Recently spotted in an alien newspaper, the moving story of Karen Lloyd (51), who chose to be buried in a "Costa" branded coffin with the words "One shot, extra hot skinny latte" engraved on the side. It turned out that Karen (before her death) loved nothing more than hanging out with her skinny latte in her favourite coffee shop.
And the scary thing is so do I…
Since arriving on this planet, I have developed a very real (more or less daily) habit of dropping into the same coffee shop (located approx. 200 m from my alien pod) to tap away on my laptop, meet a friend or just sit back and smell the coffee. Imagine my shock when a couple of weeks ago the staff gently pulled me aside to tell me they would no longer be greeting me with a smile whilst serving me with my coffee fix. R.I.P Costa on Hua Sui Lu - at times I hung on to you like an anchor in a stormy sea.
So what's the big deal you might ask. Well, coffee shops, like welcoming beacons in a fog of unfamiliarity, provide aliens with (essential to existence) caffeine top-ups, free wifi and comfy seats. In the early days, they also act as communication hubs allowing you to meet with other aliens or pick up the local monthly alien social magazine packed with useless information and perhaps a charming photo of you at the opening of an envelope (a.k.a. latest alien bar).
And whilst you're blowing off the steam from your frothy cappuccino, take a moment to open your ears and indulge in some eavesdropping. At times it can be enlightening - see below.
"An Alien Master Class in patience and perseverance".
Alien - 6 month pregnant female
Barrista - Young student
Manager - Slightly older student
Alien (in perfect Mandarin): Good morning. I realise your menu has changed recently but I was hoping you could still make me the Black Tea Latte that was on the old menu.
Barrista (stabbing finger at the menu): Black Tea Latte is not on the menu.
Alien: I realise that. However, in your other branches they are still happy to make it for me. You see, I'm pregnant and can't drink too much coffee.
Barrista: I don't know how to make Black Tea Latte, it's not on the menu.
Alien: I understand but it's very simple really. Use the latte glass, put in a tea bag, fill it half with water and top up with frothy milk.
Barrista (flustered): I'll get the manager.
(A moment later)
Alien: I was just asking your colleague if it would be possible to have a black tea latte.
Manager: It's not on the menu
Alien (a vision of calmness): Yes, as I explained it's really just a cup of tea with extra milk served in the same glass you use for a coffee latte.
Manager: Because it is not on the menu now, we don't have the ingredients for black tea latte.
Alien: Do you have tea bags?
Alien: Do you have hot water?
Alien: Do you have milk?
Alien: Could you combine the three in a glass?
Alien (with a wonderful Zen like aura): I'll have one of those then please.
Things to take away:
- Always keep in mind that in the local planet's language the word for "problem" and "question" is one and the same*. You may be under the impression that you are asking a simple question whereas in fact you are causing a problem.
- When you're facing your next "méi yǒu **" - try, try and try again.
- Anything is possible.
And on that note, I'll sign off.
"Live Long and Prosper"
* 问题 （wènti). Definition: question; problem; issue
** 没有 （méi yǒu). Definition: don't have; doesn't exist; go away
Tags:General Language & Culture Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales Lifestyle
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I love your use of the word 'alien'. I know they call us that and initially I found it very weird and stupid. Anyway that kind of thing happened to me when I asked the girl working at this McD outlet near my campus "what is 'you tiao'?" It was something new to me and I was curious to know whether it was sweet-tasting or no. Instead of answering or even merely saying she doesn't know she got all angry and started shooting off some complicated chinese which I obviously could'nt understand. Maybe it wasn't even Mandarin. So I shot off back in English. Anyway later I silently scolded myself to have even dared to ask. :/
Mar 21, 2014 01:10 Report Abuse