Monday, July 09, 2007


Blog post to go, please

Back in Berlin as of Saturday evening, yet I've barely had time to blog. I won't bore you with the details, but it has something to do with wireless internet access limited to cafes a few train stops away from our apartment. I just have to face up to the fact that I've developed a dependency on reliable internet access (preferably at home) and will have to factor that into future long-stay travel plans.

Today I ordered coffee to go from our neighborhood cafe, "Coffeemamas." It may not seem like such a big deal to order coffee to go, but it struck me that in four trips to Europe since 1999 (totaling perhaps 90 days and counting), this is the very first time I've ordered coffee to go.

The to go order had less to do with being in a hurry than that we hit Coffeemamas during its strange mid-morning rush. At about 10:30, the quiet coffee shop is set upon by about 30 people who all seem to know each other -- no doubt a regularly-scheduled coffee break at a large neighborhood employer.

Waiting on line to order my latte, I realized that I'd forgotten the German phrase for "take out," and I started obsessing about the best way to say it in English. Would the German barista be more familiar with the American "to go" or the British "to take away"? Germans seem to prefer American to British culture, but maybe their language instruction and experience is more likely to be British-influenced, Britain being so much more accessible as a matter of travel. And when you visit German websites, the link to the English-language version of the web page is almost invariably a British flag, rarely an American one. Same with train ticket machines and ATMs.

"Latte, bitte. To take away," I said. I must have made the right choice, because I was understood. And they gave me this:


Perhaps they rationalized that you were an anglophilic, ex-pat trying to straddle two cultures. Or three, would that you had a third leg.
I'm not an ex-pat. I remain a pat.
And as you left, I assure you they all laughed behind the counter, saying, "Americans and their uncivilized 'to go' coffee obsession..."

Even if it was your first time in months.
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