STARBUCKS: Coffee Shop or Kindergarten?

I was in a Taipei Starbucks one recent Sunday afternoon, trying hard to read the newspaper and enjoy my bagel and coffee, but to no avail.

The noise level was the usual coffee-shop loud with the chatter of caffeine-charged adults. That was okay. What was souring my brunch and had me reading the same sentence over and over, however, was an unruly kid who was walking to and fro like he was lost in space, then tapping the windowsills with paper cups, then finally – the last straw – blowing a high-pitched plastic whistle over and over as if he were making his musical debut. Clearly, he needed attention of one kind or another.

And where were his parents, one might wonder? Sitting right there on the couch with a bunch of friends and their kids, including an infant in a bassinet, talking a mile a minute as if they were in their own living room.

HELLOOOOO! Is this an adult coffee shop or a kindergarten?! Are we in McDonald’s or Starbucks? I ask you. No, I asked the kid’s father. I went straight up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and semi-politely pleaded, in English, if he could PLEASE keep his kid quiet. After all, “This is a coffee shop, not a nursery school!” I told him with a scowl.

Well, the man’s first reaction was to say something like Okay. But then, after thinking about it for a minute or two, I guess, he came back over to me and said, “Just because you’re a foreigner – I’m a foreigner too [although he sure looked and sounded Taiwanese] – You’re just prejudiced against children – And you’re being rude.”

Ha! Prejudiced against children? Give me a break! I’m not prejudiced against children, but I may have a slight bias against PARENTS who don’t know how to HANDLE their children in public, perhaps!

Anyway, I replied by saying, “The fact that I’m a foreigner has nothing to do with it – Ask someone else around here and see if THEY appreciate listening to your kid make all that noise – I don’t think they like it either – I’m not being rude, YOU’RE being rude, and inconsiderate.”

At which point a young Asian man at another table turned around and said to the father, in English, “I too was hoping your kid would stop blowing that whistle! – I’m glad the lady said something!”

So there! Case closed.

At that point the man gathered his friends and family (about ten people in all) and stormed out, all shaking their heads in exasperation, as if it should be perfectly okay to make Starbucks a family outing. And forget the concept of PARENTING altogether.

Do you think that’s okay? I don’t.


Yep…have to agree. Would have liked to have been there to add my 2 ‘fen’ worth! Although I would probably have just converted my order to take-out and left in my own huff. I’ll try it yr way next time.

I used to work as a guide in Denmark… Mainly for Taiwanese tourist groups. I learned to fear Taiwanese kids as they were unruly and bent on raising hell - especially for the poor guide. The parents sometimes tried to divert the childrens attention, but normally they didn’t give a damn.

Only once did I meet a well-behaved Taiwanese kid. (Around 12 years.) I asked him where he lived. His answer was: “Wellington”.

People here simply don’t know how to raise kids.

Well, as a parent, I find that one of the best things about Taiwan is that people are tolerant of children’s natural exuberance. Whenever I go back West I am amazed at the griping sourness of adults around children. Unfortunately, it would appear that you think you are entitled to import this miserable attitude here. Had you approached me in Starbucks with a similar complaint I would have asked my kids to bite you.

There is a saying : “An apple will fall close to the tree.”

Or, better, “Like father, like son.”

…and I, in turn, would have promptly drop kicked them out of the window.
I’d rather you confined your childrens ‘natural exuberance’ to somewhere appropriate, i.e your home or the playground. Starbucks is a coffee shop, not a play pen.

That’s right! We should let the children do whatever they want. Who needs discipline and respect! If the children want to yell and run around in a coffee shop where people go to take a break and relax, well let’s go ahead and let them! It doesn’t matter that while the children are running around and yelling their brains out, other people are being disturbed. I mean, that’s what coffee shops are for. Coffee shops are made for children to play in! People that go to coffee shops to simply get a cup of coffee and relax go at their own risk because after all, its no different than a Chuck-E-Cheese’s (kid pizza place on US west coast)! While we are at it, why not let them behind the counter and play around with the coffee and stuff? I mean, if they want to they shouldn’t be stopped. I mean, we should be “tolerant of children’s natural exuberance”, right? If they want to take the food or drink from the people sitting next to them, they should be able to do that to. Just let them throw the food around and make a mess, its okay. We’ll all just laugh and smile while saying, “Kids, gotta love 'em”.

Umm… In case you couldn’t tell, I was being a bit facetious. I have to respectfuly disagree with your post. Kids should learn how to respect others and be polite. We can’t just let them do whatever they want in the name of fostering their “natural exuberance”. I’m all for letting kids be creative and allowing them to be “joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic” (dictionary definition), but that can be done without disturbing others and in more appropriate locations.

Just my three cents worth,

Crazy Laowai

Crazy LaoWai,

Your posting was (and I don’t want to egg you on or anything) hysterical!! Definitely made my day.

I think the question of disciplining children is a universal one and is a tough issue to tackle, because what it comes down to is not how unruly the children are but rather how responsible (or irresponsible) the parents are. Children don’t know better until they are taught to know.

I personally think that it’s not so much that children are allowed to run around in Starbucks so much as many locals do not think of Starbucks in the way that Westerners do, as a place to relax with relatively well-behaved adults (LOL).

