Ordering coffee, by Andrew Cooper

When I first arrived in Beijing, the very first place I went (and the very first thing I bought) was Starbucks, for a coffee. Not exactly immersing myself in the local culture, I know, but sometimes you just need that reassuring cup of warm, caffeinated sludge to remind you that familiar comforts are available even on the other side of the world. They are used to foreigners at the airport, so buying that first coffee was an easy experience: smooth as a Teflon waterslide. Trying to order in Shijingshan was a slightly different experience and I eventually resorted to the tried and tested method of pointing and grunting like a chimp in an experiment. Effective, but slightly undignified.

After a week I had picked up the art of saying “zhe ge” (this one) and “dui” (correct). As with ordering food, I’d point at the picture and say zhe ge. Any subsequent questions I would just nod my head and repeat dui, dui, dui as if I had a clue what was being said. Then I’d sit down to enjoy my gallon of coffee with 32 extra shots and a sandwich floating in it.

These days I’m proud to announce that I can order my own coffee. The staff down at Starbucks were so impressed that they even wrote my Chinese name on the cup like they do back home! Hang on, I’m pretty sure my name isn’t wai guo ren…

Posted in Uncategorized.