If you were a fan of the hugely popular sitcom Friends, you surely remember their favorite meeting place, the Central Perk Cafe. Tired of just seeing the characters experience the coziness of that soft orange couch, one Chinese fan decided to create his own Friends cafe, in Beijing, China.
Like so many of us, Du Xin loved Friends. “I’m crazy about Friends. For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life,” he told NPR. After watching the show, he started searching around Beijing for a place where he could actually sit on an orange couch just like the one his favorite heroes relaxed on in the sitcom. When he couldn’t find a Central Perk, he decided to create it himself. And he wasn’t going to settle for something similar, he wanted a place that looked exactly like what he’d seen on TV all those years, down to the tiniest details. Tucked away on the sixth-floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, this replica of Central Perk has the coveted couch, the same windows and doorway as the original, the brick interior and even the same hand written snack items featured on Friends. In order to nail all the things he wanted, Du studied thousands of photos of the show’s set and watched endless reruns, and five months later he had the cafe of his dreams.
But after all that effort, working with Beijing manufacturers to get the designs just right, he was off to a very slow start in the cafe business. ”It didn’t go well at the beginning. No one came,” 30-year-old Du Xin told CNN. But with the help of the Internet, news about the Friends cafe spread quickly throughout China’s capital and soon the place became a big hit. Customers even started calling him Gunther, after the guy who ran Central Perk in the sitcom. Most of the cafe’s clientele is made up of college students and young professionals who stop by to get a quick cup of coffee and end up staying for hours, gripped by the friendly atmosphere and overstuffed couches. Reruns of Friends are played on plasma screens inside the Chinese Central Perk, which attracts a lot of students who want to improve their English skills.
But an almost identical cafe wasn’t enough for Du Xin. This avid Friends fan also built a replica of Joey’s apartment, complete with an identical foosball table, a collection of Baywatch DVDs and an over-sized cabinet. “I learned a lot from Friends: how to treat friends, girlfriends, my wife, how to be generous, how to be gentle, ” Xin said.