Almost Fearless

Starbucks in Beijing

I’ve been meaning to do a post on the supermarkets here in Beijing but I haven’t been brave enough to haul my big-ass camera around the teeming multi-level thunderdome of shopping known as my local Lotte’s.  There’s a lot of foreign brands in Beijing, like Walmart (same as the states except completely different products/brands) and Carrefour (a French supermarket chain) and Lotte’s (South Korean – Japanese conglomerate) and from the inside all three of them look almost exactly the same to me — but totally wild — I’ve never seen anything like it outside of China.


Starbucks on the other hand, is deceptively similar.  It serves it’s lattes ‘grande’ and everything down to the furniture seems like direct imports (doesn’t the checkerboard table below look familiar?).

The sugar comes in the same white or raw choices, but it’s from a different company and the packets have some delightful English translation work: “golden coffee sugar crystals”.  Mmm, just like mom used to make.

I haven’t been in the states for a while, so I’m not sure if this is standard, but I’m assuming it’s like simple syrup they use in iced coffees.  Or as known in China, “invert syrup sachet” which if I said that out of context, you’d probably have no idea what I was talking about.  “Yeah, make mine a grande and be sure to get some invert syrup sachets!”

The branding though, absolutely consistent.  Green plastic cutlery.  The identical label with just a little Chinese added.  Of course, what you get isn’t quite the same — it’s heavy on the corn and red beans (sweet to the Asian palette) and there’s a mystery mayo-crab-something salad in the corner.  The dressing was vaguely asian-y like a little sesame oil was added in.  Overall, just fine for a salad from Starbucks.

The table advertising is the same, but note the blueberry cheesecake.  Blueberry is like THE fruit in Beijing, it seems to me.  If you want to make something fancy, just add blueberries.

This kid could be bored in a Starbucks anywhere in the world, but nope, he’s right here in Beijing.  (By the way, this place was packed.  Starbucks is crazy popular with expats and locals.)

Even the hardwood floors look the same.  It’s like someone picked up a Starbucks from Seattle and plopped it down in China.  Cole was kind enough to inspect the floor very closely and he says, “Yes, it’s practically the same.  I think I recognize this wood grain.”

The cashier spoke with perfect English, she practically had an American accent, and then everyone fell into Mandarin as they called the order back and forth to each other.  I asked my tutor if people like Starbucks here and she said, “I think if you work in the CBD  in one of the tall buildings [note: she means a corporate job, probably] then you’d like very much to bring your cup of Starbucks to work with you.”  Does she drink it? “No, it has too many calories! I’d have to run around all day…”

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



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