I’m an 80’s baby and a 90’s teenager. Therefore, some of my most favorite pop culture experiences include boy bands and sitcoms. One TV sitcom in particular loomed large in my teen years and early twenties, and that was FRIENDS. I was too young to see the famed premiere in 1994, but I began to anticipate Thursday night TV well before it’s 2004 finale. I loved the characters and laughed at the silliness of their lives. My real life friends loved my TV FRIENDS also, and their antics became part of our conversation. Were Ross & Rachel on a break?! What was Chandler’s job?! I bought the 10 seasons on DVD, and would watch them loop in the background of my real life. I could probably still quote 80% of the episodes. While it’s been years since I’ve sold those DVDs to embrace a simplistic overseas lifestyle, I would still consider myself a fan. So when I found out that Singapore is home to a cafe modeled after the FRIENDS set called Central Perk Cafe, it soon became a MUST SEE moment.
Singapore may seem like a strange place for a cafe themed for such an American TV treasure. But these years living in Asia have shown me how much American pop culture is beloved in Asia. I’ve met several Asian friends that have learned and practiced their English by watching FRIENDS episodes and Sex and the City reruns. I laughed and rolled and my eyes at what their impression of American life must be.
Singapore’s Central Perk Cafe is appropriately located in the Central Mall in downtown Singapore. Relatively easy to find, we were there when the cafe doors opened. Half the cafe is set up like a replica of the character’s living spaces. We saw Monica & Rachel’s kitchen, Ross’ bookshelf, Phoebe’s guitar & creepy art, and Joey & Chandler’s foosball table. Each corner was full of details relevant to the characters. There’s fan gear for sale, like TV shirts, mugs & postcards. A little touch that I really appreciated was the FUNKO pop character dolls were set up in each character’s section. It was adorable.
After fully exploring the character corners, we then walked into a giant version of Central Perk coffee shop. This cafe was so large. Right in the center was the big orange couch. Because we were there when the doors opened, we were able to snag this ideal spot. On a large screen projection, FRIENDS episodes were playing on loop [FYI: we watched Ross & Rachel’s drunken wedding escapades].
The menu was a delight as well. Each dish’s name was cleverly crafted from the show. For example, you could order “Phoebe’s You’re My Lobster Pasta” or “Joey’s You’re My Everest Turkey” or “Mrs. Braverman’s Cheesecake” and even a “Rachel ‘Green’ Salad”. I laughed out loud many times reading this witty menu. The drink menu was equally funny. Because it was 11am and I did not want to order a $30 dish, I opted for a Rachel Green latte straight from the Central Perk coffee bar, minus Gunther.
I sipped my latte, watched FRIENDS on the big screen, and let nostalgia wash over me. I love how pop culture can do that. Certain songs, movies or TV episodes can transport you back in time, to a place you once lived or a relationship long over. It was fun remembering the tiny apartment where I’d fall asleep with FRIENDS episodes on loop missing a boyfriend hours away. But even more fun was looking at how far I’d come since then. FRIENDS the show aired for 10 years, and the viewers got to see these characters fall in and out of love, change careers, marry, divorce, and have children. In my 10 years since that tiny apartment, I changed to a career that took me overseas. I met and married the love of my life. I found my lobster. And we are having a baby. My years with Monica, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey & Phoebe are sentimental in my heart, but cannot compare with my life today. My husband and I left the big orange couch behind and said farewell to Central Perk, off to explore more of Singapore.
Watch my SnapChat Story below from Singapore & exploring the Cafe!