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First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?


Abstract and Figures

The authors focus on a particular instance of the global meeting the local: American multinational corporations that seek to transfer informal American styles of interaction to their branches in other countries. They explore how the address practices of the American coffee chain Starbucks have been exported and received in its cafés in Finland and France, two contrasting contexts that provide a rich source of comparison. Through their analysis of Internet comments, actual café interactions, and interviews with baristas and customers in both countries, the authors reveal the social meanings and language ideologies related to the use offirst names, and the complexities of transferring external norms of interaction into new local settings.
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: ./. 
First Names in Starbucks:
A Clash of Cultures?
Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
e authors focus on a particular instance of the
global meeting the local: American multinational corporations
that seek to transfer informal American styles of interaction
to their branches in other countries. ey explore how the
address practices of the American coee chain Starbucks
have been exported and received in its cafés in Finland and
France, two contrasting contexts that provide a rich source
of comparison. rough their analysis of Internet comments,
actual café interactions, and interviews with baristas and
customers in both countries, the authors reveal the social
meanings and language ideologies related to the use of rst
names, and the complexities of transferring external norms of
interaction into new local settings
Keywords: Finnish; French; globalization; rst names;
social meanings; language ideologies
Norrby, Catrin, and Camilla Wide, eds.
Address Practice As
Social Action: European Perspectives
Basingstoke: Palgrave
Macmillan, . : ./..
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
We live in a globalizing world, understood here at its simplest as the
accelerating movement of capital, people, images, goods and discourses
around the globe. Globalization is a complex phenomenon, with
economic, political and cultural dimensions. It has been dened, theo-
rized and discussed in a variety of oen conicting ways (see, for exam-
ple, Coupland, ). In this chapter, rather than a homogenizing force
that simply projects Western and particularly American culture, and
English, across the world, we view globalization as a dynamic process
in which the global and the local interact (Cameron, ; Meyerho
and Niedzielski, ; Coupland, ; Turner, , pp. –; Sianou,
). An example is the Swedish multinational furniture company
IKEA which promotes the transfer of informal Swedish address styles
(an equivalent in French would be informal pronoun
of formal
, and in German
instead of
) in customer interac-
tions in European countries. In some countries, the local norm based on
the formal address pronoun has prevailed (Norrby and Hajek, ; for
other examples, see Cameron, , , ; Heller, ; Sianou,
is chapter focuses on a particular instance of the global meeting
the local: American multinational corporations in the service industry
that seek to transfer American styles of interaction to their branches
or franchises in other countries. American culture has been character-
ized as informal, with the emphasis on individualism and equality (for
example, Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, , p. ). Increasing infor-
mality in the United States is linked with the erosion of the distinction
between private and public (Lako, , cited in Sianou, , p. ).
According to Cameron (, p. ), the global service industry has
also contributed to an increase in informal address forms (for changing
politeness norms, see also Larjavaara, , pp. –). In American serv-
ice encounters, informality typically translates as the use of rst names
and conventionalized expressions such as ‘Have a nice day!’
e overall aim of this chapter is to explore how the address practices
of the American multinational coee chain Starbucks have been exported
and received in its cafés in Finland and France. When Starbucks opened
its rst coee house in Finland in May , the Finnish newspaper
Helsingin Sanomat
found the event newsworthy enough to publish an
article (Helsingin Sanomat, ). It mentioned that the style of service
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
at Starbucks felt ‘American, and the waiters addressed customers by their
rst name. e departure point for this study was the Internet discus-
sion that followed the article. As a country of comparison, France was
chosen: Starbucks has been operating there since , which means
that the company is in theory more embedded into French society. We
are interested in analysing if the longer history of Starbucks in France
has inuenced the social meanings given to the use of rst names.
French address norms also dier from Finnish norms, which provides a
potentially rich source of comparison.
e chapter will answer the following questions:
What kinds of social meanings are given in Finland and in France
to the usage of rst names in service encounters? What are the
indexical meanings as well as language ideologies related to these
meanings (Blommaert, ; Silverstein, ; Agha, ; Eckert,
; Johnstone and Kiesling, )?
Do the meanings given to the use of rst names dier in Finland
and in France?
In order to answer these questions, we will examine a range of data
types – comments from the press and the general public via the Internet,
ethnographic observations of café interactions, and interviews with both
servers and customers.
Address practices in Finnish and in French
Norms of address are complicated both in modern Finnish (Peterson,
; Havu, Isosävi and Lappalainen, ; Lappalainen, ), and in
French (for example, Kerbrat-Orecchioni, , p. ). In Finnish and
in French, the address pronoun system consists of two forms:
(less formal, T) and
(more formal, V). However, Finnish and
French use these pronouns dierently. Social distance and hierarchy
seem to play a more important role in the selection of a suitable form
of address in French than in Finnish. e use of the T form in French
among adults is restricted to close relationships, situations where speak-
ers share common ground, and in certain institutional or workplace
settings (Clyne, Norrby and Warren, ). e V form is a standard
pronoun of address in many contexts, including service encounters
(Kerbrat-Orecchioni, ; Isosävi, ). According to Clyne, Norrby
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
and Warren (, p. ), some speakers of French nonetheless have
personal preferences, and characterize themselves as being more T or
more V users.
Unlike the French system, the Finnish system of address changed
radically at the end of the s due to changes towards a more egalitar-
ian society, and T forms replaced V forms in many contexts, such as in
service encounters. (For a similar development in Swedish, see Fremer’s
Chapter  in this volume.) Although we can see a comeback of the more
formal V forms from the s, informal forms are still widely favoured
in Finnish (Yli-Vakkuri, , pp. –).
