Oxford Etiquette: Cafes

This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 20 November 2015.

Aside from alcohol, caffeine is the Oxford student’s best friend (by which I mean the best friend of students studying at Oxford University, and not the Oxford Student newspaper, although we are very keen on it as well). When work is becoming too stressful or extra energy is required, there’s nothing better than a cup of coffee to keep you going, the cheaper and nastier the better, I find. Instant coffee is of course the bread and butter of an student’s beverage consumption, but occasionally the Nescafe (or hot brown essay juice as I like to call it) just doesn’t cut it, and you may be tempted to venture beyond the confines of your quarters in search of one of Oxford’s many excellent coffee houses. But no matter how addled from stress of lack of sleep, one should always observe the proper etiquette of these establishments, and, as is the general conceit of these articles, I have assembled a few dos and don’ts for the intrepid wanderer in search of black liquid and frothy milk.

Firstly, observe the proper rules of queuing – the chances are that the people in front of you need that coffee just as urgently as you do, and if you really cannot wait five minutes for your daily fix you might be better served in a GP’s office. And while tipping may seem terribly vulgar and American, it really doesn’t do any harm to give baristas a few quid extra on top of their likely paltry wages.

But most importantly, please leave your cafe how you would like to find it. Don’t, for instance, do what some sod did at a cafe I visited, which is spill coffee all over a chair and not clean it up, which resulted in me sitting down in a pool of lukewarm coffee. Just grab some napkins or let a staff member know. In doing so, you’ll save the staff the inconvenience of discovering your spillage later on, and you’ll spare me a very awkward conversation at the launderette.


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