Historic French town fights back against ‘aggressive’ McDonald’s advertising

A small French town is fighting back against "aggressive" advertising from fast food chain McDonald's.

Historic French town fights back against 'aggressive' McDonald's advertising
File photo: AFP

The mayor of Autun, Vincent Chauvet, said he had written to McDonald's bosses to retract their marketing campaign – and planned to pass a municipal law banning it if they failed to comply.

In total there were approximately 20 offending posters, each showing close-up photos of McDonald's products, including burgers, chicken nuggets, and fries.

Autun, a 2,000-year-old town in central France, is protected as a 'City of Art and History' and is in the running for Unesco World Heritage status – meaning that outdoor advertising is subject to strict regulations.

Despite their world-renowned cuisine, the French have a soft spot for 'McDo' as the burger giant is known in France.

And aside from the United States, no other country is home to so many of the chain's restaurants. 

READ MORE: Just why do the French love McDonald's so much?

In addition to the lures of free WiFi and cheap, convenient food, the chain has won over the French with attempts to fit in with national cuisine – offering a camembert burger and a McBaguette, as well as giving upmarket customers the option of a knife and fork in a world first.

And in 2014, locals in the northern town of Saint-Pol-Sur-Ternoise even launched a pro-McDonald's protest after delays at the opening of a new restaurant in the area.

But the chain has also riled the French at times.

Residents of one famous Paris street fiercely protested against a McDonald's being opened there in 2013, and city authorities have turned down three applications from the company to open a three-storey restaurant in the historic neighbourhood. 

In 2015, the Paris city council said that it would do “everything possible” to keep the golden arches out of the area.

And in the heart of Provence wine country, the small town of Saint-Romain-en-Viennois protested against plans for a new McDonald's in 2016.







Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?