I am spending a lot of time in coffee shops, Mainly because I just love to sit and work there, but it also provides me a kind of insight. Not in the local life, of course. But into the connection between expats and locals. The coffee shop in Laos (or any other country) is a perfect place to watch people and how they act and interact in this environment. I will post some of my observations here, called coffee shop stories.
Was gone for 5 days, staff welcomed me. They speak now mixed Lao and English with me, something I appreciate, cause I trains my Lao skills - and staffs English skills as well. My favorite barista Seuy made beautiful flower decoration, and I showed him a Indian head as coffee art I photographed in Phnom Penh. I guess it is a challenge for him. Dee came out of the kitchen to say hello.
Front desk approach
There are different kind of approaches to the fron desk of the coffeeshop, because there are different barrieres. One is the language barrier, another is the newcomer barrier, and then you have what I call the automat barrier. The latter means that customers dont even recognize a human beiing behind the front desk. They just order, and get easily confused or angry when the human automat replies. While foreigners usually immediatly go into teacher mode, repeating the order v e r y s l o w ly as they talk to a children, until they notice that the barista just asked if it is for take away, locals sometime go in bitch mode. Hierachy is still important in asia, so it is common that people look down on waitresses and cashiers and don't pay any respect. The local hi-so girl today was exactly in that mode. The - I guess German - lady was a full suprise. The body language indicated she is already in teacher mode, in particualr because the first thing she said was "D o y o u s p e a k E n g l i s h?", but this was just to make sure the conversation can start on a certain level. She then ordered some cakes for delivery, bending her tall body over to speak even physically on a same level. She adapted to the situation, something you rarely see here.
... to be continued...