Disney may have started in the US, but its international theme parks have been infused with locally familiar elements, from feng shui in Hong Kong to European inventors in Paris.

Disneyland calls itself the happiest place in the world, but to keep visitors happy in its five locations across the globe, each theme park is tweaked to cater to local cultures and tastes. Outside of the two original resort areas in the United States, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disneylands in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong offer subtly different selections of food, rides and layout to make the millions of visitors each year feel at home.

Tokyo Disneyland
Opened in 1983 and larger than the original Disneyland California, Tokyo Disneyland is the third most visited of any theme park in the world after the two Disney parks in the US. Like Walt Disney World in Florida, Cinderella’s Castle is located at the centre of the park, rumoured to have been chosen because the princess’s qualities of duty and a strong work ethic would resonate more deeply in Japanese culture than Sleeping Beauty, whose castle is featured in the centre of Disneyland California.

But like karaoke, which originated in Japan and is a country-wide obsession, Disneyland gives the often-reserved Japanese people a place to unleash their rowdy side. In Tokyo Disneyland, even adult visitors will sing, clap and dance along to the internationally themed live shows, such as the Latin-American vibes of Minnie Oh! Minnie or the street show Jubilation!; it is a level of audience participation that would be a rare sight in the US.

Similarly, the food offered at Tokyo Disneyland is noticeably different from the US, infusing both Chinese and American flavours with Japanese cuisine. To refuel between rides or while waiting in the lengthy queues, you can buy a steamed bun -- originally a traditional Chinese delicacy with hot, sweet or savoury fillings -- from Boiler Room Bites in Adventureland. The usually round bun is in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, with the iconic mouse ears filled with teriyaki chicken. The donburi, a traditional Japanese dish that consists of rice and savoury toppings, can be ordered with US flavours like taco meat (spiced minced pork), creole chicken or shrimp patties instead of teriyaki meats. This is then topped with cabbage and an egg, just like you would find in any donburi eatery in Japan.

If you are still feeling peckish, try some popcorn with local flavours, such as soy sauce with butter from the popcorn stands next to the ImageWorks photo studio in Tomorrowland or Café Orléans in Adventureland, or Japanese curry from the stand next to the Trading Post gift shop in Westernland. For milk tea-flavoured popcorn, a popular sweet, South-East Asian fusion of tea and milkshake that also goes by the name of bubble tea, you will have to head to the nearby Tokyo DisneySea, a separate park with water slides and watery rides.

Hong Kong Disneyland
The small Hong Kong Disneyland, opened in 2005, incorporates feng shui and traditional Chinese elements into its design to attract tourists from mainland China.

Feng shui balances the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to create positive energy, and these elements can be seen throughout the theme park. Rocks represent stability and prevent good luck from flowing away, so two gigantic boulders have been placed at the park’s entrance to stop energy from flowing out of the resort. Water stimulates fortune and wealth, and the park is full of lakes, ponds and streams -- not to mention the large fountain featuring Disney characters placed at the main entrance of the park.

The main gate of the theme park has been positioned in a north–south direction for good fortune, and as you approach the entrance, look out for a sharp bend in the walkway. This was put in intentionally to stop good qi (energy) flowing into the nearby South China Sea.

Chinese culture is filled with superstitions about numbers, with 888 considered to be a powerful number of wealth. That is why the Beijing Olympics were staged on 8 August 2008, the eighth day of the eighth month of an eighth year. Similarly, the main ballroom at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is exactly 888sqm. There are 2,238 crystal lotuses adorning the hotel’s Crystal Lotus Chinese restaurant because in Cantonese the number sounds like the phrase “to easily generate wealth”. The obsession continues with the number four, which is unlucky to the Chinese because it sounds like the word “death” in both Mandarin and Cantonese. So you may notice that the elevators in Hong Kong’s Disneyland have no number four, because the floors in all of the buildings skip from three to five.

