Friday, 20 July 2007


Krakow being the buzzing cultural hive that it is, and since the architecture (ok, in the town centre) has a vaguely Austrian-Italian feel to it, and everyone under the age of 30 speaks English, I tend to forget about its Socialist history and the fact that I am in Central, and not Western, Europe.

So it comes as sort of a shock to realise that a sizeable portion of educated adults are not familiar with the inside of a Starbucks, or its associative connotations (everyone complains about the coffee, but everyone goes there anyway; they crop up everywhere; the improbable juxtaposition of 'skinny' and 'muffin'; the secretly addictive properties of Frappuccino Mocha Light; the one toilet cubicle- caffeine is a diuretic for heaven's sake- etc.).
When I was on a placement in Paris in early 2006, there were four newly-opened Starbucks. On my return in January, there were at least fifteen, even in traditionally quaint districts like the Marais. So I'm sure it will come: McDonalds is thriving here (although given that Polish cuisine relies heavily on lard and frying this is not such a surprise).

My theory for the absence of Starbucks thus far is that, in the dying days of Socialism, in a last-ditch attempt to hold back the Tide of Capitalism, a forward-thinking government Nostradamus wrote an anti-American-coffee-bar clause into regulations governing commerce. The grammatical structure is so complex that it will take some future Indiana Jones of Polish legal translation to unravel it. Currently, Starbucks lawyers are poring over scraps of 1980s legislation, with the help of MI6 codebreakers and the Oxford university maths department (with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou dashing around in the background, chased by a homicidal monk in spiky suspenders):
- Is that the locative case?
- No, must be the genitive feminine plural
- But wait- isn't it future perfective?
- So there is a future perfective?
- Sod it, let's go to Bulgaria.

I have two favourite Starbucks moments. Firstly, seeing a Frenchman totally floored in a branch opposite Charing Cross station, upon being informed that they served neither beer nor Coke, and that the bar was non-smoking. I didn't fancy his chances of getting a café crème either.
Secondly, when I tried to order a caffelatte in Manhattan, in my most pretentious Italian accent.
- Excuse me?
- caffelatte
- What?
- latte please
- Oh, you wanna lahtay...

That'll teach me.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pinolona,

In the absence of new posts, I am reading your blog from the start as I was late arriving to your blog anyway, the lahtay bit is funny

Anonymous said...

Komentarz został zapisany i zostanie wyświetlony po zatwierdzeniu przez właściciela bloga.


pinolona said...

Thanks! It was funny at the time too but sadly there was no-one about at the time to laugh at me...

Yeah comments have to be moderated after a month or something otherwise you get loads of spam. Interesting that it's in Polish though, unless you're in Poland I suppose.