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cafe Archives - St. Stephen's University

Cultural Cafés

By | 2016, Europe | No Comments

We could not contain excitement during our first night in Paris. The city of love beckoned us to explore Parisian culture and nightlife. Our first thoughts: wine, cheese, and the Eiffel tower. After realizing that we had forgotten a corkscrew, we postponed our venture and instead wandered the streets for a café.

The Europe trip is full of the café lifestyle. Of course it is inevitable to encounter multiple cafés while on the trip as they are a prominent feature of European culture. However, visiting cafés is even more desirable when travelling due to the busy nature of the Europe itinerary. Cafés helped us embrace moments of intrapersonal reflection, and of relaxation.

Our waiter contradicted the French stereotypes of rudeness and of pretending not to understand English. He was very friendly yet blunt in his reactions and opinions. He made our experience completely ludicrous! He made jokes we couldn’t understand and was extremely distracted. After clearing a table for us he said he would be back with some menus. So far everything seemed normal to us. It wasn’t until we waited a verrrry long time for him to return that we started to question our ability to interact within this cultural experience. He came back with salt and pepper shakers, which left us confused. He kept running back and forth between tables continually moving the salt and pepper shakers, and he had still not taken our orders. When we did finally order he scoffed at our selection of wine. He suggested we order a more expensive brand. We laughed and took his suggestion. We felt foreign not knowing what to do at this café. Surely this odd interaction was not our ignorance or inability to engage properly. Perhaps it could have been us, but after experiencing more Parisian cafés later on in the trip, we realized that this night it was simply our quirky waiter.

There was a gentleman next to us smoking a cigar and drinking a beer. He and the waiter kept making jokes throughout the evening. He was an 80 year old widower, whose wife had died of cancer. He was extremely lonely. He spoke to us about his life and his beliefs. His English was fairly good and we learned he was half Quebecois, and half Swiss. He was a bit senile so the conversation was hard to follow at times but we laughed along when we couldn’t understand.

That night we intended to experience Parisian culture which we assumed would be best found by sitting beneath the Eiffel tower with a bottle of wine. Although I must say that venture was also exciting and culturally rewarding in other ways, this night at the café was one to remember.