'Friends' lives on at Beijing version of Central Perk


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By Eun Kyung Kim

Ross and Rachel and all their “Friends” went off the air nearly a decade ago, but the wildly popular sitcom remains a huge favorite with one Chinese fan, who runs a “Central Perk” café in Beijing.

The coffee shop is modeled after the familiar set from the NBC series, right down to the instantly recognizable oversize orange couch. And while customers may not get to see Chandler, Joey or Phoebe, they will get served by “Rachel,” since all the servers go by that name.

"I'm crazy about ‘Friends,’” the shop’s owner, Du Xin, told TODAY. How obsessed is he with the show? Du goes by the nickname Gunther, which was the name of the bleached-blond owner of the fictitious Central Perk who pined for Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston) on the NBC sitcom.

“Friends” aired from 1994 to 2004, and Du said he has watched all 236 episodes repeatedly. The show runs on a continual loop on his shop’s large-screen television and serves as a learning tool for people interested in mastering colloquial English.

The café’s menu is inspired by items served on the show, including the infamous “stolen cheesecake” from season seven.

“A lot of people know cheesecake from ‘Friends’ in China,” Du said.

Many of the shop’s patrons may be too young to remember when the shows originally aired, but like a good cup of coffee, they savor the strong friendships forged in the series, and view the show’s characters as lifestyle guides.

“We admire their lifestyle very much. We want to be like the characters in the show,” one patron explained to TODAY.

There have even been five marriage proposals in the Beijing Central Perk, inspired by the episode in which Monica famously proposed to Chandler.

The popularity of the café prompted Du to recently open a second Central Perk location in Shanghai.

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