View From a Chinese Starbucks

We’ve said more than once that living in China, for two Canadians, is kind of like living on a different planet. There’s still the sun in the distance, the ground beneath our feet, there are still people doing everyday people things, but at the same time things are so unfamiliar. From the bus ride to work to buying groceries to working out at the gym, things that felt so ordinary are now so strange–and to be honest, exhausting!

It’s in those circumstances that we miss the things from back home that once were so meaningless, like having the right of way as a pedestrian or being able to identify what kind of meat you’re ordering at a restaurant. But it seems like we haven’t missed anything so much as Hamilton’s café culture.

We used to love going for coffee at Cafe Oranje, Redchurch, or Vintage Coffee. It got us out of the house for nothing more than good conversation, absorbing the life of the city, and on occasion, provide a portable office to get some work done. While eating out seems to be a big part of Chinese culture, probably because food is so cheap, lounging in an establishment while just drinking a coffee doesn’t seem to be a regular thing. However, there is one place we’ve found where we can get that little taste of home for a few hours: Starbucks.

We sit in the well-known international establishment on a sunny Sunday afternoon and feel the most relaxed we have been since we’ve arrived. The Starbucks in China are much like the ones in Canada; the same interior design, drink offerings, and mellow acoustic soundtrack–only they happen to have watermelon cheesecake and Affogato, which are nice additions to the menu if we do say so ourselves. And probably one of the most familiar things in this unfamiliar country is that the menu is in English, the staff speak English, and even their nametags display their English names (lots of ‘Amy’s and ‘Jason’s).

We order our regular coffee orders from Canada in English without copious amounts of pointing and general confusion. Two Iced Americanos (minus the almond milk–we haven’t figured out if they offer that here yet) are prepared just like home. We find a seat at the window, begin working on our laptops, and watch the world go by outside. This particular Starbucks is near Dalian’s Olympic Park, a busy area of the city, which makes people watching–and traffic watching–quite entertaining. We comment to each other that this feels a lot like home.

Now don’t get us wrong. We aren’t trying to avoid the discomfort. In fact, our main objective of coming here was to be uncomfortable and tackle some challenges. And we’ve been learning new things about the world and about ourselves everyday. But we’re only human, and somedays, especially this day, it was so lovely to share a a familiar drink in a familiar environment, as the world kept spinning without anything noteworthy happening at all.

Sure, we might not consider Starbucks a ‘cute café’ back in Canada, but we’ll take what we can get until we find the next thing that reminds us of home, whatever it might be. But for now, we’ll settle for our Iced Americanos (no almond milk) and a view from a Chinese Starbucks.

Laptop and iced coffee by the window. View of a little square outside in the background. Dalian, China.

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4 thoughts on “View From a Chinese Starbucks

  • Your mom forwarded me a link to your blog and I’m enjoying learning about your life in China. My husband Mike and I are sailing with her to Japan in September and connected through CruiseCritic. We even met for a glass of wine (or two) during our stay in Hamilton earlier this summer.

    After our Transpacific cruise and a few extra days in Japan we are flying to X’ian for two nights so thanks for that post too!

    After our visit with the terra cotta boys, we are bullet training to Beijing where a few days later we join a cruise that will call for a day at Dailian. So hope you will blog about your City sometime soon!


    • Aw thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you were able to connect my mom and it will be nice for her to have some friendly faces aboard the cruise 🙂

      Xi’an was amazing and one of our highlights since coming here. We know you will have a great time. Definitely get yourselves some streetfood!

      We are still exploring all the nooks and crannies of the city and we are hoping to put out some of our findings soon! Dalian is a pretty new city so there are a lot of malls, but there are some neat squares and a lot of cute cafés and it’s nice to be by the seaside.

      Happy Travels and we’ll talk to you soon!


      • Looking forward to her smiling face aboard and ami know she is excited to meet you in Hong Kong.

        Since we are Asian virgins and not as adventuresome as you too, we booked our China trip with an agency and included in the package is a walk through the Muslim quarter and tastes of a bunch of street food. 😊

        We won’t be in Dalian very long (frankly not sure why we are porting there for six hours maybe in case someone misses the embarkation in Beijing? Anyway, here is what Viking has planned for us:
        Explore a city with a rich history of British, Japanese, Russian and Chinese influence. Beginning in the 19th century, the city and the peninsula on which it rests changed hands several times for its strategic locale and its ice-free port. Russia was the last to leave after occupying the city for the decade following World War II; its influence can still be seen in Stalinist-era buildings. You will meet your guide and drive into Dalian, pausing to take in the atmosphere of People’s Square, once called Stalin Square. There will be time for photos here and of Beida Bridge, completed in 1987 to commemorate Dalian’s friendly relationship as a sister city with Japan’s city of Kitakyushu. Its unique architectural style has made it a major attraction in Dalian. You will also visit Labor Park, the largest public park in Dalian. From its heights, enjoy panoramic views of this picturesque city.

        Sounds pretty tame…😢

        Anyway, good to hear of folks your age doing what you’re doing while young….trust me it’s harder when you’re older! But we are having a good time.

        I see you started following my blog, if you want to learn about what started us on this adventure, read the August 2017 post in the archives. (I need to figure out how to have one of those “about us” links like you do!)

        Anyway, look forward to reading what y’all are up to doing.


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