Monday, January 29, 2007

“I like your socks” and other witty foreign phrases (Or, can I have some coffee, please?)

When given the choice between French and Spanish at the age of 16, I selected French. Latin was my first choice -- my reasoning was I could rock the SAT even more with some choice word roots tucked in my pocket -- but my high school cancelled the classes. So I showed up to the official language of the United Nations, the Universal Postal Union and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, figuring I could rock an embassy tour while mailing precisely-weighed letters anywhere with my savvy French fluidity.

And what happened? For two years, a boy named Win passed me notes during classes taught by the cheerleading coach. Those slips of multi-folded paper held witty gems like “I like your socks.” (They were green with gold and red checks. I remember these things.) But he was cute and had red hair and a letter jacket. I know I sound like I was raised in the 1950s, but my high school was in its own time warp.

But eventually the notes turned into, "Does your friend Shannon like me?" So all I learned from French class and French club was that escargot deserves its own special place in culinary hell. And funky socks were, then and now, just a waste of time, oui?

Since then, somehow, I’ve gotten it stuck in my head – and mouth – that I can’t learn a foreign language. I stumble over the words like I have a mouth full of pebbles, my brain searches around for the words I’ve crammed in my head on the plane. All I could manage in Spain was jamón serrano and café con leche. This makes sense, if you think about it, because, all you need to know when you travel is how to order pork dishes and coffee, really.

So, in preparation our upcoming trip (starting, counting today, in four days), here is my own last-minute international guide to finding coffee houses and ordering coffee drinks of your choice. If you don't drink coffee here, you will there once jet lag, hotel angst and hours of walking set in.

Café con leche (Spanish, coffee with milk)
Café au lait (French, "coffee on milk," literally)
Caffè Hag (Italian, decaffinated coffee. Listen here to "a coffee" in Italian. Note to self: Do not order cappuccino after 11 a.m.)
Kaffi Mokka (Icelandic, a mocha)
Принесіть чашку кави (Ukrainian, "May I have a cup of coffee")
Bunna bet (Amharic, a coffee shop)
Hēi kāfēi (Mandarin Chinese, black coffee)
Milchkaffee (German, "milk coffee," literally)

And check out all the coffee-flavored Pepsi products sold around the world, listed here. Who knew?
  • Pepsi Cafechino: Pepsi with a touch of coffee only sold in India.
  • Pepsi Cappuccino: Cappuccino flavored sold in Eastern Europe.
  • Pepsi Kaffe: coffee flavored Pepsi sold in Mexico, Central and South American countries.
  • Pepsi Cafe Da: Coffee flavored Pepsi sold in Vietnam.
  • Pepsi Max Cappucino: Only available in France, Finland, Norway, Ireland and the UK.
  • Pepsi Tarik: Similar to Coca-Cola Blāk, it's a mix between coffee and cola. Currently, it's only available in Malaysia and Singapore.


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