European Archives - St. Stephen's University

Coffee As a Life Style

By 2011, Europe One Comment

Coffee as a Representative of Our Differing Lifestyles
I have been back in Canada for a few days now and have not experienced as much culture shock as I figured I would, especially having been away for so long. The one thing that has really affected me since I have been back has been the coffee, yes you heard me right, the coffee. I cannot believe what we call coffee here, it’s just sad. Coffee is not just a beverage it’s a way of life. I believe the way a person drinks their coffee says a lot about them, and no I don’t mean sip or slurp or chug. I mean how they treat the whole experience surrounding coffee. Therefore, if the way a person treats the “coffee experience” can tell a lot about them, it logically must work the same for the way a nation treats the coffee experience. I noticed that we, North Americans, and the Europeans treat the coffee experience quite differently. Sure we both run off coffee and we all enjoy it in the company of others, but for North Americans it has become an addiction so thick that we can hardly even enjoy a good cup of coffee any more. Yes, a good cup of coffee, not a grande from Dunkin’ Donuts.

So let me begin by describing how typical North Americans treat the coffee experience: we wake up grab a cup of coffee and get ready for work or school, then we pick up a large coffee on the way to work which becomes cold in 10 minutes but we drink it because there is still three quarters of a cup left. We do not even savour the taste, we do not even acknowledge that we are drinking it, we run off coffee to keep up with our busy lifestyle and therefore do not care too much for the taste or the quality, we just need our fix. I realize that this is not the case for all, I am talking about the majority here, because I am sure that there are many Europeans who are likely to do the same, again, majority here. Now shall we look at the European way of drinking coffee? The portions are much smaller and the quality is much better. The flavor is richer and the texture is thicker. It is quite a bit more expensive there, but they drink less of it and enjoy it a little more. It just re-assures me that their lifestyle seems to be much slower paced, and they seem to take the time to enjoy good quality things such as coffee, wine, and beer. Yes, they treat wine and beer quite the same, good quality stuff that is not simply consumed to get wasted. I admit, I am one of those North Americans that runs off coffee and will usually drink any kind of coffee no matter how awful it is, but after experiencing coffee the European way I cannot see how I could go back.


So I wash by hand…

By 2011, Europe No Comments

Traveling in a group is a very rewarding experience. I have had so much time to spend with people, laugh with people, and get to know the real side of them in a way I never would have otherwise if we hadn’t been squeezed together in our little ship of a bus on this sea of European cities.

I have taken, in my time here, to washing clothes by hand. It’s been a good chance to have a moment of peace during my constant flurry of activity, and I feel as if, for a moment, I am getting back to my roots – My ancestors probably didn’t have coin operated washing machines. The truth is that pilgrimage isn’t all fun and games and glamorous architectural marvels! Sometimes participant living requires mundane chores.

So I wash by hand, and naturally, have to wring the clothes out to minimize the drying time when they are hung outside on a line. It takes a great deal of work to squeeze out the water, though, and by the end of a load, my forearms are stiff and sore from so much concentrated effort. Sometimes it even takes two people for the bigger, heavier articles.

As we go, having a plethora of new and incredible experiences packed into the busiest, shortest two months of my academic career up to this point, I have a suspicion.

I suspect that, as I wash, I am echoing the greater experience of this European escapade in the difficult but satisfying task of doing laundry. In the same way that I want to squeeze every single drop of water out of my clean clothes, I want to be intentional about squeezing every ounce of meaning out of my traveling adventure. I seek to separate the wheat of observation and engagement from the chaff of self-absorption and the indiscriminate plodding along of an ignorant tourist. The longer I’m at it, though, the more tired I get and the more my emotional forearms ache. Sometimes, it even takes two people to process these things that are so much bigger than myself.

But it’s worth it! In the end. those mental and spiritual drapings are there now, clean and fresh, and ready to be drawn on for truth, context, maturity, interest, and possibly even some trendy European fashion statements.

Keeping washing, my friends. It’s worth it. (Trust me, not even a European wants to be naked ALL the time. )


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