American Invasion

Isn’t Starbucks –probably together with McDonald- one of those typical American icons? To me Starbucks was so American that I wouldn’t even consider going to one outside of the US. It’s like eating French fries (in case you don’t know, they are Belgian) in other countries and expect them to taste the same. Impossible.

Not that I had the opportunity to do so : 3 years ago there was no Starbucks in Belgium (now there are 3), but even when I moved here it wouldn’t have come into my head to step inside and get a café late.

That was until I met my American friend. He came to Buenos Aires to learn Spanish and I met him in class. He was so addicted to Starbucks that he had chosen his apartment to be close to one. And he took me there. Once, twice, and at the end of his 6 months stay : every single day of the week.

Whatever they put in the drinks, it worked. In the end I was as addicted as he was, and when he left, I didn’t stop going. I started taking my husband which was -believe me!- quite a challenge. He hated Starbucks, he hated the paper cups, the plastic lids, the coffee that isn’t spectacularly good, and he didn’t hesitate telling me so. But then it happened to him as well… We had both become addicts.

I seem to always have my eyes open to spot the green logo, and I see new ones shoot up like mushrooms. Every new one is nicer than his older sisters : who ever owns the Argentine chain has taste. This weekend we went to the really nice one in Puerto Madero, and today I passed the one located in the old Confiteria l’Aiglon (Callao/Mittre) which I thought is the nicest ever. I didn’t go inside as I still had the cup I had bought in Viamonte/Callao in my hand, yes it looks like a real invasion, you can go from one of these coffee shops to another without ever being without a drink. I was thinking I will have to go back, and immediately regretted that this is one is so far from my house. Or should I try to persuade my husband to go for a long morning walk just to get our cup of coffee?

But when I came home I did some research, and I came across this blogpost by Maria Virginia Gallo, who wrote a romantic story about the old confiteria, and all of a sudden I realized that, however nice this new Starbucks is, nothing can probably beat the old fashioned charm of a pre-war coffee shop, with old fashioned little wooden tables, old(er) waiters who know their clients, where people go for a drink and to meet their friends. And imagining a romance.

Although in Argentina, much more then in the US, people go to Starbucks to meet friends, even have business meetings, to sit down and enjoy, rather then take their drinks outside in their rush to the office, it can’t be compared to how it used to be. But well, times changes, I suppose we change too -let’s not get nostalgic- but let’s just enjoy treading stories like the one in this blog. Whilst zipping a cafe late in one of the new Starbucks’ in Buenos Aires.

10 responses to “American Invasion”

    • I went back to have a coffee. It really is nice inside! They’ve redone the place really nicely! On top of that they play old jazzy music, that really fits! You see all types of people : a retired couple, men with suits, a university student studying, young and old together. No tourists.
      It’s definitely different then the other Starbucks, but yes, I like it!

  1. Me gusto mucho tu blog, siempre me interesa saber la opinion que tienen los extranjeros de mi pais. Soy estudiante de intercambio y en este momento estoy en Belgica hasta enero. La verdad que es un pais muy lindo, aunque cuando veo las diferencias entre las dos comunidades, siempre me pregunto que ira a pasar. Estoy en Flandes,aprendiendo neerlandes, en un principio no me entusiasmo mucho la idea de aprenderlo, considerando que no un idioma que se asemeja al español, sino que tiene raices en la ”vereda contraria” pero ahora creo que ya lo aprendi a querer, y aunque cueste creo yo que en un par de meses voy a ser capaz de hablarlo, aunque sea un poquititito.


    • I am happy to hear you like my country, congratulations on your decision to learn the language! It is a beautiful language, but too little people speak it, as a foreigner it is certainly a challenge to learn it. (but it makes you really loved among the Flemish, that’s for sure!)
      Good luck!

  2. Hello! First of all thank you very much for mentioning me and my blog, I love the city of Buenos Aires and the blog gives me a more detailed version of its places, characters and stories.
    The idea of my post was to criticize Starbucks. Old L´Aiglon was special (it´s no more special now), had a special furniture, a particular climate and all of this was destroyed to homogenize the place. Old waiters lost their jobs and their rutinary lives and were replace with young people with low salaries. There are other cafés in Buenos Aires where the waiters have been working for many years (I\’m talking about 30 or 40 years) and know their customers, are part of the history of the place.
    The primacy of capitalism have destroyed the spirit of this place and our cultural patrimony. And yes, Starbucks is the same everywhere but it is our responsibility to preserve our identity that´s why I agree why the title of your post.

    Greetings and I loved reading your blog, perhaps we could write something together about Buenos Aires

    María Virginia

    • Thanks! I love your blog too!
      I agree with your. I like Starbucks but it has nothing of long gone era of old fashioned classic cafes. Unfortunately it is not just the cafes that disappear, but the people that change. Although here in Argentina people still sit down for a coffee (there is a lot more space to sit down in the SBs here then the ones in the US), in many countries people just don’t take the time anymore. A quick coffee on the road or at work is all they have…

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