Not all food is the same – especially when you aren’t from America

Did you know how different your American food is compared to the European countries?


Tom Barysch, General Editor

American Food and its weird properties…

Would you have thought that the food here tastes different in Europe?

When I came to California as an exchange student in August of 2022 from Germany, I was expecting to experience a lot of differences in how people live here versus at home in Germany. However, food was not one of those expected differences but ended up being the most noticeable one right away.

When I first ate salad, just a normal caesar salad, I had to look down at my plate and inspect the salad for mold. It was fresh and just bought from the supermarket, but in comparison to how I’m used to it in Germany, the salad was stale, bland, and kinda mushy. I had just eaten a caesar salad in Frankfurt 2 days before – which was from a little restaurant near the airport – but that was phenomenal in comparison. That is why I rarely get a salad in the US, while I would always order one back at home.

 Meat tastes different, but not worse. Americans know how to make a good burger! I was eating a burger in Manhattan a bit ago, and it was maybe the best burger I’ve ever eaten. In-n-out has the best fast-food burger in my opinion, with Chick-Fil-a having the best chicken.

What I noticed especially though was the difference between ground beef here and in Germany, american ground beef is stale and tastes older. 

Besides all this, the fast food here – mainly McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Jack-in-the-Box, Popeyes, Chick-fil-a, etc, tastes very different in Europe too, even though they offer the same menu. McDonald’s, the dominant American fast food chain in Germany tastes much blander here, something that I didn’t expect given that the US is its original country. A hamburger from McDonald’s seems like a crime in comparison to the German one, and the German one is even cheaper. I think this goes back to maximizing profit over customer satisfaction and the preservatives that are banned in the EU being used here, commonly to store food longer and reduce cost. McNuggets are better here though, they are way crispier here than the ones I’d usually get in Germany. Funny enough the sizes of the McNugget boxes are different too. In Germany, there is a 4,6,9, and 12-piece chicken nugget box, here it goes up to 40!

What just blew my mind when I came here is how normal it is to physically get into your car, drive 15 minutes to some fast food restaurant and get takeaway to eat at home. No one does that in Germany, or Europe in general. I would always cook, and my friends would also always cook themselves – fast food is maybe a once-in-a-month thing. That’s maybe because there are only around 3-4 fast food chains in Germany in total though. Here it’s normalized, and you’re the exception for cooking regularly yourself, from my experience so far. I think it’s a bummer because food just tastes better if you make it yourself.  

Also, American food doesn’t mold for ages. I’m used to knowing I have to use up my food in up to 2-3 weeks in Germany because otherwise, it would turn bad, but here the food is good for months… which creeps me out. When I was still at my first host family, I discovered they had cheese in their fridge, and shockingly, when I left 3 months later it was still there, unused and visually fine.  Greek yogurt would turn bad within 2 weeks in Germany, and here it’s good for at least a month.

The European Union has banned several preservatives that the US uses, commonly due to actual health risks. Some of them are Potassium bromate, Azodicarbonamide, or Olestra. For instance, Potassium bromate is proven to irritate the lungs, and cause coughing and repeated exposure to Potassium bromate gives way to damage to the nervous system, impairs thinking and may cause cancer according to the New Jersey Department of Health and senior services. Nevertheless, the FDA allows it to be used in foods here to keep them fresh longer.

I think the US should always put the well-being of every single citizen over keeping food fresh for a few days longer. They could use the European Union as a reference for what should be allowed, and what should be improved upon.