Finland Finally Gets A Starbucks -- Or At Least The Airport Does

Opinion

 
on May 15 2012 12:51 PM

While the rest of the world is focused on Greece's exit from the euro zone, the news that caught my eye is Finland finally getting its first Starbucks café.  Although this first one is in the Helsinki International Airport, I expect it won't be long before the green mermaid logo becomes as omnipresent in Finland's neighborhoods as it is in the rest of the world.

I wonder why it took so long for Starbucks to arrive. After all, the Finns don't simply like coffee -- they love it.  They drink buckets full; if coffee-drinking were an Olympic sport, the Finns would carry off the gold medal every time.

With their 260-year history of coffee shops (more about that here) and the world's highest per-capita coffee consumption at about five (!) cups a day, you'd think Finnish demand would create plenty of room in the market for new entrants. 

Up until Starbucks' entry on the scene, the Finns' coffee economy seemed to have comfortably accommodated a couple of Scandinavian chains with many outlets (one chain, Wayne's, has an unabashed American vibe, although it's really Swedish), plus zillions of mom-and-pop shops.

It's those long dark winters that drive the Finns to their coffee houses, so they can stay awake even if there's very little sunlight about.  But all that coffee drinking hasn't stunted their growth, despite what my mother used to say, as the average height of Finns is on par with the rest of the European Union and the United States. In fact, when I visited Finland last year, I thought the younger generation was notably tall.  Perhaps the Finnish devotion to saunas has something to do with this, although this is pure speculation on my part.

So, world travelers, rejoice!  Now you can sip a familiar-tasting venti latte while you ponder weighty matters.  Such as how you'll explain to the folks back home why you bought that shaggy reindeer pelt from the Helsinki airport gift shop instead of the usual duty-free booze and chocolate they were expecting.  Figuring that one out may require two lattes.

And as for my Nordic friends -- the Starbucks invasion seems to me to be a fair and just retribution for the countless hours wasted by Americans on those crazy addictive Angry Birds from Finland.  Drink on!

Joanne Butler is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a former professional Republican staff member at the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.

Share this article