This semester I have been focusing on polishing my book and finding an agent, so I’ve been spending a lot of time at Starbucks.

I know, I know, I can hear you groan from here. “Starbucks, really?!” Especially as Xiamen has a lot of amazing cute little cafes all over the place with special teas and snacks. But if I’m in a small cafe, and one person is playing a game on their phone, or if two people are talking, it drives me nuts. I can’t focus on anything. But if I’m at a big, crazy Starbucks with a million people making noise I can zone it all out and bang away at my computer. Don’t judge me.

So, you know how there are all the jokes about Starbucks getting even the simplest names wrong? That’s in American Starbucks. But what about the ones outside America? In China, American names are impossible to pronounce. In fact, they don’t even try. When I order my black tea latte (I don’t like coffee) they don’t ever ask me my name. So how do they call me when it is ready? How do they know which is mine? Turns out, they have special symbols just for foreigners. I thought it was quite funny so I started taking pictures of it.

Here are some of the symbols and words they have put on my cup.

The most common symbol I see is just a small star. But I like how they add the ‘s at the end to make it possessive. I’m a stahhhh, baby!

A cute emoji smile.

One big ass crazy smile!

I’m not quite sure what the XL refers to (it was just a large sized drink). I’ll try not to get offended.

They never shout out my name, instead yelling “hello! hello!” when it is a foreigners cup. So this store decided to bypass the cute drawing and just write what they were gonna yell.

I have a Starbucks card so they see my name. Sometimes they write my name but I have never heard anyone try to attempt to say it. Most American’s can’ say my last name properly much less someone in China.

People think my life in China is exotic and unusual. But more of then than not, it is exactly as mundane and simple as life back in America. We’re both at Starbucks laughing at how wrong they get our name.

You know that romantic saying about being far away from someone and they both look up at the moon and know they are close because they are looking at the same moon. Well, next time you go to Starbucks look at your cup and think of me, looking at my own Starbucks cup and we are close again. 😉


Nicki · April 23, 2018 at 10:57 pm

How interesting! They always write 外’s on mine, although I found out that the ‘s did not mean what I thought it meant through the comments on this Language Log post:

Try taking a guy with you and see what happens!

Nicki Chen · April 24, 2018 at 9:53 pm

I agree. The cacophony at a Starbucks makes it a perfect place to write.

Best of luck on polishing your book and finding an agent.

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