How a Pharmacy in Paris Became a Korean Tourist Attraction

(Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner)

There's a lot to see in Paris, one of the great tourism capitals of the world. You can visit the Louvre and notice how small the Mona Lisa really looks. You can take one of those trick photos that makes you look taller than the Eiffel Tower. And, of course, there's that pharmacy in the Latin Quarter.

Yes, a pharmacy. Specifically, it's the Pharmacie de Monge. It's very popular with tourists from East Asia, especially South Korea. A third of its customers hail form East Asia. It's a popular place to visit while in Paris. That's because it sells cheap cosmetics. The owners have responded to this tourism practice by shifting their marketing to the East Asian tourist market. Quartz reports:

“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.

-via Marilyn Terrell

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I visited France two thirds of a lifetime ago. The currency was in free fall and there were restrictions on how much foreign money a French citizen could buy. The exchange rate was 7 francs per dollar and shop keepers were giving me 10.

Japanese cameras were twice as much as in the States. French perfume and clothes were one third to one quarter. No one wanted to speak English. I did not speak French. We haggled in German. It was a treat.
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