Starbucks Angst


Herein lies my dilemma:

I am a traveler. I am not a tourist. Tourists are those loud Americans who take the double-decker bus and eat McDonalds in Rome. Travelers experience local culture, boldly try new things, and take uncommon pride in their useless yet intimate knowledge of knowing public transportation systems all over the world. (Ask me how to get somewhere in DC. Seriously, just try me.)


I have been to Starbucks nearly every day since I arrived in Turkey. It feels dirty just writing it. I’ve been going to Starbucks because they have good coffee (well, here. I don’t drink it much in New York). I’ve tried Turkish coffee (see “traveler,” above), and it’s just fine, but kids, I like a good espresso. I’d go so far as to say “need,” but I have a deeply ingrained caution in using that word, as I hear my father’s voice in my head asking, “Do you NEED it, or do you WANT it?” Turks love their tea, and I’ve been drinking heaps of it. But a girl’s gotta have her coffee.

But why is coffee such an important experience for me? And here comes the insight gained in reflective time. Starbucks is a decidedly Western phenomenon, and you know what? I’ve really realized this week that I like the West. This may sound obvious, but as I’ve been spending time with foreigners who have chosen to live here — and love it — I’ve felt a bit of angst on this point. I always feel “white guilt” when I see non-Anglo places become Westernized, and wow,  Istanbul stands as the world’s the most glaring example of the intersection of cultures. Where East meets West, on every level. And I am planted on the West. I’m staying on the Asian side while I’m here, but my heart lights up when the bus pulls into Taksim. It feels like home to me. I counted six Starbucks on Istiklal Cadessi in a 20-minute walk. See, that would annoy me in a New York neighborhood, and I’d bemoan the death of the independent cafe. But here? It’s reassuring.

More on the East-meets-West phenomenon later, but for now, I’ll share that my resolution is this — I’m OK with being a Western girl. I still enjoy the East, embrace where I’m visiting with a whole heart, and appreciate the culture for what it is without trying to change it. And then I sit down to muse on the beauty of this amazing diverse world in which we live… with an espresso in hand.


1 Response to “Starbucks Angst”

  1. 1 Holly 15 March 2010 at 09:03

    This made me chuckle.. I can understand the Starbucks need in another country and I am a tea drinker! Love your travel blog! Keep them coming!

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