Another interesting thing I've discovered about Japan is the rigidity of their set menus.
One day while I was in Japan, I go into McDonald's with my parents, and ask what everyone wants so that I can order for them.
My mom tells me that she wants a Teriyaki McBurger combo, with hot coffee to drink. I tell her that that it's not possible to have the coffee with the set, so she agrees to have Coke instead.
My dad tells me that he wants a Teriyaki McBurger combo, with a chocolate shake to drink. I tell him that it's not possible to have the shake with the set. He insists that he wants a chocolate shake. I ask him if he would mind just sharing the fries that my mom was getting, then we could order the shake separately. He insists that he wants his own fries.
I'm pretty flexible, and am willing to drink water, and I don't really want fries. Just my Bacon Lettuce Burger.
So, here's what we want:
So I step up to the counter knowing full well that I can't make any of these substitutions, and my "thrifty" side (some would say "cheap") will not allow me to order every item a la carte.
Here's what I try to order:
This way, I can simply give my dad my fries, and everyone's happy.
"I'm sorry, sir, our shake machine is broken today. Please accept our humble apologies."
Ok, so now, I have to re-adjust my whole order in my head on the fly.
"Ok, make it a hot coffee, please"
Now I can give my mom my fries, and she gets the hot coffee that she wanted. My dad will have to accept that there are no chocolate shakes today, but he still made out with fries and a coke.
Sure, we all ended up getting what we wanted, but I should have to think this hard when I'm on vacation! It is way too complicated to try to order things that are not the norm in Japan, which is why I typically try to play by the rules and follow the instructions on the menu.
Here's another account of the "no substitution" rule