First things first – nice work landing the Starbucks gig. That will undoubtedly look stellar on the CV come graduation time. Much better than schlocking pizza slices all summer, wouldn’t you say? You will have to find a nifty way to spin “Spent whole summer cutting and pasting customer feedback into an Excel spreadsheet”, but I have full faith that, when necessary, you can find a way to wow those Career Fair types. My advice — just make some shit up. I do.
Right about now I am guessing you and your Dockers are sitting in Starbucks cubefarm hell trying to piece together the details of last night and longing for 6 more hours of shut-eye with your Seattle Seahawks comforter. While you are sweating out those last 12 cans of Busch Light that you so brazenly drank just a few hours ago, I have something I would like to share with you. I am hoping you can put this in size 48 font on your Customer Feedback spreadsheet and highlight it in an abrasive yellowish orange color so someone over there in Coffee-Expansion-Land will take notice.
I recently moved to Amsterdam. Yes, yes, I know you know the place. Yes, hookers are legal. Yes, you can trip ass on mushrooms and no one is going to arrest you. But that is not my point. My point is – upon moving here I immediately noticed something that some folks over where you work have noticed as well – no Starbucks. Like none. Like no Starbuck’s soy chai tea to be found anywhere. Nowheres. Ok, that is a bit of a lie. There are two at Schipol – the airport. But that is the airport. There are none on my way to work, near my work, near my house, near my friend’s houses, near their friend’s friend’s houses, a short (or a long) bike ride away. In other words–outside of Schipol Airport the entire Nether-land is Starbucks free.
This, my little hungover intern friend, distressed me.
I mean, I know we kind of just met and maybe this is T.M.I, but this reached borderline-anxiety-attack, complete-hot-panic, running-for-the-juice-to-numb-the-pain, upset. The distance between my new home and the nearest Starbucks was almost insurmountable for my little head to process. I wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. I needed my mom like you are probably needing six Advil right about now.
It was bad.
But, as work was footing the bill for me to be here, I knew I had to deal with the reality that I was stuck for weeks, months, maybe years in a land without my favorite morning beverage. To console my seemingly inconsolable heart, I decided to do what everyone else around me was doing – I found the biggest, rustiest, clickety, clacketyist bike I could – and started to ride it. Along the way, I started to perk up (no pun intended) and take note of a few things that I would like to share with you and your beloved spreadsheet….
Holland is old. I mean really old, dude. They have a church in the middle of Amsterdam that was built in the 13th century. My neighborhood was built in the 1600’s. The only roads that are not made of brick are freeways. Some people here still wear wooden shoes.
They dig a lot of old things over here. Like the 650,000 bikes that are the primary mode of transport for the 740,000 residents of this major European city. These granny-tastic, rusted to all get out, junker mobiles (circa around the time that our lil’ buddy Mr. Schultz was memorizing his multiplication tables) are how men dressed in business suits get to work, how dolled up women get around on Friday nights with their BFF riding on their back bumper, how mothers and fathers transport one, two, sometimes three of their children (yes on one bike), and how people get their groceries and goods from store to home.
Yes, the Dutch are stereotyped as being cheap and perhaps this is why they don’t just tear buildings down, construct condos with underground parking, buy Beamers and forget all of this old building, rusty bicycle, tradition crap – but I don’t think so. What I think is this — the Dutch are extremely genuine people. They like real. They like pure. There is a lot of real and pure in the centuries of history and culture in this country.
There is also a lot of tradition and simplicity in their way of life. This is a country that has a well-honed skill of being able to identify what does and does not fall within those categories. Don’t believe me? Try to find a McDonalds outside of the one or two highly touristy streets in Amsterdam. Hell, try to find a Taco Bell or a Mountain Dew anywhere in this country. The Dutch are so interested in a slow paced, non-commercial life that it is federally mandated that stores close at 6 pm, except on Thursdays. I do not think this adherence to tradition and the simple life is pure happenstance. I think this comes from people that know what is and is not authentic to them and their culture and adjusting things accordingly.
This is why, after a few short months of being surrounded by the Dutch way of life that, when I heard that you were opening a Starbucks in Amsterdam’s Central Station, I was horrified rather than elated; I was distressed and a bit nauseated. The Dutch are not about fast and disposable. They are about slow paces, drinking well-crafted coffee out of a cup and saucer, and about preserving things for a long, long time. Marching the worlds’ biggest distributor of coffee in paper cups into the middle of Amsterdam just doesn’t work. As much as it pains me to say so – it doesn’t. It is a personal affront to the Dutch people and their way of life. It shows an absolute lack of sensitivity of where you are trying to conduct business. It will not go over here.
So please, please, please do not invade Central Station. I promise to dutifully fulfill my soy chai addiction the moment my feet hit a U.S. airport, but I am willing to stave off my cravings if it means supporting the preservation of a culture that is so beautifully and simply true to itself. Starbucks helps set precedents for corporate environmental responsibility, how about some cultural responsibility as well? Please, I am begging you – pack up your ideas of plopping your overstuffed leather chairs, your baristas and their cute green aprons and your Sheryl Crow CDs in one of Amsterdam’s greatest landmarks and go somewhere that you will fit in. I can absolutely assure you — it is not here.
Happy XLSing Intern Guy.