Principles of Ethnography

I chose to go into a Starbucks Coffee Shop located not too far from my home.  I have gone there before with friends and have always enjoyed my Café Latte while we discussed everything and anything under the sun. Because I have been to this coffee shop in the past was the main reason why I decided to choose this particular Starbucks to do my observations.

The Starbucks is located in a small shopping center that only contains about four other businesses. The Starbucks is located on the corner of the building and has a small courtyard to the side of the business which holds ten small round tables surrounded by three wrought iron chairs at each table. As I walked up to the coffee shop there are at this outside courtyard two couple seated at the tables. They are approximately in their late twenties or early thirties and the female at one of the tables is on her cell phone, while the male is drinking his cup of coffee and looking at his watch. At the other table the female and the male are engrossed in conversation, they look as if they are still in their dating phase of their relationship because it seems to me as if they still want to make a good impression to one another. Actually it is a very nice day to sit outside in the courtyard since the sun is shining and the day is just beautiful.

I reach the door to the Starbucks and open it to find an employee cleaning the plate glass windows from the inside of the shop, she gives me a smile and says good morning, I reply with a good morning of my own and return the smile. I looked around for a place to sit and found a table in the middle of the room that contained three chairs. On the table were the usual menus that list the different choices of coffee offered and the different types of pastries that are sold there. I looked around the room to make some quick observations and to see if I know anyone there since I frequent this Starbucks quite often, and how many people were there inside of the coffee shop. The inside of the Starbucks had fifteen tables and each with three chairs at each table. The counter where the customers placed their orders was located to the right of the room, and there were three employees working the counter, the coffee making area, and the back room where I assumed was where they kept the supplies.

There was a man sitting at a table located at the back of the room that had his laptop computer with him. He seemed to be about in his late forties with thinning black hair and rather on the heavy side. He also seemed oblivious to his surroundings and was engrossed in what he was doing. He sipped on his paper cup of coffee approximately at three minute intervals, and hardly ever looked up. I also observed a woman with two female children about five year’s old sitting with another woman with no children. The two women sat drinking their coffee while the two girls each eat a pastry of some kind and washed it down with what looked like hot chocolate.

An African American couple walked in as I sat observing everyone and reading a newspaper. They walked over to the counter and placed their order than went to sit down at the table that was next to the two women and the two girls.

I had been inside of the Starbucks approximately fifteen minutes when a guy carrying some rolled up blueprints came walking in. I noticed that he started looking around as if searching for someone but not finding them. He was about thirty years old, black hair, had a goatee beard and wore wire rimmed glasses. He walked over to the counter and ordered a French Vanilla coffee; I heard this because he said it rather loudly.

He sat down at the table next to me and proceeded to unroll the blueprints that he was carrying. I had a bit of training in architecture so I recognized that the prints were of a house that I assumed he was either designing or having someone else do the design work for him.



This individual went up to the counter and got his cup of coffee when they called out his name then went back to his table and continued to look over the blueprints. He was making notations on the prints with a pencil then would consider what he had just wrote down then would sometimes erase the notations.

I am guessing that he had just been there about ten minutes when another guy about thirty years of age also came into the Starbucks and walked over to his table. The first guy immediately stood up, stuck out his hand and shook the second guys hand while at the same time saying,”hey it’s good to see ya dude”.

The two guys than sat down at the table, had some small talk with one another then proceeded to go over the blueprints that the first guy had brought with him. These two guys remained at the table discussing changes to the house designs and sipping at their coffee. It started getting late for me, so I finished up my cup of coffee, grabbed my newspaper, got up and left.

From my observations in the Starbuck’s coffee shop, I learned more about the human interactions of people. People definitely like to gather together and socialize with one another, and I believe that this is a good thing. People need each other, and coming together to talk and express free ideas is imperative to the continued existence of mankind.