The Starbucks was newly opened – only about a week or so before we arrived. I had read online that while the Starbucks in Changsha would maintain its essential Starbucksness, it would adapt to the local culture as well. While this may sound strange, it is actually quite typical of Starbucks and one of the
aspects that I greatly enjoy about the company. While the drinks, the general coffeehouse atmosphere, and some of the pastry case items are standardized; the actual building, furniture, and decor do tend to adapt to the culture and surroundings of each Starbucks’ location. For example, the Starbucks in Bowling Green, Ohio is laid back with bamboo chairs and a bright atmosphere. The Starbucks in Kent, Ohio is in a two-story building that looks like a old Dutch house and is furnished with comfortable chairs and couches. And the Starbucks in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. is tucked away in a brick building with funky modern decor and plenty of outlets for the computer crowd. The Starbucks in Changsha is no exception to this corporate, yet adaptable policy. It maintains its corporate standardization, but has wooden blinds, lots of big tables with chairs, and an abundance of oversized chairs and ottomans for people to pull up. The culture in China is very communal; people live their life in a complex social network. They rarely go out alone.
Ok enough about the decor and adaptability of Starbucks. On to the deliciousness!!! I really hate to admit it, but the lattes are better in China than they are in the U.S.! Shocking I know! I was completely surprised when I sipped my grande latte on Wednesday night.
Even John (who normally drinks coffee with plenty of cream and lots of sugar) likes the lattes in China. On Friday morning, westopped by Starbucks for breakfast and a morning of relaxation. We tried their cinnamon rolls. Quite fantastic! (Now if only they would offer cranberry orange scones and caramel apple spice!) After having everything “Western” in China be just slightly different, and typically the not-so-good kind of different, enjoying Starbucks was such a treat!
Even the atmosphere was a welcome relief. In Yueyang, there are no places to go chill… even without a computer. There are no bookstores, no public libraries, no coffee shops (ok, there was one… but it just closed while we were on vacation). So being able to go to Starbucks, plug a computer in to blog, or even just sit and read a good book was refreshing to my soul. The people in Starbucks were so friendly too! People invited us to sit with them and talked to us about local life. One girl even talk us some more Chinese!
All in all, enjoying Starbucks was a spectacular experience! It was so refreshing to be in a familiar environment connecting with people. I could actually be friends with the people we met (we exchanged phone numbers!). There was even a Western-style toilet, toilet paper, and soap in the bathroom! You have no idea what it is like to go into a public restroom to squat over a hole in the ground and then not have toilet paper or soap with which to wash your hands unless you brought them yourself. (This is why Chinese bathrooms are to be avoided at all costs!) Anyway, I can’t wait until we can travel to Changsha again! I hope that we get to move there someday (and not just for the Starbucks!)!