We stopped at the McDonalds in Otopeni on Saturday. That's the first town north of Bucharest, where the airport is. The McDonalds sits right on the main road north to Ploiesti. (We were coming back from a trip to a little horse farm, where Alan rode on a pony for the first time ever. I'm sure someone will be posting some photos real soon now.) Anyhow: we bought a Happy Meal -- look, we're parents with two small children, okay? Happy Meals are a part of our life now, and probably will be for a while to come. Alan, age two and a half, now recognizes those golden arches from a mile away. "French fries!" he cries. And it is, dammit, convenient. No, I'm not defensive about this. Not at all. -- We bought a Happy Meal, and it came with a toy, and the toy was in a plastic wrapper. And on the plastic wrapper, it said: "ENGLISH -- Risk of choking -- small parts. Please retain information for reference. Drain after each use." That was all. Except that the plastic bag was covered with writing, on both sides. Why? Because it repeated that same warning in thirty-five different languages.
That is not an exaggeration. I counted. Here they are. Azerica (the language of Azerbaijan) Bulgarian (in Cyrillic; all languages were in their native alphabets) Castellano (i.e., Castilian, i.e., Spanish.) Catalan Czech Danish German Georgian Greek Estonian French Croatian (not to be confused with Serbian!) Hebrew Icelandic Italian Latvian Lithuanian Magyar (Hungarian) Macedonian (not to be confused with Serbian! Or Bulgarian!) Arabic Nederlands (Dutch) Norwegian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Slovenian Serbian Suomi (Finnish) Swedish Turkish Ukrainian (not to be confused with Russian) There are some interesting things about this list. Frex, there are a few languages missing. No Albanian, Armenian, Bosnian, Irish, Kurdish, Slovak, or that weird fourth language they speak in Switzerland. Guess that shows you guys where you rate. Ronald McDonald, he knows you not. On the other hand, Catalonia is now an independent country now, apparently. And The Language Formerly Known as Spanish is now "Castilian". Go figure. McDonalds appears to be shipping these toys from one central factory to restaurants all across Europe and beyond -- from Iceland to the Caspian Sea. Sort of awe-inspiring, when you think about it. Anyhow. I'm keeping the plastic wrapper. Maybe I'll have it on hand, the next time I hear an American acquaintance grumbling about how everything in the States is written in both English and Spanish these days. Or maybe it'll just be a tangible symbol of European... um, something.