I will admit I’m a Starbucks fan here in the US. I have the app and “flash” that when I want to pay and get my “star rewards.” But I was shocked to see how many Starbucks there are in Paris. Why, in a city where you can find a cafe on almost every corner, with wonderful espresso, would you go to Starbucks?
Here’s my theory. I think that the reason that the French like Starbucks is that, for the first time, they have an option for a “portable” coffee, a cup that they can carry with them as they walk to work, or the subway, or wherever. The tradition of sitting in a cafe means that it is a leisurely experience, and a sedentary one. Starbucks “to go” offers a way to be moving and drinking at the same time. This strikes me as a very American mentality– to want to be moving, making progress toward something, while enjoying a cup of coffee, and it is obviously a very different experience to sitting and relaxing in a corner cafe, watching the world go by.
In a recent trip to Paris, I asked a French friend what he thought and he agreed with my theory, but he added a new twist. He said that young people like Starbucks better because it’s “hip” and “cool.” They feel they are more likely to run into friends there and others “like them.” (i.e. young). The cafes appeal more to the older, more traditional French. Interesting.
There is also an irony here that strikes me. Here in the US, Starbucks is the place that offers people an opportunity to sit for long periods, with their computer, or with friends, over coffee, without being asked to “finish and move on” as seems so often the case with restaurants and other eating establishments. So…. Starbucks offers us here in the US what the traditional French cafe offers in Paris……….are our cultures suddenly sharing a connection?