The All-American Starbucks

Since moving to Zurich, I have days that I crave normalcy. Walking out of the house is always an adventure here, which is partly why we came, but partly the hardest part. I’m learning all sorts of new things about the Swiss culture. I think some customs are better, some are silly, and sometimes I just want what I am used to.

Which is when I find myself in Starbucks.

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So, I walked into Starbucks for the first time in Zurich and I ordered a chai latte. At home, I would never just order a chai latte; it would be a grande, three pump, nonfat, chai latte. But, I was scared and didn’t want to sound like the picky American girl.

The second time, I got a little braver, but I tried to simplify my order so they would understand. I went up to the counter and said, “Can I have a grande chai latte, with a lower fat milk, and can you possibly make it a little less sweet than normal?” The girl behind the counter asks, “Do you want nonfat or lowfat?” I replied, “Nonfat please.” Then the girl behind the counter turns to the girl making the drinks and says, “grande, nonfat, three pump chai latte.”

Ahhh. A smile immediately formed on my face. What a relief. Starbucks is still as normal as ever.

Since then, I have been back once or twice (I’m not made of money and these Swiss Starbucks ain’t cheap) and my normal order has worked like a charm. The one thing that is different here is that my name is not common in Switzerland, so the baristas’ spelling is always interesting. At home, the spelling was usually wrong, but it was at least a version of my name. Here I have gotten “Kidney” and “Kitelin” to name a few. I found it a little funny since this type of thing hasn’t happened to me before, so I did what any social media savvy girl my age would do and posted it on Instagram.


Let me back track one minute to preface the rest of this story.  There is this free pop culture magazine that comes out every Friday called 20 Minuten. The most popular section is called In and Out which shows you what fads are “in” this week and what is sooo “out.” I’ve heard that the Swiss live by this, especially the teenagers, and read it every week so they know what to wear and how to act. Swiss follow the rules, and I guess this In and Out section supplies the pop culture rules to live by. I’ve always been intrigued to see what it says but I can’t read it because there are no pictures, and let’s face it, my German knowledge is nichts (I even had to look that up- it means nothing I think).


Ok, now back to the day I posted my Starbuck’s cup on Instagram. I was on the train on a rainy Friday afternoon and was checking out the 20 Minuten magazine. I scrolled through and looked at the pictures of train-wreck Lindsay Lohan and outfits to buy this Spring. It’s amazing how fast you can read a magazine when you only look at pictures. Some twenty-somethings sat down next to me, drinking their beers, and talking in English because it seemed one of their friends only spoke English. They grabbed the 20 Minuten and started reading the In and Out section out loud. My ears perked up because finally I got to know what it said! It turns out headbands are very in right now and so is some singer that I have never heard of. As it also turns out, it is sooo last week to update your social media sites with pictures of how Starbucks baristas misspelled your name on your cup. Thank goodness I am no longer a teenager, because instead of being mortified, the pure coincidence made my day.

I guess in my search for American normalcy, I am a Zurich outcast. Luckily, I already knew that.

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