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China And Speaking Fluent Starbucks

I'm heading out of town Wednesday to "work" for a couple of days in Vail before going on vacation. I'm going to do something funky for the blog while away (more on that later). But first, in the "Olympic Spirit," here's a guest blog from award-winning television reporter John Klekamp.

John is a friend of mine who works at News 12 New Jersey, and he's just returned from China where he trained aspiring Chinese reporters. They could not have had a better teacher, and he could not have been more comforted in finding that a Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. Ok, maybe not when they serve you "Happy Fish," complete with the head.

Here's John's post:

I am a notoriously picky eater. How picky? Here’s what I am willing to eat:

Chicken (white meat, skinless, not fried)
Turkey (ditto)
Fruits & Vegetables (excluding mushrooms, olives, and pickles)
Pasta
Mild cheeses
Dark chocolate

It’s a very short list. So how did I just survive one week in China? Starbucks.

The coffee giant may be closing 616 stores here in the U.S. due to poor performance, but in China, the familiar mermaid logo is popping up all over. As of mid-April, China Briefing was reporting more than 800 SBUX in China and another 80 stores planned for 2008. I’ll drink (a grande skim mocha) to that.

I found a Starbucks in the lobby of our Shanghai hotel. And in Hangzhou (The Silk Capital of the World) there was a Starbucks less than a ten-minute walk from our lodgings.

There’s nothing new about Americans seeking a taste of home while visiting another country – a comforting serving of the familiar amidst a smorgasbord of the foreign. Like craving Le Big Mac in Paris. But for me, finding the Seattle-based coffee chain in China was more than a friendly reminder of home.

Now I am not about to disparage the hospitality of our hosts. The media group that worked with the Missouri School of Journalism to bring me and the other teachers to China, worked tirelessly to provide us incredible meals and diverting side trips.

But speaking strictly as a picky eater, there is nothing you can tell me about duck bills that will entice me to eat one. Same goes for roasted pork hooves and fried chicken feet. In my defense, I did try some new vegetables. Is lotus root a vegetable? And I partook of much rice and tea. I even made frequent – if awkward -use of chopsticks.

Still, I would often leave meals feeling hungry. In my room I kept a stash of meal replacement bars. But for everything else, it was Starbucks.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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