6 Things You Learn When Working In A Coffee Shop In London

Flickr / Lisa Widerberg
Flickr / Lisa Widerberg

1. Tea

I know this probably seems like the biggest cliché ever, but bear with me. I am not talking about the fact that Londoners seem to be drinking copious amounts of tea a day (the other day we had a couple ask for “Earl Grey for 5.” As they picked it up, I asked who else was joining them. No one. They just drink a lot of tea apparently. Well…) But rather the fact that they are so picky about the amount of milk that goes into their tea. Listen lads “a bit” can be interpreted in about 12 different ways. Same goes for “a drop,” “a little,” and the worst measurement of them all “just pour some in.” If the over-milkisation of your tea can absolutely ruin your day, please, for the love of all that is holy, pour it in yourself. Amen!

2. Cheers

We can all agree: “Cheers” is a great word! The UK thinks so, England thinks so and London in particular. “Cheers” is right up there for the London folk to reply to absolutely anything. Thank you? – Cheers! Bye? – Cheers! You’re welcome? – Cheers! It’s the London equivalent of shalom, like the secret handclap of the British! And because it’s an acceptable response to just about anything it is particularly great when you’re forced to converse which customers and either don’t care, don’t listen or don’t hear what they’re telling you over the coffee grinder! Cheers!

3. Small Talk

All of this assumes of course that customers are talking to you! I’ve had regulars for 9 months now, who I’ve maybe heard speak about 2.4 times. Londoners are not about to strike up a conversation with a stranger, even if that stranger serves them coffee every damn day. As a matter of fact, it is a fool proof way to identify tourists, Americans and just the rogue Brit here and there. When meeting Londoners, be prepared to be blatantly ignored for the first couple of weeks. After that, if you’re lucky, you might get a nod to signal recognition. Let a further couple of weeks pass and they might start responding to your questions as to how their day is going. Proceed very captiously with all of this – a personal question too soon might throw you back several months!

4. “Where are you from?”

If you have managed to hold a two-sided conversation with a Londoner – congratulations! Now, their first question is probably going to be “where are you from?” Don’t take this as a passive-aggressive dib at your desire to small talk! It’s just so rare for people in London to actually be from London that most people would be shocked if your answer was London. The questions has just become an absolute standard inquiry :It’s like “Hi, how are you, what’s your name, where are you from?”

5. London is not THAT big!

I’ve met customers on the street, at Whole Foods, in nightclubs, in an East-London warehouse… I swear I’ve even found one on Tinder once! Forget about your five-a-day when it comes to food – soon enough it will be all about five (or more!) embarrassing run ins (or near death experiences due to busses and cabs if we’re honest!) And it’s going to be as awkward as it was when you randomly met teachers around town. They won’t know how to react (I’m pretty sure some of them think we get locked into the basement of the café at night) and I sure don’t either. Like do I wave at them, smile, touch their bum? I only ever see you over a coffee machine! This is where we do it the London way and just completely ignore each other.

6. Queues

Now, everyone knows about this stereotype – British people love a good queue. But once again, Londoners take it to a whole new level. We have a system in our café where you can skip to the front of the queue if you’re just ordering coffee and no food. The shocked and slightly panic-stricken faces of our customer when we ask them, is beyond hilarious. They will start to slowly creep past the crowd of queuing people, stopping every few steps just to make sure the mob doesn’t eat them alive or the angry hand of God falls upon them (in the London way of a pigeon taking a dump on you). Just GO and give me your coffee order. Londoners. Making the lives of everyone more awkward. TC mark

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Slightly obsessed with Rilke, Sappho and Harry Potter. Absolutely helpless when it comes to comma placement. Read more articles from Lea on Thought Catalog.
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