Coffee Break (Part 1)

She’s from Saudi Arabia. He’s from America. The first installment in a series of conversations between two friends from very different places.

“Medium mocha please. Skim milk. No whip cream.”

 “That will be $5.25”

Why does coffee here cost so much? Where does my $5.25 go? I wonder what percentage actually makes it back to the farmer in the picturesque rolling hill countryside on their ‘We Support Fair Trade’ poster?

I hope some of the money goes to paying the staff. I like them. They’re friendly cool. Their pierced noses. Tattooed arms. Fashionably distressed jeans. We need a new word to describe them. ‘Hipster’ was such a good description before it got older, found a real job, and became the face of gentrification. But the staff here are ‘hip’ in the old-school sense. They are the kids who create a trend, and by the time the rest of us recognize it and give it a name; they are on to create the next world.

I go to different places for different reasons. Sometimes, I’m taking a business meeting, and I need something familiar and universal like Starbucks – the simple black dress of coffee shops.



Other times, after hours of swiping left and right, and sending detached-yet-flirtatious texts; I want an actual conversation with a human…face-to-face. So, I make plans for the first date to be low-pressure and even lower commitment. A small, five-table French bistro in a non tourist-filled part of the city. For some reason, attaching a European culture in front of the word café makes me feel cosmopolitan and sophisticated.

But today, I don’t want to do business. I don’t want to impress a date. I just want a few minutes to myself before my friend arrives. Until she gets here, I just want to fade into the background. So with my laptop and headphones, I tuck myself into a quiet corner of the café at a small table next to the window facing the street.

It’s 4:10pm in New York and I’m still in the subway, two stations away from my destination. I just wish I took a cab, but that would have cost me a bucket, and I’m trying to control my spending habits.

Just because I’m Saudi doesn’t make me super duper rich by default! I know I intend on becoming a millionaire five years from now (fingers crossed), but till that happens I’ll continue using the train. I wonder if there’s a millionaire in this crowd who woke up this morning and felt like using the subway instead of driving their Rolls-Royce? Why do millionaires have to drive Rolls-Royces anyway? They’re ugly! I would go with a Ferrari because I am a reckless driver anyway! Plus, I am way cooler than a Rolls-Royce!

I smile a bit at my inner thoughts and look around to see people from different nationalities, ages, origins, and each seems to have a different story to tell.

I’m late (as always) for my meeting with my friend, to discuss one more writing project. We were supposed to meet in Starbucks by 4:00. He must be bored that he has to wait there all alone!



I hurriedly enter the coffee shop at around 4:20pm. I spot him at a corner table facing the street window wearing big headphones, typing in his computer while sipping his coffee…no signs of fury whatsoever. He actually seems to enjoy his own company! I would be furious if I were him!

You do realize that it’s only 40 degrees outside…why do you have on that huge coat?!

“It’s freezing cold! Are you kidding me!”

Oh, that’s right, the temperature probably never gets down to 40 degrees in Saudi does it?

40 degrees what? Like Fahrenheit or Celsius?

Oh right, you guys don’t use Fahrenheit. So what’s 40 degrees in Celsius?

{Takes out phone}

Either way, it’s still cold! What is all that stuff you’re carrying? Headphones?! Are we meeting today just so I can look at you listen to your favorite music or what?!

I carry my headphones with me wherever I go, never know when I’ll need some me time.Habits of an introvert I guess…”

“If you’re Saudi, and an introvert, then you’re in trouble!”


Actually if you’re an introvert anywhere and you get caught by a Saudi person, then you’ll be in trouble!

Caught? You make it seem like I committed a crime! What’s wrong with finding a nice spot to be alone?

Well, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just that being alone in a public place shows that you’re lonely, with no friends and no social life. It’s just like a disease which you have to cure, not cope with.

Wow! A disease?! That’s crazy… If I was around my friends all the time, we wouldn’t have anything new to talk about! I would say it’s because I have such good friends and a fun social life, that I can appreciate my time to myself. What’s that line? Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

“When Saudis go out, they do so to have fun and you can’t really have fun by being all by yourself. What’s that line? Happiness is doubled when shared!”

Or happiness can be crushed when it’s shared. Present company excluded of course…this is good coffee we’re having! But I’ve seen many people who were all by themselves even though they were with other people.

That’s the true definition of loneliness

“I’m going to get another coffee. Do you want one? When I get back you have to tell me more about this separate seating for single and married people thing. I can’t believe it!” 


About the Authors


Noor is a Saudi blogger and educator, and the founder of Saudi Female Blog, a non-profit online organization for Saudi women and society. She likes to read about psychology and literature, eat bagels, and collect random people’s stories. Check out more of her work on her blog, Behind that Saudi Veil.


Deji is an American educator, and the creator/curator of Class of Hope & Change, a podcast documentary about millennials of color in the U.S. and online platform for ideas, music and good vibes. He likes good music, good movies, good people…and cookies.

The two authors met last fall for Noor’s interview on the Class of Hope & Change podcast. Listen to the full interview here.