Many cafés in Canberra offer outdoor seating.
At my local café, the young man behind the counter always greets me with “Hello, lovely” and a big smile. While that greeting is unique to him, nearly every server I’ve met in Australia has been polite, friendly, and talkative.
“How ya going?” is his next question. This universal Australian greeting threw me at first. I felt as if I should answer: “I’m going here, and then I’m going to the store.” The question means: “How are you doing?”
Then he’ll ask: “What are you after?” which also puzzled me as a newcomer. I wanted to point to the person in front of me in line and respond: “I’m after her.” What it means is: “Give me your order.”
My local café has a wide range of coffee drinks available, the same as in the States. One oddity here is that decaf costs more. Which is illogical to me, because thinking about it, decaf is actually LESS coffee. Some cafés also carry more exotic drinks like turmeric lattes and beetroot lattes.
The next coffee decision is whether I’m drinking it at the café or leaving with it. It took me the longest time to remember to ask for “takeaway,” not “to go.” The only response “to go” gets is a blank expression.
“You’ll have it in a tick,” the young man promises next, which means quickly, or in a short time.
After I say, “thank you,” the response is “that’s all right,” as if I had apologized for something. The phrase is Aussie for “you’re welcome.”
After I pay, he’ll say “Ta,” which means “thank you.”
No tipping is expected, although I am starting to spot tip jars sprouting up on counters.
When I finish, I just leave, as if from a restaurant. Café customers do not bus their cups and plates. The only place here where I have ever bused my own plates is Ikea’s in-store café.
Overall, going to a local café in Australia is a lovely, soul-affirming experience—and I get coffee too.