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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 12 January 2004

Topic: World View

The end of the world? No. It's just time to teach those foolish French a thing or two about the good life.


How so? See this item from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection: CAFE PURISTS FROTH AS STARBUCKS HITS PARIS
PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Paris's cafe culture comes under assault with the opening of France's first Starbucks this week - but besides the purists does anyone really care?

The city that invented the art of whiling away a morning over a tiny cup of the strong and black - home of Les Deux Magots, Flore, Lipp, Le Procope, Le Select and a thousand other cafes - is bracing itself for a taste of the global brew.

After long hesitation the Seattle-based multi-national is taking the plunge into a market that is not quite like anywhere else. "It is with the utmost respect and admiration for the cafe society in France that we announce our entry," said chairman Howard Schultz at the announcement of the planned opening in September.
So, if you're in the Opera Garnier area next Friday, after you drop by the big American Express office to hear some real English and think about Cary Grant and George Kennedy duking it out on the roof of that place in the movie Charade, and after you've wandered up to les Galeries Lafayette Haussmann to pick up some GAP jeans, you can, according to the AFP, watch the locals "rushing to work in Reeboks clutching the cardboard froth-pot marked with the world-famous green-and-white mermaid." The new Starbucks is, by the way, opposite the old Air Algerie building.

Reactions?
"Every year the number of Starbucks around the world is doubling, but I hoped that here we were protected. It is the standardisation that I hate. Soon every high street in every city in every country in the world is going to look exactly the same," said Gilles Wallon, a 22-year-old journalism student.

Some take refuge in the hope that the venture will fail. According to Bernard Quartier, who represents cafe owners at the Union of Hotel Industry Trades, "I don't believe this concept is going to work because nothing can replace the conviviality and sociability of the French caf?."
Well, we'll see about that.

Will Starbucks "serve bucket-loads of the same jus de chaussettes - or sock juice - which the French believe is the staple of all American breakfasts."

Will it matter that smoking is strictly forbidden in and around this new Paris Starbucks? Maybe. The French do smoke quite a bit, even with their new sky-high taxes on tobacco.

Here's the AFP take:
But if Starbucks-bashers probably outweigh the Starbucks-pushers, both parties are vastly outnumbered by a third group: the non-committal, the non-ideological and the purely curious - Parisians who will take to the new arrival because it is convenient, comfortable and above all new.
AFP quotes that journalism student: "It doesn't matter what I think because I know Starbucks will be packed out when it opens. People will go there because they want the image. They want to think they are in an American movie or an episode of 'Friends.' They'll react in the same way here as they have done everywhere else."

And they quote one Maxime Switek; "To me it is puzzling and almost insulting that foreigners should think it a good media story that Starbucks is coming to France. Why should we be regarded as different from anyone else in the world? It's like you think we're freaks."

Ah yes, and AFP also notes that the traditional caf? places are in decline.
While the mythical names such as Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore are now over-priced museum pieces, at the other end of the scale many Parisians lament the dirty, cigarette-strewn dives that many of their corner "troquets" have become, as well as the almost legendary ill temper of the staff.
Well, what about the dubious charm of all that? We Americans want Paris to be, well, Paris, when we arrive. We don't want it to be Seattle. It seems the French don't care for such silly nostalgia.

Posted by Alan at 09:39 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2004 09:45 PST home

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