A few weeks ago, Starbucks added a new store to the 3000+ they already had in Asia. What makes this addition unique however is that it is in the previously "Starbucks-Free" country of Vietnam.
Vietnam is no stranger to coffee or cafes — having been a French colony at one point; the country has a strong coffee culture inherited from their colonizers that has stuck to become a mainstay over tea. They are also one of the biggest exporters of coffee in the world, second only to Brazil. But the Vietnamese coffee is a unique blend of strong dark roast and sweetened condensed milk, widely available, and a fraction of the price that chains like Starbucks sell their elaborate lattes for.
Sitting in a Starbucks, is akin to coming home for North American expats living or working in Asian countries — I know that whenever I felt homesick while living in South Korea, I would head to a Starbucks to read for an afternoon. But, I always felt a little bit guilty because instead of supporting local business and participating in the foreign culture around me, I was supporting a chain that can be found almost all over the world.
I enjoyed that chains like Starbucks hadn’t touched Vietnam when I was there. It was nice to not have a choice but to be completely immersed in the culture, and while I like a grande non-fat mocha frappuccino on a hot day as much as the next person, I feel like the opening of this cafe is taking something away from the country that it will never get back... and that makes me sad.