For many Koreans, a small pharmacy in the Latin Quarter of Paris has become as much a tourist attraction as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. According to M (link in French), Le Monde’s magazine, the Pharmacie de Monge gets around 1,000 customers a day—a third of its total—from Asia, mainly Korea.
What is attracting them? “The on-the-spot tax refund, the warm welcome and the choice of 20,000 products,” the magazine says, adding that a Korean uses an average of eight different cosmetics day. The French? A mere three.
“Here it is seven times cheaper,” one 21-year-old student named Eun Ji, said. “No, not really—but it’s at least three times cheaper. And back home, there is not much choice.” The shop was put on the map 12 years ago, when a Korean journalist living in the area wrote about the pharmacy on a blog. Now, the store features in Korean tourist guides to Paris and—unusually for the city—capitalizes on this notoriety by employing several polyglot employees.
“Of the 50 employees, pharmacists or sales consultants, nine speak Korean, three speak Chinese, one speaks Japanese,” M magazine says. And it’s not just Asian customers seeking out these products in France. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, and English are also spoken. After all, France is famous for its incredibly well-stocked pharmacies full of every kind of beauty product. Many brands are not sold outside France and there was a time when no-one would have been able to get hold of these products. No more.
By 2015, for example, Chinese tourists could spend more than all the world’s luxury shoppers combined. The world has been transformed completely by globalization. And so has the Pharmacie de Monge.