’ve paid the kiosk (which of course accepts your foreign chip-and-pin-less credit card), approach the clean counter where a smiling employee awaits to hand you your food. Everyone is in a good mood here. So are you. Which is weird because that’s never happened to you before, not in a McDonald’s, not Stateside.

Like I said, welcome to Vienna.