Parlez-vous Starbucks?

I have no loyalty to any coffee brand in particular, and am content to grab a cup from whichever place I’m closest to.  Given its venti presence, I am usually close to a Starbucks.

The problem is, and this is difficult to admit, I still don’t know how to order coffee there. I don’t speak Starbucks. I still don’t get how to ask for something fat-free, I can’t remember the names of their different syrups and have no idea how milk comes in more varieties than store locations.

I have yet to name a cup size correctly as Starbucks’ sizing is so backwards to me. As someone who is short, tall has always been the height of well, height, for me. I feel like I can wrap my head around individual terms like soy and vivanno, but I can’t string them all together into a coherent order that doesn’t embarrass myself and whoever I’m with.

Starbucks has been the hardest language I’ve ever had to learn. I had no trouble grasping French growing up though, admittedly, being immersed in the language as an exchange student in France certainly helped my learning. But what am I supposed to do, go live in a Starbucks? They’re cleaner than my French dorm, but I’m always concerned about occupying a table for too long and I can only go to the bathroom in my own house. I just don’t think it would work.

As with calculus, I have admitted defeat and enlisted assistance. I’ll tell my friend I want a “mocha bullshit,” and she’ll translate it into Starbucks for me, like ‘ grande three-pump (or was it double quad?), skinny/non-fat, organic, breve mocha, no whip.’ I’ll say this order to myself over and over in line like the Sesame Street kid – “a loaf o’ bread, a quart o’ milk, and a stick o’buttah” – but when that 16 year old barista turns to me baring a tag declaring her a coffee expert, I panic. I’m not an expert in anything and I’m twice her age! My repetition escapes me.

“I’ll…I’ll…I’ll just have tap water!” I stammer.

“What size cup would you like?”

“Um, a bottle please! Hurry!”

I give up quickly because I’m terrified of being the object of “Starbucks Rage”-the aggressive and uncontrolled anger exhibited by Starbucks patrons in line when the person ordering can’t say his/her drink as fast as the Micro Machine Man.

It’s hard being a stranger in a strange land. Especially when I love foreign languages. I think languages are important and the atrophying of my French has been a big upset for me. My husband and I are certain that we would want any unborn child of ours to learn a second language. We have often debated which would be the most useful and enjoyable: French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese? I’m going to insist though that our baby be immediately enrolled in “Starbucks Ordering-Issues in Applied Linguistics.” Hopefully, then, they will be able to come home and patiently teach it to their mom.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to keep studying on my own:


It’s been said that a coffee order says a lot about a person. I think my “tall, medium, house blend” says I’m an unpretentious girl next door who wants to have fun but is too scared to go after it.

What’s your coffee order and what does it say about you?



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