With regard to rst names, they are more widely used in French, but in
both languages their use is not typical in service encounters. In French,
formal forms of address such as
are used in service
encounters (Isosävi, , pp. –); in Finnish, the use of rst names
is generally avoided, even in multi-party conversations (Seppänen,
, pp. –; Yli-Vakkuri, , p. ; Hakulinen et al., , §
). In Finnish, only telemarketing companies are known for repeat-
ing the name of their potential client. According to an extensive survey
(N =  respondents) by Korhonen and Lappalainen (), . per
cent of the respondents agreed with the statement ‘I think it is irritating
when the telemarketing companies address their clients by their rst
name.e older the respondent, the more negative his or her attitude.
In addition, in the optional comments by respondents, the use of a rst
name was considered to be too intimate, and an American (as opposed
to a Finnish) practice.
Unlike in Finnish where rst names can only be used with T forms,
they can be accompanied both by T and V forms in French in certain
circumstances. e use of rst names together with V pronouns in
French has been seen as an outcome of contact with American
culture (Guigo, , p. ). is address practice provides a solution
for French people in situations when they feel that no other form of
address is suitable; that is, when
+ V pronoun is
too solemn and formal and rst name + T pronoun is too intimate. V +
rst name can be used primarily in long-term service encounters, such
as encounters between a lawyer and client. e use of rst name + V is
generally more common in other situations than service encounters in
French, such as between colleagues at work, between friends of friends,
and between parents-in-law and sons-/daughters-in-law (Isosävi, ,
pp. –).
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
Data, methodology and theoretical background
. Data
Our corpus consists of three types of data collected in Finland and France
relating to service encounters in Starbucks cafés: Internet discussions,
eld notes of authentic service situations, and interviews of both baris-
tas (as Starbucks calls its waiters) and clients. e data were collected
between May  and November .
Our primary data source consists of Internet discussions (see Table
.). We have encouraged discussion in three dierent ways. Firstly,
Lappalainen wrote a blog post in Finnish concerning the use of rst
names in Starbucks (). Secondly, we linked the newspaper article to
our Facebook (FB) proles and asked our Finnish-speaking friends to
comment on it (). irdly, we asked our students to comment on the
original newspaper article on an e-learning platform at the University of
Helsinki in .
e primary source of the French Internet data is the French
Blog de la
by Éléonore Bridge () and her post where she comments
on the use of rst names in Starbucks. We have also analysed a post on
the same subject written by the French blogger omas Clément (),
as well as a Facebook discussion initiated by a French colleague. Our
nal source is a short video
Donnez-nous votre prénom
(‘Give us your
rst name’) on the Starbucks France Facebook site (), which stimu-
lated various comments. e French Internet dataset is smaller than
the Finnish, but at the time of the study, the topic was more current in
Finland as the rst café opened in .
e second set of data is based on our ethnographic eldwork during
visits to the only two Starbucks cafés in Finland (at Helsinki airport,
two visits, and in the city of Helsinki, one visit) and four cafés in France
 . Internet data: number of comments
Type of comments Finnish data French data
Comments on the online newspaper article
Students’ comments on the newspaper article 
Comments on blog posts  
Comments on Facebook (friends/friends of friends) 
Comments on the French Starbucks’ Facebook site 
Tot al  
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
(randomly selected in Paris; one visit to each) (see Table .). ese
data consist of eld notes of authentic service encounters, such as how
the baristas request rst names and use them, and interviews of both
baristas and clients, soliciting their opinions on the use of rst names.
All the observed encounters and interviewees were randomly selected in
busy cafés.
. eoretical background
Our study is based on the theoretical concepts of
language ideology
(for example, see Kroskrity,
; Agha, ; Eckert, ). We argue that linguistic forms and
practices receive their meaning from their use, as part of a context.
However, if only the language use itself is analysed, we cannot be certain
how an interlocutor has interpreted an utterance, for example whether
they have evaluated it as polite or impolite. One means of resolving this
problem is to analyse language attitudes by examining the metalinguistic
comments made by language users, which is a practice we have adopted
in our study. In this chapter, the written comments in the media data are
analysed by applying semantic and pragmatic approaches, focusing not
only on the content, but also on the linguistic features of formulations.
As for the eld notes, a close analysis of the linguistic formulations has
not always been possible because of the fragmentary nature of these data
(see Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain, , pp. –; see also Laihonen,
; Milani, ).
In this chapter, our rst objective is to identify the
social meanings
that are attributed to the usage of rst names, and the type of indexical
eld these meanings constitute. Our second objective is to investigate
 . Ethnographic data
Finnish data French data
Observations: taking the order (rst queue)*  
Observations: giving the coee (second
 
Interviews with customers  
Interviews with baristas
Tot al  
*e coees are ordered in the rst queue and given out in the second queue.
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
whether the meanings given to the use of rst names dier in Finland
and in France. Our study demonstrates that the use of rst names has
been associated with certain groups (such as telemarketers) or nation-
alities (Americans); this will be referred to as the st order index. Users
have given meanings to this index, such as friendliness and intrusiveness,
according to the contexts in which it is being used. e interpretations
of these meanings – referred to as the nd order indexes – might not
be shared by all the members of the community, but they are widely
recognized (Silverstein, ; Johnstone and Kiesling, ; Eckert,
, ).
