9 Countries That Have Banned McDonald’s

The fast-food chain has a complicated history with several countries. Here’s why McDonald’s is banned in Iceland, Bolivia and seven other nations.

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McDonald's sign
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In Canada, you can barely be 100 kilometres from a McDonald’s. Because of this, it might come as a surprise that some countries don’t have a single one. But it’s true; everything from economic collapse to political strife have resulted in these nations being free of the Golden Arches.

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1. Bermuda

Until 1995, there was only one McDonald’s restaurant on this Caribbean island. Now, there are zero. The country has a law banning foreign fast-food joints that has been in place since the 1970s. McDonald’s, however, managed to find a loophole in 1985 by building a Mickey D’s on a U.S. Naval Air Station. That station closed in 1995, however, and the McDonald’s closed with it. According to mic.com, the franchise took another crack at breaking into Bermuda in 1999, but this time, the law won out.

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Iranian flags
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2. Iran

In recent years, relations between this Middle Eastern country and the United States have been tense to say the least, and Western franchises like McDonald’s have been collateral damage. There hasn’t been a set of Golden Arches in Iran since 1979. However, as diplomatic relations between Iran and Western nations have improved in the last few years, people have begun wondering whether the chain could make a comeback. Further complicating matters, Iran has created its own McDonald’s substitute, Mash Donald’s.

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Square in Macedonia
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3. Macedonia

This small European nation, located in the Balkans, used to have a few McDonald’s restaurants; seven, to be exact, with several of them in the nation’s capital, Skopje. In 2013, the person running the Macedonian McDonald’s lost their license, causing all seven stores to permanently close. Rumor has it that the Macedonian franchisee and the European CEO of McDonald’s had a falling-out.

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4. Yemen

On one hand, this Middle Eastern nation’s economy is a little shaky, so McDonald’s doesn’t believe that opening restaurants there would be “economically viable.” On the other, extremists in Yemen have threatened militant action against any McDonald’s that dares show its arches in the country. Yikes!

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Bay in Montenegro at night
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5. Montenegro

In 2003, the restaurant chain bought a tiny store in this tiny nation; it was just a “mobile McDonald’s,” opened with the hope that it could lead to something more permanent. Though many people embraced Mickey D’s food in all its greasiness, the government teamed up with local businesses to prevent Ronald McDonald from making a permanent home in Montenegro. Since then, the franchise has kept its McDistance.

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North Korea cityscape
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6. North Korea

Unsurprisingly, this totalitarian regime is pretty averse to American businesses, and Mickey D’s is no exception. According to the Telegraph, though, some elite members of the North Korean government have had McGoodies smuggled into the country from South Korea for their own personal consumption.

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7. Zimbabwe

In 2000, McDonald’s was in the midst of an attempt to introduce itself to this African nation when it suffered a massive economic collapse. (Zimbabwe, not McDonald’s.) The restaurant chain promptly backpedaled, and Zimbabwe has remained Mickey-D-Free. There is buzz that it may try again in the near future, but McDonald’s International Franchising claims that there’s no concrete plan.

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Cable cars in Bolivia
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8. Bolivia

While McDonald’s isn’t outright banned in this South American nation, the last Mickey D’s in Bolivia closed in 2002, ending a tense relationship between the fast-food giant and the nation’s government and citizens. According to the Daily Mail, Mickey D’s failed there because the people of Bolivia didn’t want to flock to a massive corporation to buy burgers. And the current Bolivian president made his feelings about the franchise very clear, claiming that it is “not interested in the health of human beings, only in earnings and corporate profits.” Ouch.

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Reykjavik, Iceland
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9. Iceland

Like Zimbabwe, Iceland suffered a major economic crash that crushed McDonald’s prospects in this island country. Unlike Zimbabwe, though, Iceland had Mickey D’s before the 2009 crash, in its capital city. Rumor has it, though, that the government of Iceland wasn’t that happy to have Happy Meals in the first place, since Iceland is an incredibly health-conscious nation. Despite all that, though, there’s a chance Iceland could leave this list in the near future. According to Iceland Mag, the restaurant chain has “development plans” under way there.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest