How I feel about Starbucks these days in France, in one word: expensive. A tall Americano coffee is 2,80 euros, and venti frappucinos get horrifyingly close to 6 euros (not that these are even the drinks I want to order). They do have special, country-specific offerings like fruity tea frappucinos and café viennois. Also, I miss America, specifically Northwest Starbucks’s, terribly! : (
Sometimes, however, going to Starbucks will be necessary for me because 1- wifi, 2- it’s a little (and expensive) taste of America, 3- it’s always a good hang-out spot, and a good place to observe some French people who actually like Starbucks, 4-McDonald’s is not my thing, guys.
My American pal and I planned to meet outside the metro station Opera today at 10:30, but then we both were running late and it ended up being more like 11:30 a.m. when we met (c’est la vie and French people are always running late anyways). Of course it’s my day off, so c’est pas grave that my alarm clock didn’t end up going off at the appropriate time. We decided yesterday that we wanted to go and “study” at Starbucks, so we chose one in the “Opera” area that my French friend said was nice, and stayed there until around 3:30, or I should say, 15:30. I’m going to make a list of the differences I have observed so far. I’m trying not to critique as much as outline the cultural differences, but you can tell me if I’m being too critical! Here goes:
- They are large. The ones I have been in so far have been at least 2 flights. Or, there has been a RDC and a first floor. In France, the first floor isn’t called the first floor. It’s instead réz-de-chausée, and the “numbers” start with the first floor, or the American “second floor”. I forget this often, ha so I thought I would remind my readers!
- People feel totally free to sit right next to you. My friend (who was sitting right across from me) had left to use the restroom and then purchase a sandwich, and in that time frame of around 10 minutes, 3 French teenagers with their expensive drinks in hand came and sat right in front of me on the “bench/couch”, and right next to her homework and her bag. I felt really awkward, just because I’m not used to people doing that without asking, “Is anyone sitting here?” and there’s always that language barrier a little bit, so I decided to say in French that she was going to be coming back. I just didn’t want her to not have a place to sit when she got back. The girl shrugged and muttered something I couldn’t hear and went on with her conversation, not leaving the spot. I’m pretty sure she was saying something about it not being my right to say that, but she could have been saying something worse than that and I wouldn’t have known. I like to think the best of people though!
- It’s not really a café culture like one that you’ll typically find in Paris. People are interested in getting their drink, or leaving (something that I actually haven’t seen often) or they are interested in sitting down with their computer (that free wifi!), reading material(s), or friend(s) and lingering. For at least an hour.
- The proper thing to do when there’s no place for you to sit, from observation, is get as close to the table that you would like to “snatch” after the people leave, and sit. And wait. This to me, is a bit creepy and awkward. My friend and I were lingering and we were obviously American (oops) and I feel like I was being so offensive. But who knows. Sometimes you just have to say ‘pardon’ and get on with it. Also, I think the French/Europeans are less freaked out about personal space. For me- France has been very TINY and has been very hard to navigate the stores without bumping into anyone. Some supermarkets even have long lines because they are so small/ not very staffed with cashiers, and the elevators are very small.
- You must eat your sandwich, muffin or pastry (that comes on a tray and on a proper plate) with your fork and knive. People hardly ever eat with their hands here, unless it’s something “pour emporter” like a crepe.
From now on, if I go, I will only order a “short” Americano and take advantage of the free sugar packets (free trade!), the free nonfat milk, and the flavor ‘shakers’. This place is too expensive, but it’s an issue that it’s so convenient and that there are actually so many locations. Darn.
P.S. Mont St. Michel isn’t happening this weekend, but I will be doing something extra-special because it’s my birthday weekend! : ) Off to another 3 hour dinner,