We are interested not only in meanings, but also in the processes
that develop and change meanings, which are not xed entities but
indexically mutable. is process is referred to here as
According to Agha (), enregisterment is an ideological proc-
ess: when a certain linguistic phenomenon (or a set of phenomena)
is repeatedly used in certain contexts, it becomes salient and begins
to carry social meanings. ese meanings are mediated by dierent
types of metadiscourses. For this reason, it is important to study the
attitudes that language users have towards the use of these phenomena,
and to examine the types of metalinguistic comments they relate to the
phenomena in question.
Finally, social meanings cannot be interpreted as disconnected
language ideologies
(see, for example, Blommaert, ; Eckert,
, pp. –). e semantics of language ideology and language
attitudes are closely related, but ideologies can be considered to be a
wider phenomenon than attitudes. For instance, Silverstein (,
p. ) denes linguistic ideologies as ‘sets of beliefs about language
articulated by users as rationalization or justication of perceived
language structure and use’. ese beliefs and feelings are multiple and
context-bound, and are constructed from the speaker’s sociocultural
experiences. Due to their multiplicity, several ideologies oen prevail
simultaneously within a community, which can cause tensions between
the ideologies. is also occurs in our data, where various beliefs are
present at the same time. e beliefs observed in the media data and
interviews can be referred to as ideologies of purism, instrumental-
ism or pluralism (Schieelin, Woolard and Kroskrity, ; Woolard,
; Wingstedt, ; Kroskrity, ; Spitzmüller, ; Mäntynen,
Halonen, Pietikäinen and Solin, ).
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
Usage of rst names and their social meanings
As already mentioned, the starting point of this study was a newspaper
article on the launching of the rst Starbucks café in Finland, published
in the leading Finnish newspaper
Helsingin Sanomat
(). e text
mentions and comments on the use of rst names:
() Helsingin Sanomat
,  May 
Itse kahvila vaikuttaa ensi silmäyksellä tavanomaiselta. Lasivitriini on
täynnä munsseja, croissantteja ja täytettyjä leipiä. Palvelu on kuitenkin
amerikkalaisen oloista. Myyjät puhuttelevat asiakkaita etunimellä, joka
kysytään tilauksen yhteydessä.
At rst glance, the cafeteria seems ordinary. e showcase is full of
muns, croissants and sandwiches. However, the service feels American.
e waiters address customers by their rst name that has been asked
for when they placed their order.
In the text, the use of rst names is explicitly considered to be American.
e journalist nds the usage of rst names to be marked in the Finnish
context, and it is contrasted (
‘however’) with the selection of
pastries, which are described as ‘ordinary’ – in other words, unmarked,
typically Finnish.
In the French media corpus, we analysed a discussion that began with
the post ‘Je déteste starbucks(‘I hate Starbucks’) in Éléonore Bridge’s
blog of  January .
() Éléonore Bridge’s blog,  January 
... quand le serveur me demande mon prénom ça m’agace direct, ça pue
le marketing à plein nez, genre ‘cest bon, on est cools on est ton pote on
t’appelle par ton prénom.’ ... Je dis un prénom de merde pour faire ma
râleuse et je monte déguster mon cheesecake à l’étage.
... when the waiter asks for my rst name, it annoys me straight o,
it reeks of in-your-face marketing, it’s like saying “it’s okay, we’re cool,
we’re your mates, we use your rst name.” ... I give a crap name to show
my irritation and I go upstairs to eat my cheesecake.
e blogger’s attitude toward the use of rst names is clearly critical:
ça m’agace direct, ça pue le marketing à plein nez
(‘it annoys me straight
o, it reeks of in-your-face marketing’). She received  comments,
 of which dealt with the use of rst names in Starbucks. e use of
rst names had been abandoned at Starbucks in France in  (Sens
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
du client, ), but then subsequently reintroduced. A news article in
Le Hungton Post
() gives six reasons for problems of Starbucks in
France, one of them being a cultural problem relating to rst names. To
promote the reintroduction of rst names, Starbucks France launched a
video on its Facebook site in  with the title
Donnez-nous votre prénom
(‘Give us your rst name’). e company asks viewers for comments:
‘Tout semble un peu plus impersonnel aujourd’hui’ c’est ce que nous
avons constaté.
Et vous, qu’en pensez-vous?’ (‘Everything seems to be
a little more impersonal these days, that’s what we have noticed. What
about you, what do you think?’).
Our ethnographic observations both in Helsinki and in Paris conrm
that a customer’s name is indeed asked for when placing an order:
Millä nimellä laitetaan?
(‘Under which name shall we place the order?’)
Votre prénom?
(‘Your rst name?’). e dierence is that in France the
rst name is explicitly requested, whereas in Finnish, the general word
is used most oen. In the French context, the more formal forms
of address such as
typical of opening and leaving
greetings in service encounters
continue to be used alongside rst names
by the Starbucks barista:
Bonjour, Monsieur
(‘Good morning, Sir’) or by
Au revoir, Madame
(‘Goodbye, Madam’).
When the coees were given to the customer in the second queue (by
another barista than the one taking the orders in the rst queue), with
only one exception the rst names of customers were used in Finnish, as
example () shows:
()  May , Helsinki Airport Starbucks (B = Barista, C = Customer)
B: Juha-Pekka!
B: Oliks Juha-Pekka?
C: Täällä.
B: Capuccino.
C: Joo kiitos.
‘B: Juha-Pekka! [a Finnish rst name]
B: Is there a Juha-Pekka here?
C: Here.
B: Capuccino.
C: Yeah, thank you.
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
When analysing the Finnish media comments on the use of rst names,
we notice a dierence in attitudes that corresponds to whether or not the
respondent has ever been to a Starbucks. ose who have never been to
the coee chain express predominantly negative attitudes. e interviews
conducted in cafés, on the other hand, consist of mainly positive attitudes
towards the use of rst names in both countries. In most cases, the fact
that the commentator has not been to Starbucks is expressed implicitly,
for example,
Luulen, että itselleni tulisi epämukava olo etunimittelystä kahvi-
(‘I think I would feel uncomfortable if I was addressed by my rst
name in a cafeteria’). It is explicitly mentioned in only eight of  Finnish
comments. In the French media data, only one person mentions that he
has not been to Starbucks in Paris (but he has been to cafés in the US and
Canada); in other words, negative attitudes are expressed by those who
have visited a Starbucks. Next, we will analyse the negative comments, as
they constitute over two-thirds of all the comments in the Finnish media
discussions, and half of the comments in the French media data.
. Negative attitudes
e dierence between the negative attitudes expressed in the Finnish
and French data lies, rst, in the intensity of the expressions used. Typical
adjectives in the data include, for example,
(‘horrible’) and
typical verbs, for example,
odd’). In Finnish, irritation is also described in extreme terms of strong
physical expressions, such as
selkäpiitä, karmii
paine, nousee
(‘blood pressure rises’) that are not found in the French
data. In addition, there is a larger variety of negative expressions in the
Finnish data than in the French data. Especially in Finnish, attitudes are
oen strengthened by using extreme expressions, such as
(‘always’) and
(‘never’) (compare, for instance, Pomeranz, ;
Shore, ).
4.1.1 Strange and intimate: not part of our culture
Both datasets contain negative attitudes that are justied with the argu-
ment that requesting a name is not part of Finnish or French culture.
Instead, it is associated with American culture. It is important to note
that it is not surprising that the word
is repeatedly used in
the Finnish data because it is explicitly mentioned both in the newspaper
article and in the blog.
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
() Comment, Hanna Lappalainens blog,  May 
Nimen viljeleminen joka välissä on amerikkalainen tapa ja suomalaisille
taatusti vain ärsyttävää.
‘Repeating a name all the time is an American habit and it is surely only
irritating for Finns.
() Éléonore Bridge’s comment,  September 
Disons qu’en France les serveurs vous demandent votre prénom avec telle-
ment peu de conviction que ce nest pas naturel. Essayer a tout prix de copier
coller un concept dans dautres pays qui ont une culture diérente je ne
comprends pas. Ça doit très bien passer ailleurs, si j’allais chez starbucks aux
US ça ne me dérangerait pas. Ce sont les starbucks en France que je deteste.
‘In France, the waiters ask for your rst name with so little conviction
that its not natural. Trying to copy a concept in other countries that have
a dierent culture, I don’t understand it. It must work ne elsewhere, if I
went to Starbucks in the US, it wouldn’t bother me. Its the Starbucks in
France that I hate.
In the Finnish data, requesting a rst name is also rejected, with refer-
ences to the typically Finnish desire to maintain distance and to remain
anonymous in service encounters (example ()).
() Facebook,  May 
Ärsyttää. Jumankauta mä haluan vetää kahvini ihan anonyymisti!
‘Irritating. Damn, I wanna have my coee anonymously!’
According to several comments, especially in the Finnish data, request-
ing rst names is too intimate, a kind of intrusion of people’s privacy.
Use of rst names is also compared to physical closeness (example ()),
contrasted with the use of V forms (example (), Finnish) or associated
with T forms (example (), French).
() Facebook,  May 
Siitä [nimen kysymisestä] tulee samanlainen tunne kuin keskieuroop-
palaisten kanssa, kun suht outo ihminen tunkee keskustelutilanteessa
fyysisesti liian lähelle tai koskettelee.
‘It [asking for a rst name] gives me a similar feeling that I have experi-
enced with Central Europeans: a person who I don’t know well intrudes
on my personal space or touches me.
() Student’s comment, e-learning platform,  February 
Jonkinlaisena vastakohtana teitittelylle voi sitten pitää Starbucks-
käytäntöä, jossa vieraan ihmisen oma tila viedään utelemalla hänen
nimeään ja kutsumalla nimeltä.
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
‘e practice adopted in Starbucks can be considered as somehow
being in contrast to the use of V, where a stranger’s personal space is
invaded by being asked inquisitively for his or her name and by being
called by that name.
() Interview, Paris, woman, late s,  December  (C = customer, I
= interviewer)
C: Ça me gène.
I: Pourquoi?
C: C’est une relation personnelle qui me gène, une personne qui ne
me connait pas. Parce que nalement ça veut dire un
‘C: It bothers me.
I: Why?
C: It is a personal relationship that bothers me, a person who does
not know me. Because in the end, there is an underlying
Example () corresponds to an anecdote on the site
(). When one Starbucks barista requested, as usual, the client’s rst
name, the reply was as follows:
() (),  May 
Désolé, je comprends que tu sois désespérée ... En plus, J’ai déjà une
copine ...
‘I’m sorry, I understand that you are desperate ... Besides, I already have
a girlfriend ...
To conclude, both in the Finnish and French data, but especially in the
Finnish data, the lack of familiarity between the interlocutors seems to
be a reason for not accepting rst name use at Starbucks.
4.1.2 Commercialism: marketing
One dierence between the negative attitudes in the Finnish and the
French data is the concept of marketing, which was explicitly mentioned
in Éléonore Bridge’s blog post. e French frequently associate the use of
rst name with this concept; the Finns only when comparing Starbucks’
practice to telemarketing. However, among the French comments, dierent
interpretations can be found: some give marketing a very negative meaning
(see example ()), while others are not so bothered about it (example ()):
() Comment, Éléonore Bridge’s blog,  October 
Ok, c’est [= les prénoms] surement marketing ... mais bon, c’est pas ce
qui gene le
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
‘OK, its [= rst names] denitely marketing ... but its not the thing that
disturbs the most, is it?’
As coees are ordered and delivered in dierent queues at Starbucks, the
contact between customer and sta is depersonalized; in fact, it is not the
same barista who takes the order and delivers the coee. e use of rst
names can be seen as a means of compensating for the impersonality of
the service routine, and thus as a part of marketing routines. Fairclough
() has described this phenomenon as
synthetic personalization
also Cameron, , p. ).
. Positive attitudes
Positive attitudes are found in both the Finnish and French data. In the
Finnish data, the positive comments are made by those who have visited
a Starbucks café themselves (mostly abroad), and the comments are
justied with personal experiences (see also example ()). In both the
Finnish and French interviews, the attitudes expressed are mostly posi-
tive, with only a few exceptions (see example ()).
However, it is important to note that the discussions in our data
started with Starbucks’ address practices being implicitly or explicitly
questioned (see example (): Finnish newspaper article; example ():
French blog post). Discussants supporting the use of rst names there-
fore had to defend Starbucks, which might have had an impact on the
4.2.1 Functionality
Both in the Finnish and the French data (social media and interview
data), one typical argument to support the use of rst names is
. e Finnish commentators in particular consider themselves to
be ‘Starbucks experts’, who are able to teach less informed interlocutors
how the orders are to be placed and why the name of the client is being
requested. In general, the supporters of functionality seem to want to
refute the misconceptions of opponents by explaining that rst names
are used for the customersown benet to ensure that they receive the
correct coee orders, given that dierent baristas in dierent queues take
their orders and hand out the coees (examples () and ()).
() Comment, Hanna Lappalainens blog,  May 
Muutama päivä sitten Berliinissä Starbucksissa piipahtaessani
asiakkaan etunimi kirjoitettiin keltaiseen tarralappuun, joka
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
liimattiin juoman valmistuttua kahvimukin kylkeen. Näin kukin
löysi oman kahvinsa helposti, eikä nimeä onneksi huudeltu pitkin
‘When I visited a Starbucks in Berlin a few days ago, they wrote the
name of the customer on a yellow paper that was stuck to the cup when
the drink was ready. In that way, everyone found their own coee
easily and fortunately, they didn’t shout the customer’s name all over
the café.’
() Comment, Éléonore Bridge’s blog,  October 
Les prénoms? C’est pratique. Quand tu as  personnes qui attendent
de récupérer leurs boissons et qui ne savent même plus ce qu’ils ont
commandé, ça sert.
‘First names? It’s practical. When you have ten people waiting to get
their coees and they don’t even remember what they have ordered,
it’s useful.
At Starbucks, the names of the dierent coees are complicated, and
the customers may not always remember what they have ordered.
However, as Cameron (, p. ) notes, the use of scripted routines
leads to a routinization in customer behaviour. For instance, a frequent
customer at Starbucks can be capable of uently producing a long and
complicated name of a coee. e same type of socialization is also
evident in the usage of rst names. e Finnish baristas we interviewed
pointed out that when the chain had been operating for more than a
year in Finland, some customers had begun to give their rst name
4.2.2 Personal service
In addition to functionality, our social media and interview data demon-
strate that the use of rst names is oen associated with
personal service
both in Finnish and in French (examples () and ()).
() Interview, Paris, barista,  December 
C’est personnalisé. Les gens sont pressés le matin, c’est une touche de
familiarité. Ils sont stressés et pressés, c’est amical.
‘It is personal. e customers are busy in the morning, it is a touch of
familiarity. ey are stressed and busy, it is friendly.
ere is nothing particularly new in Starbucks’ attempts to make
the customer feel valued as an individual by generating an illusion of
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
a personal relationship (Cameron, , p. ), and Starbucks gives
training to the sta (‘green apron book’, see Sens du client, ). But
is it a successful strategy? Our data show that people are aware of rst
names being used as a part of the Starbucks image and marketing, but
despite this, it is appreciated by many Finns and French people. Some
even blame those who do not appreciate the use of rst names for the
abolition of rst names at Starbucks in France:
() Comment, Éléonore Bridge’s blog,  October 
... on ne demande plus les prénoms desormé c’est n grace au gens
comme vous qui napressier pas ce moyen sympatique de briser la glasse
(pour information a ce jour la france est le seul pays ou cette ‘tradition
starbucks a été abendonné!!!! [
... rst names are no longer asked for, it is over thanks to the people
like you who don’t appreciate this sympathetic way of breaking the ice
(for your information, France is the only country where this Starbucks
“tradition” has been abandoned!!!!’
When Starbucks France () launched a video on its reintroduction
of rst names, commentators in the data described it as
j’a d o r e
(‘I love it’) and
(‘friendly’); there were only two negative
comments among the  comments in total.
In our data, traditional Finnish service culture is described as
by some commentators, while the use of rst names
is associated with positive words such as
. is reects Camerons (, p. ) observation on
the contribution of the global service industry to increasing informal
address forms.
() Student’s comment, e-learning platform,  January 
Suomessa olen ollut hyvin pettynyt kylmään asiakaspalvelukulttuuriin,
ja etunimen käyttö toisi palvelutilanteeseen hieman lämpöä ja asiakas
tuntisi itsensä mahdollisesti hieman tärkeämmäksi.
‘I am disappointed with the cold service culture in Finland, and the use
of the rst name would add some warmth to the service situation and
the customer would probably feel he or she is someone who is a more
important customer.
In the French data, conicting attitudes are expressed towards French
service culture: some commentators appreciate French bistros, while
others argue that bistro service is
not friendly
or is even non-existent.
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
Our data show that the use of rst names is regarded as an American prac-
tice both in Finland and France. is relationship can be seen as a st order
index. It evokes dierent types of interpretations (nd order indexes),
depending on the commentator’s stance and geographical location.
Dierences between the Finnish and the French data can be found
especially in those comments which express resistance to Starbucks
service culture. e comment writers are mainly Finns who criticize
the usage of rst names by associating it with the following features of
American service culture: excessive intimacy, familiarity and intrusive-
ness. ese features, which can be seen as nd order indexes of the rst-
name practice, are contrasted with Finnish service culture that values
social and physical distance – see Brown and Levinson’s () concept
negative face
. Although this interpretation is not totally absent in the
French comments, there is another social index that is more prevalent in
the French data: the social meaning of
attributed to American
service culture. is interpretation stems from Starbucks being an
American company, and it is contrasted with a spontaneous friendliness
or a genuine willingness to serve clients.
e conception of false friendliness and the positive attitudes toward
the use of rst names at Starbucks form two opposites. e defenders of
the rst-name practice not only mention the practicality of this American
custom, but they also emphasize that it makes the service personal and
friendly. Use of rst names can also be related to the marketing of the
American Starbucks brand as a positive value. ese nd order indexes
attributed to the use of rst names are common for both Finnish and
French commentators, but the Finnish ones display more negative atti-
tudes towards their own service culture than the French do.
In this chapter, we have analysed the social meanings given by Finnish and
French Internet commentators and interviewees to the usage of rst names
in service encounters at the American coee shop chain Starbucks. e rst-
name practice was introduced to both countries by Starbucks, and to our
knowledge, rst names had not previously been widely used in this context
in either Finland or in France. Because of the American background of the
company, its service culture, including the use of rst names, is associated
First Names in Starbucks: A Clash of Cultures?
: ./.
with America and Americans (st order index). In our data, American
features receive both positive and negative interpretations associated with
the Starbucks context. ese nd order indexes are partly shared but partly
dierent in the two languages analysed. As we have shown, social meanings
can be found in metalinguistic comments that contribute to the enregister-
ment of the rst-name practice. In this nal section, we will discuss how
these meanings are related to language ideologies.
e usage of rst names is supported in both languages by the argu-
ment that it is practical. Comments of this kind reect a language ideology
that focuses on functionality and instrumentalism. In agreement with this
ideology, both rationality and the communicative role of a language are
emphasized. In other words, the value of a language is evaluated on the
basis of its utility (for example, see Wee, ; Heller, .)
Some similarities can also be found in the arguments presented by
the opponents of the use of rst names. Both in the Finnish and French
data, use of rst names is regarded by some commentators as breaking
the norms of local politeness and not belonging to their own culture.
e usage of rst names is not interpreted as friendliness. Especially the
Finnish commentators relate it to excessive intimacy, while the French
ones associate it with marketing. Both stances reect a national and
purist ideology according to which language should be protected against
foreign inuences (omas, ; Spitzmüller, ). Such a view can be
contrasted with a pluralist view where foreign inuences are considered
to enrich, or even improve, one’s own culture, which is not perfect (for
example, Wingstedt, , pp. –). In the Finnish data in particular,
the use of rst names at Starbucks is defended in this way by characteri-
zations of Finnish culture as cold and impolite. Moreover, according to
other studies, politeness based on a friendly relationship is more highly
valued than politeness based on distance, at least in modern, pluralist
Western countries where status and age has become less important
(Kerbrat-Orecchioni, , pp. –; Larjavaara, , pp. –).
Although the usage of rst names seems to be an established practice
at Starbucks in both countries – despite some initial problems especially
in France, where it was abolished and then reintroduced – this does not
necessarily mean that rst-name address will later be used in other serv-
ice encounters or other contexts. Foreign features, norms or practices
are not automatically accepted or well received in new contexts. Instead,
they can be rejected due to their inappropriateness to local norms, or
at least localized and recontextualized (Blommaert, , ; Machin
 Johanna Isosävi and Hanna Lappalainen
: ./.
and Van Leeuwen, ; Sianou, ). As long as the use of rst names
serves as a social index of American culture that is ‘not part of the local
culture, it is possible that it will not spread widely. e practice may
continue to be indexed as ‘Starbuckian, and remain only within the walls
of the cafés. However, if this association weakens, the practice may be
adopted more widely in service contexts in general.
is study is part of the project
How to address? Variation and change in address
, based at the University of Helsinki, which studies address behaviour
and attitudes in several languages, concentrating on service encounters.
has also colloquial variants (
) which are more informal than
. In addition to pronouns, the choice between T and V forms can also be
seen in verb inection. e subject pronoun is not compulsory in rst and
second person.
e examples cited are presented as they were originally written.
e last comment analysed is from , but new comments still keep coming.
e irony of the video is that it is clearly made for an English-speaking
market: the name that we see written on the takeaway cup is the typically
English ‘Tom’. is is an example of global marketing that only partly takes
into account local linguistic and cultural norms.
Usually, the customers gave their rst names, but on our rst visit to the
Starbucks at Helsinki airport aer only a few days the café had been opened,
we heard a few last names that were accepted by baristas. However, on our
second visit eight months later, if a customer gave their last name, the barista
asked for their rst name.
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... In relation to the above, it is interesting to note that the use of plain first names as a familiarity strategy is reported to have originated in the USA, where a sense of equality and familiarity is positively evaluated in SEs, and to have spread to other sociocultural communities (e.g., Great Britain, France, Finland; see among others Cameron 1997;Sifianou 2013;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015). However, even among US Americans, the first name vocative in SEs is not unanimously welcomed, as for many speakers it bears connotations of rudeness, insult, intrusion of privacy, lack of respect, unjustified, excessive, or fake familiarity, and the attribution of lower status to the customer, especially when his/her permission is not requested before using their first name (Goodwin and Frame 1989;Goodwin and Smith 1990). ...
... However, even among US Americans, the first name vocative in SEs is not unanimously welcomed, as for many speakers it bears connotations of rudeness, insult, intrusion of privacy, lack of respect, unjustified, excessive, or fake familiarity, and the attribution of lower status to the customer, especially when his/her permission is not requested before using their first name (Goodwin and Frame 1989;Goodwin and Smith 1990). Similar objections are raised outside the USA, where this practice is perceived as "alien" and at odds with local practices and norms of service behavior (Cameron 1997(Cameron , 2000aIsosävi and Lappalainen 2015). ...
... It could also shed light on the questions of whether and to what extent the selection of address terms in Greek SEs is influenced by practices signaling intimacy and customer care and traveling from one sociocultural community to another. Such practices are reported to have spread from the USA to other communities mostly via multinational firms and may clash with already existing, local practices and culture-specific uses of politeness strategies (see among others Cameron 1997Cameron , 2000aCameron , 2007Sifianou 2013;Tzanne 2014, 2018;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015;Hultgren 2017)a point to be further investigated in the future. ...
The aim of the study is to investigate the use of vocatives in face-to-face interactions in Greek shops. In particular, we concentrate on the types of vocatives attested, their position and function within the exchange, and their association with politeness. The analysis of an extensive corpus of service encounters (SEs) reveals that vocatives are not particularly common in such contexts and that they are mostly used to index familiarity. Such use of vocatives as positive politeness strategies is compatible not only with Greek speakers’ orientation toward positive politeness, but also with the importance attached to the establishment of rapport and familiarity during SEs as a means of enhancing service quality and customer satisfaction.
... Nonetheless, both doctors use V address, which contributes to maintaining a certain distance and formality. The doctors' use of V address can be interpreted as a way of showing respect for the patient's integrity and personal space, which is considered important in Finland ( Larjavaara 1999;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015). However, in both extracts, the doctors seek to create common ground with the patients in other ways. ...
... Nominal address of this kind only occurs in two consultations in the Sweden-Swedish dataset. In Finnish, nominal address expressed with personal names or titles as vocatives is uncommon compared with many other European languages (Yli-Vakkuri 2005, 194;Carbaugh 2005, 10;Havu et al. 2014;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015). In Finland Swedish, nominal address is also uncommon in contexts such as this. ...
Full-text available
This article compares variation in the use of address practices across languages (Swedish, Finnish) and national varieties (Sweden Swedish, Finland Swedish). It undertakes quantitative and qualitative analyses of three sets of transcribed medical consultations. In Sweden Swedish, address pronouns which lower social distance overwhelmingly dominate. In Finnish, both address forms reducing social distance and practices maintaining greater distance are found, with age and level of acquaintance revealed as the most salient factors. Finland Swedish is located somewhere between Sweden Swedish and Finnish, displaying a stronger tendency than Finnish to use informal direct address forms to reduce social distance, but also showing similarities with Finnish in the use of direct formal address and indirect address. The differences can be related to larger socio-cultural patterns which, however, form a continuum rather than a fixed set keeping the two languages and countries completely apart.
... ( (Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015). Returning to extract (3), Maria expresses her opinion (mun mielest, 'in my opinion', line 14): French politeness is moving closer to what she labels yleiseurooppalaista minimalismia ('pan-European minimalism') (line 19). ...
... This study seeks to add a new perspective to (im)politeness by analyzing evaluations of intercultural interaction and concentrating on lesser studied languages and cultures (van der Bom and Grainger 2015: 173): in this case, Finnish and French. Reported differences exist in forms of address (Isosävi 2010;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015) and in (im)politeness perceptions (Buchart 2010: 100). Most previous (im)politeness studies concentrated on cultural insiders' (emic) evaluations (Ogiermann and Suszczyńska 2011;Fukushima and Haugh 2014). ...
Full-text available
Intercultural interaction may be complicated by differing verbal and nonverbal displays of (im)politeness. Yet cultural outsiders’ evaluations of (im)politeness have not been widely examined. To fill this gap, this study investigated perceptions of Finnish politeness among French people living in Finland and perceptions of French politeness among Finns currently or previously living in France. Focus groups were used in order to study culturally shared (im)politeness norms and their variations. Based on a dialogical discourse analysis of five focus group discussions, it is argued that personal space emerges as a salient factor for politeness in Finland, while verbal and nonverbal rapport is more important in France. These overarching themes — personal space and rapport — led to discussions about greetings, silence and holding doors open. Greeting and opening doors appeared more categorical in France, while silence was better tolerated in Finland. In addition to dominant norms, regional and individual variations were reported. Overall, (im)politeness norms appeared to be more vague in Finland than in France. Building upon this study, future research should examine if changes emerge in Finnish (im)politeness norms related to rapport or if space remains more valued.