Other items that are missing are clocks in the gift shops (so no Mickey watches!), because in Cantonese and Mandarin “giving a clock” sounds like “going to a funeral”. Green hats are not available to buy (sorry Peter Pan!) because of a Chinese expression that a man wearing a green hat is cheating on his wife (the relatives of prostitutes were forced to wear green hats in ancient China). What you will see is a lot of is red, a lucky colour according to Chinese culture. Look for liberal uses of painted accents on the buildings on Main Street, USA.

When you are done counting, have a dim sum lunch, something Hong Kong is famous for. If you want to try dumplings with a Disneyland flavour, go to the Crystal Lotus restaurant where the dumplings and steamed buns are formed in the shapes of characters from Disney films, such as Duffy the Disney Bear (a character that exists only as a product, but who is very popular in the Asian market), Chicken Little of the eponymous 2005 film, the three-eyed Little Green Men from the Toy Story movies, and of course those mouse ears in the form of Mickey fried shrimp and root vegetables, Mickey seafood glutinous pancakes, Mickey red bean honey pudding and Mickey green tea jelly.

There is also ample opportunity to take a picture with Mulan, the animated character from Ancient China, whose actor can be found posing in Fantasy Gardens, the park’s dedicated area for taking photos with Disney characters.

Disneyland Paris
After excitedly entering Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, visitors are greeted with an arcade that features a small replica of the Statue of Liberty – a gift from France to America in 1886, making it a fitting introduction to Europe’s only instance of this American theme park. The covered arcade is one of two on Main Street, replacing the open spaces of its counterpart in California, and offering essential cover from the cold and rain that typically hits Paris.

As you venture further into Disneyland Paris, you will see other changes. Gone is Tom Sawyer’s Island – a staple of the US theme parks – since the character is little-known in Europe. Instead there is Discoveryland dedicated to European visionaries, such as Leonardo da Vinci with the Orbitron attraction, a rocket ship ride in the style proposed by the Italian inventor; and Jules Verne with Les Mystères du Nautilus, an attraction that lets visitors walk through the rooms of Captain Nemo’s submarine, as featured in Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The great artists of cinema are revered in CineMagique, a theatre show unique to Paris, featuring French director and actress Julie Delpy on screen with synchronized live actors. And the character Remy, a French chef rat from the Disney cartoon Ratatouille, will be given his own ride in 2014, titled Ratatouille: Kitchen Calamity, complete with an attached restaurant to match the cartoon’s fine-dining kitchen.

Unfortunately, the French stereotype of a smoking, wine drinker is upheld in Disneyland Paris. Many visitors complain that although the theme park is supposed to be outfitted with dedicated smoking areas, most smokers seem to puff away in all the open areas, including in queues for rides. It is also the only Disneyland in the world where you can enjoy an alcoholic drink with your meal; a French meal without a glass of wine would make for the unhappiest place in the world.

Shanghai Disneyland
At the 2011 opening ceremony for the sixth Disneyland, set to open at the end of 2015, Disney said the Shanghai-based park will include “characteristics tailored to the Shanghai region and other amenities consistent with Disney's destination resorts worldwide”.

The ceremony followed this lead, featuring traditional Chinese drum music and Mickey Mouse dressed in a traditional, red Tang Chinese suit -- a collarless silk jacket with matching trousers, resplendent with gold accents on the embroidered jacket, toggle buttoning and trouser cuffs.

When Disneyland Paris opened, it was criticised by French intellectuals for not incorporating more local culture. Even in 2002, 10 years after its first day in operation, Parisian theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine called the theme park in Paris a “cultural Chernobyl”, which still holds true if you aren’t a fan of American culture, as few further nods to French culture have been added to Disneyland Paris. This criticism led Disney to take extra care when adding culturally specific elements to their parks in both Hong Kong and Tokyo. If the opening ceremony in grand Chinese style is anything to go by, Shanghai Disneyland may become the most customised Disneyland yet, to make the most populous nation in the world the happiest place in the world.