5 Must-Know Phrases At Cafe for Expat Wives In US

↑700+ people liked my tweet about how people at Starbucks in the US can be friendlier to you than in Japan.


While it’s fun to live abroad to experience all the different cultures and customs, there are many expat wives who are struggling in getting used to all the differences too.

I have sometimes felt the same, living in Canada and the US for more than 3 years now.

In this post, I will share what I found “different” in North America from my home country Japan and several must-know English phrases at cafes.

If you are from western culture, all these might be something you are used to.

If that’s the case, please enjoy finding some uniqueness and differences at cafes in Japan!

①Question asked when ordering at cafes

You will always be asked about your name when ordering at cafes like Starbucks in the US and Canada.

Can I get your name?

It’s highly unusual to be asked about names at cafes in Japan, and many of us got confused at first.

Yes they do this to match customers with the goods they ordered in North America, while they for some reason don’t need to ask names not to mess up orders in Japan.

The problem for us Japanese is that our names too often are difficult for Americans to catch or spell.

One solution for this is just to use a fake English name like “Jenny”…


②When receiving your coffee…

Any room for milk?

This also happens every time.

This question asks if you need some space to put milk into your coffee; another question we rarely are asked in Japan.

The problem is that, for most of Japanese including myself in the past, the question sounds like “do you need a room (of a house) for milk (or some fictional character Mr. Milk)!

When you want a black coffee, before asked about “a room” you can just say

Could I get a black coffee?

③When someone sitting next to you

 Is this seat free?

People in North America will very often ask you this question before taking a seat.

In Japan, we tend to just sit without asking if the seat is obviously not occupied.

In general, Japanese people don’t casually talk to strangers as much as they do here in the US.

You can also say “is this seat taken?” or “Is anyone sitting here?”.


④When someone next to you temporarily leaves their seat

Would you mind watching over my stuff for me?

If your “neighbor” at a cafe is there alone, they often ask you this question when leaving for the toilet or some other reasons.

Yet another cultural difference in Japan; we seldom ask random strangers to watch over your stuff but rather bring it with ourselves.

You can reply saying “sure!” or “No Problem!”.

It’s interesting how Japanese don’t really “trust” strangers in a way while theft is not very common in the country and vice versa.


⑤Just do it (Just use outlets!)

It’s sometimes seriously discussed in Japan if customers can use outlets to charge phones or laptops without asking at cafes.

Some restaurants or cafes just prohibit customers from doing so.

Here in North America, I think all the cafes see it a matter of course for their customers to use their outlets.

You may still want to ask someone sitting next to you the question like

Can I use the outlets over there?(そこのコンセント使って良いですか?)

Expect some differences and just enjoy your time at the cafe!

5 must-know English phrases at the cafe are↓

  • Can I get your name?
  • Any room for milk?
  • Is this seat free?
  • Would you mind watching over my stuff for me?
  • Can I use the outlets over there?

You might find some cultural difference between North America and your home country just as we’ve seen above in the case of Japan.

Cafes can be one of the places you go frequently or daily, and definitely a good place to learn new English phrases and culture or communicate with local people!

Go JVs!

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