Coffee, that Brazilian bean that petrol stations are probably making more money on than oil from Saudi Arabia at the moment.
“Really, why is coffee so important to Croatians, I just can’t understand it,” asked an American journalist over yet another Zoom call this week. Adding “Surely they can just grab a coffee to go.”
Coffee that magical drink in Croatia that has so many meanings.
“Do you want to go for a coffee?” is a question that has more layers than an onion. In fact, the least likely answer is that someone actually fancies drinking just a coffee.
“We just fill up our insulated coffee mugs in the morning and drink it at our desks throughout the day,” concluded the journalist, clearly showing a lack of insight into the Croatian way of life and the coffee culture. However, having a foot in both camps I could also understand his viewpoint, although after living here for so long I tend to lean more towards having a coffee break, rather than coffee to go.
During my working life, and this is 100 percent true, I never left the office to go and have a coffee. I would be in the same situation as this US journalist and sip my caffeine brew slowly through the day. Indeed, we needed that occasional blast of caffeine-high to get us through the day. There is a reason why coffee is a morning drink.
And here’s the irony, after so many coffees a day you’d presume that people would be bouncing off the walls, but the complete opposite is the case. If a snail fell into a can of Red Bull would he not, then transform into cheetah? Maybe you guys are just immune to caffeine now?
“How they can drink a double expresso and then fall asleep on the beach amazes me, I’d be looking for a mountain to climb,” said an English friend once.
So I started to explain, although it took longer than I had hoped, to my American colleague that coffee wasn’t just coffee. I have found from experience that if you can find a comparison that people catch on much quicker. HRT, yes that’s your BBC. HDZ something like your Republican party. Oliver he’s like a Croatian Elton John. Marenda is basically brunch. And fjaka is an afternoon nap. And so on. So going for a coffee in Croatia = going for a beer in England. For going for a beer means meeting friends, talking business, having a date, enjoying a rest, catching up on gossip, giving your condolences, I could go on but you get the idea.
And the fact that pubs are closed across England is causing the most social uproar as café bars are here. “It’s like going to the Mall,” that was the best American comparison I could think of. I was going to say like going for a drive-through but that is about as social as living on Daksa!
I remember my mother once saying to me “Why do people always ask to go for a quick coffee and then when the waiter comes they order a Coca-Cola?” Of course she took the daily, or sometimes twice daily routine, too literally.
“Ah, so it’s social interaction, networking and part of the fabric of life, ok I get it,” finally he understood coffee culture. “So what are people doing now,” he asked. “Pretty much the same thing but sitting on benches and walls hugging their paper cups and sucking at plastic lids,” I answered.
And after the pandemic passes do you think there will be a change in the attitude towards actually going to café bars,” he responded. Good question. Now that one had me thinking.
A friend recently sent me a photo from Mostar where she was sitting in a café bar surrounded by people all with a Lavazza cup in front of them. My first reaction was, now that looks strange. I have adopted so much to the social distancing that what was once normal now looks odd. The “new norm” is my reality.
So actually sitting without masks sipping a coffee now seems a little like a sci-fi movie. Will it all go back to normal, probably yes, people are extremely adaptable. Although will sales of coffee-to-go drop off, again probably not. “We first make our habits, then our habits make us,” once wrote the English poet John Dryden.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to