... 8 The only exception to this in the data can be found in encounters taking place at Starbucks'. As stated in the literature (Isos€ avi and Lappalainen, 2015;Taylor, 2016), the 'Starbucks experience' is a highly scripted type of encounter which dictates that the employee (the 'barista', in this case) who takes orders asks for the customer's first name so as to use it when giving the order to the employee who makes the coffee. In fact, half of the encounters recorded at Starbucks follow this script, with employees asking for and then referring to the customer's first name. ...
Abstract In the era of globalisation, service industries dominate economies, and “service” to a great extent is accomplished through interacting with people (Cameron, 2000a:16). Nowadays, such interactions tend to be friendly and informal, the assumption being that this will influence perceptions of high service quality to the advantage of both parties involved. However, such practices may sound “rude, intrusive, pushy, over-familiar”. The blame is laid on globalisation, especially on the adaptation of US norms, based on showing intimacy rather than respectful distance (Cameron, 2007:134-135). The present paper is concerned with the impact of globalisation on brief Greek service encounters. The data includes 579 brief service encounters from various face-to-face service contexts (i.e. local shops, Greek chain stores or multinational companies). Our findings show that brief Greek service encounters display a local socio-cultural character which is mainly built around formality and simultaneously concern for customers’ positive face wants, which remains largely unaffected by globalisation. In fact, our data has yielded several cases of service encounters where the global and the local are involved in a dynamic process of importing, negotiating, and adjusting discursive strategies and communicative functions. Keywords: Service encounters, Globalisation, In/Formality, Politeness
... This study seeks to add a new perspective to (im)politeness by analyzing evaluations of intercultural interaction and concentrating on lesser studied languages and cultures (van der Bom and Grainger 2015: 173): in this case, Finnish and French. Reported differences exist in forms of address (Isosävi 2010;Isosävi and Lappalainen 2015) and in (im)politeness perceptions (Buchart 2010: 100). Most previous (im)politeness studies concentrated on cultural insiders' (emic) evaluations (Ogiermann and Suszczyńska 2011;Fukushima and Haugh 2014). ...
Conference Paper
In English-speaking countries, it is ”Sir” or ”Mam”, in French, ”Monsieur” or ”Madame”. But oh, this clumsy Finnish language! We lack of established terms for calling a waiter. What would be the right form to address them? (NYT-liite 40/2007, cited in Isosävi 2010: 185). As the above quote shows, even Finns themselves are sometimes critical of Finnish politeness, at least compared to some other European languages. Finnish students of French consider French to be a ”polite” language ¬– in contrast to their mother tongue – and this perception also extends to French people, who are considered to be sophisticated and well-mannered (Buchart’s 2010: 100). According to Yli-Vakkuri (2005: 199), in Finnish, there are fewer politeness phrases than in many other European languages, which is due to fact that Finnish is based on the use of suffixes, and many of the mitigating strategies are grammatical (for instance conditional mood, see Peterson 2009). Finnish politeness phrases are generally loans from Swedish, and nowadays more and more from English. Yli-Vakkuri (2005: 199) claims that the Finns seem to be embarrassed to use politeness strategies they have adopted as loans. In my study, I aim to examine perceptions of Finnish politeness by French people living in Finland. The participants in this study are university lecturers and teachers, and many of them have been living in Finland for a long time. All the informants speak Finnish, but their level of language proficiency varies. The data are collected through focus groups, which have the advantage of providing data on shared and contrasted conceptions (Dervin 2015). The study thus focuses on first-order politeness (Eelen 2001), that is on participants own understanding of im/politeness (see also Ogiermann & Suszczyńska 2011) of Finnish. The French participants provide a less studied outsider’s view on Finnish politeness, as well as uncovering expectations and norms reflecting the French concept of politeness.
On 02.06.2020, the social media team of the Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, announced on Twitter that for a three-month launching phase, they would use the singular T-form du to address their customers. On the basis of a corpus of public tweets analyzed as metapragmatic comments, I examine which stances users adopt and what these stances tell us about how the German-speaking Twittersphere metapragmatically assesses the appropriateness of pronouns of address in social networks. I show how the shift to the T-form is well accepted only if restricted to Twitter, while being strongly disfavored and deemed inappropriate if understood against the background of a customer-client's relation. While the users in favor of the V-form present their arguments in a direct way, most users who plead for the T-form resort to irony and banter, thus constructing the online persona of ‘cool’ people aware of appropriateness norms on social media. I conclude by showing how the clash between antagonistic — and possibly irreconcilable — positions can then be framed as a conflict between globalized norms fostering the use of T-forms as a conventionalized practice on social media and local norms of politeness, as the V-form remains the unmarked way of addressing an unknown adult in Germany.
The authors focus on a particular instance of the global meeting the local: American multinational corporations that seek to transfer informal American styles of interaction to their branches in other countries. They explore how the address practices of the American coffee chain Starbucks have been exported and received in its cafés in Finland and France, two contrasting contexts that provide a rich source of comparison. Through their analysis of Internet comments, actual café interactions, and interviews with baristas and customers in both countries, the authors reveal the social meanings and language ideologies related to the use offirst names, and the complexities of transferring external norms of interaction into new local settings.