Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

imperialism or greener grass?

When I finally land at the Zurich airport, I've been awake and traveling for about 20 hours. I still have a train and a ferry, before being picked up by friends and then some social time at supper, and getting ready for preaching on Sunday. In short, I need coffee.

The thought of drinking "European Coffee", with it's head of crema elegantly served in a ceramic cup, is one of the great joys of being in Europe for me, and I've been looking forward to this coffee since I woke this morning. New to the Zurich airport, and having a short layover, I thought it best to get my train ticket first and then my coffee. I was glad I did because the line was long and by the time I acquired my ticket, I had only a few minutes before I needed to board the train. There was one coffee shop though, immeidately across from the ticket counter: Starbucks!

There they all are, drinking sipping the stuff I can get by walking up the hill from my house in Seattle; from paper cups no less! It was similar in Amsterdam, where the longest line for breakfast wasn't at the bakery serving quiche or belgian waffles, but the McDonalds. I ponder who is to blame for this exportation of sub-par 'franchise' eating and dining, but of course, it's a bad question. I have lots of European friends who love Starbucks coffee more than their own European cafes, which I find astonishing.

Surely there are many in the world who love the familiar. But I think much of Starbuck's appeal to Europeans is precisely that it's American, in the same way that my love of European coffee is that it's not American, for there are many of us on this globe who love the grass on the other side of the fence, being convinced that it's greener grass than our own. I go to Europe and eat Milka chocolate bars and eat schnitzel, but the gifts I carry for friends consist of chunky peanut butter, starbucks beans, and chocolate chips, things craved by Europeans that we take for granted in the States.

What then? I need to stop comparing and simply start enjoying. Maybe then I'll drink the coffee I need, even if it's from the empire.


At 29/11/08 21:55, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Never compromise your coffee standards. There are some things that simply should not be sacrificed! Don't bow to the empire.

At 30/11/08 15:57, Blogger Sarah said...

I am reminded of a particular coffee experience I had in Slovenia 3 years ago at an enchanting little sidewalk cafe, where I was having trouble making up my mind as to what I wanted. This indecision was was NOT met with the "Please, Ma'am, take your time" I was used to hearing at my friendly Green Lake Starbucks. Instead, in a tornado of frustration, the barista shook his pen at me and yelled, "COME ON COME ON COME ON!!!" After I finally ordered, he took 15 minutes to deliver the goods and another 15 for the bill. In other various European cafe's I have been met with complete ambivalence, slow service, and aloof snobbery which for the American traveler is a part of the "charming, European experience." But what construction worker, teacher, attorney, or venture capitalist (European or not) has the time to sit for 45 minutes and sip a dainty espresso or the patience to be spat upon by an ungrateful barista? Europe has never excelled at customer service, but Starbucks certainly has. I therefore would like to make the case that the lines outside Starbucks and McDonald's throughout Europe are not due to their foreign exoticism, but a mere universal desire for convenience, economy, and a friendly smile on your way in the door. But true, quality does not compare , nor will it ever. (PS. My name is Sarah. I love your blog. And your Church-- just started a few weeks back.)

At 30/11/08 21:14, Blogger Patrick said...

I hate to say it, but I have to agree with the masses. Starbuck's is simply better than the average European espresso drink . . . Now is it the best in Seattle? Definitely not.

At 1/12/08 13:56, Anonymous Richard and Louise said...


Love your blog but not true in the UK - Starbucks I hate to say is widely considered the worst of the three big chains. Costa and particularly Cafe Nero are way better I'm afraid.

But Peet's in Green Lake wins hands down (and I also like Zeitgeist by the station)

A very happy Christmas from Kent, England

At 1/12/08 15:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love coffee no matter where i would be in. i also love the fact that i can go across seas and experience something like everyone else is experienceing but in short,People love to complain...


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