Monday, January 23, 2006


At times, I find Starbucks to be full of expatriates and foreigners from all over, thought mostly from Australia, the UK, and the States. Could-be Soccer moms gather with their strollers and kids for morning coffee and croissants. Some of them bring their live-in housekeepers along so they're free to devote their full attention more weighty things than their own children. Plenty of people bring their laptop computers to take advantage of the free wi-fi connection.

Other times, Starbucks appears to be full of people who look Chinese in ethnicity but not in actuality. At those times, when Starbucks looks more like the small, hole-in-the-wall noodle shop that you find less than a mile outside of the business district, it sounds and feels like something else entirely.

Appearances can be deceiving, especially at the Starbucks in Central, Hong Kong. To my left, three Chinese women, young, no older than 75 together, speaking English, sounding English. To my right, two men, one Chinese, one Caucasian, both sound like Aussies.

I wonder what brings all of us together. Did we all develop our taste for Starbucks in other countries where Starbucks is more ubiquitous or did we develop it here? I look around and hear the language that I grew up with. I can't help but think that we all come here looking for like-minded people, not for the overpriced coffee that really isn't that good. Maybe we're drawn to the things in Starbucks that always look the same - the green logo, the green aprons, the Starbucks siren, the Venti size drinks. Maybe, sometimes, appearances are all we need.