Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Ethnographic Observation

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I set out to find a place to begin my observations, not knowing what to fully expect, what I may find. So I decided to look around at what is close to my home that isn’t a place I frequent or have even visited at all. Then it came to me, the Starbucks that is only about a mile away is a perfect place for me to observe subjects that I would consider different from myself, seeing as how I consider such obscene prices for coffee ridiculous. Starbucks is a very popular chain of coffee vendors that describe their product as more about quality than what Americans are used to in typical coffee joints.

Although I know it is poor technique of me as an anthropologist to have prejudice about any place or people that may be at that place, but I have to admit I already had set in my mind that these people would be “stuck-up” “more money than sense” type of people. So upon entering the establishment I decided to blend into as much as possible by ordering one of their Grande size coffees, which is just their basic coffee in a medium size. Then, I found a spot in the corner and began to pretend I was reading the newspaper I had brought as a prop to further help me blend into my surroundings.

The aroma of the building was very pleasant blend of coffee and various mixtures of chocolate and hazelnut. It also did have a very friendly feel and accepting sense to the whole thing. So after being in Starbucks for approximately thirty minutes I decided I had enough data to discuss my findings. The business definitely drew in a particular social group. It seemed to consist of mainly white males and females that appeared to be in their early twenties to upper twenties. Also most of them seemed to be more affluent to at least upper middle-class status.

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I came to this conclusion by the vehicles they drove and also the clothing they were wearing. Most of them were adorned in such brands as Columbia and The North Face, which are higher-end winter apparel. Most of their vehicles appeared to be if not new only a couple of years of age and were in very nice condition. Most of the groupings were either just singular people or couples coming to pick up either a plain coffee or most of the females ordering some mixed espresso or something to that degree. There were a couple of oddities in the data such as a one older couple that came by and also one black male also stopped by to pick up some coffee.

Most the behavior I observed was a very casual and relaxed as the people seemed to all be friendly and enjoying their absurd priced beverages. Once in awhile someone would recognize a fellow customer and they would proceed to great each other with either a handshake or hug. Spatial arrangement between people was typical of most American norms. They typically had about a person length in between each person making sure not to get to close to bump into one another which is considered rude in this country. I did my research at approximately 1pm to 1:30pm in the afternoon.

I do believe this did influence the type of people I saw in the establishment. If it were early in the morning I believe there would have been slightly older gathering of people going to their respectable jobs. Instead a majority of the customers were college students that were coming in for that mid day pick-up. As for the norms I witnessed they were typical for American establishments, the people working greeted the customers in an almost fake friendly manner that is supposed to comfort and make the customer feel “at home” in the environment.

Then, the customer would reply with what they would like to order and then finish by paying for the product, in this case coffee. In conclusion I have to say that for the most part my presumptions were reinforced which is consistent with what I figured would be the case. Although, it isn’t entirely fair because I didn’t get to truly meet my subjects and understand them fully. I only observed how they behaved in that instance which may have been completely out there norm and even their first time at Starbucks.

Ethnographic Observation essay

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