Owned by Rachel-obsessed Du Xin, also known as the "Chinese Gunther", the Beijing-based Central Perk coffee shop emulates the famous java dive seen in the popular show Friends from atmosphere and decor, all the way down to the menu. And if you're puzzled as to why anyone would want to hang out in a coffee shop inspired by that show, Du Xin explains:
Reruns of the show serve as a language-learning tool for Chinese university students. The show is particularly popular for its use of colloquial language and as an introduction to American culture. It's also popular because of the laid-back, friendship-filled lifestyle it portrays, far from the stressful, competitive world that Chinese young people inhabit.
"That's why we like Friends," says Du. "We're looking for this kind of life."
When asked for an example, he cites Chandler as an inspirational figure.
"He quit the job he hated, and he found another one he liked," Du says. "This TV show also told us you have to choose a living way you like.
"I learned a lot from Friends: how to treat friends, girlfriends, my wife, how to be generous, how to be gentle," Du enthuses. He believes friendship in China is not that pure, saying ruefully that people think more about "how to take advantage."
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