Sunday, September 1, 2013

Where Starbucks’ Just One Tiny Fish in a Very Big Pond

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, SOUTH KENSINGTON, LONDON – I love my daily cappuccino, which on home turf I get at Dancing Goat. So I hate it when I’m traveling and forced to go to Starbucks because it’s typically the only coffee outlet within walking distance.
 So imagine my delight on my trip to the Royal Society of Geography Conference in South Kensington, where within a one block radius of both my hotel and the conference venue there were at least 15 independent coffee shops and only one very lonely Starbucks. In my five days here I’ve gone to a different coffee shop every morning, gleefully walking past Starbucks with my strong, fresh, and delicious cappuccino.

Interestingly, some of these coffee places not only serve pastries and sandwiches, but things like Sushi as well. Some even serve beer and wine – I’m assuming after Noon.


Although the thought of a cappuccino with Sushi makes me a bit queasy, I like the eclectic variety these places offer. And the fact that not everyone on the street has been walking around with a Starbucks coffee cup, has given me a sense of underdog satisfaction.



I took these photographs today, which is a Sunday, so everybody was out and about on this sunny afternoon. The social life surrounding all the non-Starbucks places was lively and crowded. One lone person sat outside at Starbucks. What astounded me, however, was that the line inside Starbucks was just as long as the ones I’ve seen in the States. I almost wanted to go up and ask a few in the line why they were waiting for such horrible coffee since there was much better coffee nearby. But, though very curious, I didn't because my unsuspecting subjects would simply think I was just one of those weird, phony, and rude Americans. They’d probably think my British passport was a fake as well. I should have asked my cousin who accompanied me to a place that even had fantastic straight black coffee, but I forgot. We were having too nice a time.


Deirdre Oakley is the editor of Social Shutter and an associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at

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