If you’ve ever seen some of the coffee commercials in Taiwan, you’d really have to wonder exactly WHAT image IS being portrayed about drinking coffee.

Nescafe, for example, has several commercials targetting busy professionals who can’t get home in time to see their kids, promoting the concept of family values, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is that in my opinion, local parents just don’t know better. They DO think that Starbucks is Chuck-E-Cheese.


I have a couple of things I would like to address, regarding this topic. First of all, coffee shops are the only place I can go to relax around here. They are my fortresses of solitude. Children running around and making noise is absolutely intolerable. But what action would really have been appropriate? In my opinion, the management should be responsible for ensuring the sanctity of the Starbucks environment. That’s where I’d have directed by complaint. Some people prefer to deal with conflict in voilence, and the direct approach isn’t always the best way to avoid a situation like that.
Second of all, to those of you that seem to think that the west has embraced some sort of “superior” method of child rearing, let me remind you of a couple of things. Columbine and, more recently, Santana High School. These, on top of the numerous children that are killed as a result of school violence, are a prime example of children’s “natural exuberance”. This is what becomes of a society that yeilds no consequences to the actions of it’s children. Taiwan’s children are headed in the same direction, but there’s certainly no superiority in the west. Your arrogance clouds your judgement. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and recognize that we are weak without faith and discipline.

I think you might be presuming that management here would think as they do in the West, which is presuming a lot. My guess is that if you brought it to the attention of management in Taiwan, they would mostly likely say to you, “Mei yo ban fa, bu hao yi se.” Just my two cents.

Your inference that management at these places is somehow vastly different than the west is, I believe, off-base. First of all, let me remind you that Starbucks is of western origin. Second of all, I’ve never had my complaints ignored, here. In fact, I’ve had a lot more instances of my complaints not mattering more in the west! Causing someone to lose face is not a reasonable alternative. Better to put the management in the middle, than make yourself responsible for someone’s outrage.

Well don’t go to Starbucks. It’s the McDonalds of coffee shops. Go to a decent place


Hi, purpleflower.

If I did what you did in that coffeeshop, I would have felt like an arrogant foreign white snob who thinks he’s better than the Taiwanese. I hate that feeling. I would have just left Starbucks - call it passive protest.

Maybe that Christian weirdo (ckbstiles???) was right. You could have approached the management. Most of all, another Taiwanese person could have said something. But it looks to me like you came across as a big, arrogant white snob who thinks she’s above the Taiwanese.

Believe me, that kid would have annoyed me, too. But you know that parent and all those 10 people are going to go home saying bad things about foreigners. And you know that a Taiwanese person at that Starbucks could have done the same thing as you did.

You didn’t have to be the big, self-righteous white woman coming to save the day. That’s what you look like in this situation. Please! Look how you made this man lose face! You practically came up to him in all your h0nkey glory and ripped his face off. I don’t blame the guy for leaving. And it sounds like the other polite Taiwanese man simply interfered in order to save both of your faces and avoid any more foreigner/Taiwanese conflict.

Maybe he’s a jerk and his 10 companions were country hicks, but don’t you think a Taiwanese person could have done what you did?

If it were an appropriate thing to do, I think a Taiwanese person would have done what you did.


I have to agree with Big Dor and Bu En Lai.

And you are proud enough over the situation to post it here!

There are so many coffee shops in Taiwan, if you didn’t like the atmosphere in Starbucks go somewhere else.

Your assumption that the whole world should take up the Western tradition of disciplining children is wrong to start of with. I bet you believe children should be seen and not heard and be sent off to boarding school to be away from adults.


I think you’re wrong completely. Firstly Bu Lai En hates Starbucks period, so it doesn’t really count. Big Dork thinks that protecting face is more important than an individual’s right to be respected. It has nothing to do about whether a foreigner complained to the father or a local (you may recall it was both).

The seen & not heard is not relevant. Let’s just say it - the kid was a brat. Purpleflower was absolutely spot on. Here here. It’s not some foreign conspiracy to respect other people and expect people to act as responsible parents.

Hi, Non Teacher.

The kid was the first to make a scene.

Purple flower was the first to make a foreigner-knows-better scene.

The third Taiwanese guy only intervened LATER: after things were getting heated.

It seems to me like the third Taiwanese guy was trying to save everybody’s face here and prevent a cross-cultural racial conflict (i.e. - “that darn know-it-all h0nkey tellin’ me how to treat my kid!”).

If the father blames purpleflower AND another Taiwanese, too, then the conflict is less “racial”. If it’s only Purpleflower vs. Dad, then it would have been more of an uncomfortable “racial” conflict.

The father said “I know you’re a foreigner…” so in the father’s mind the conflict was already racial - whether or not it was racial in Purpleflower’s mind. But the third Taiwanese guy prevented this racial conflict by interfering and siding with Purpleflower. Can’t you see how complex this is?

Face is important to me because face is important in Taiwan and I live there. If what Purpleflower did were a culturally appropriate thing to do, I think a Taiwanese person would have done it.

Purple flower could have been the third party. But he didn’t have to make a scene.

Culture schmulture! The kid was a brat and needed to be told to shut up. That he was Taiwanese or anything else has NOTHING to do with it.

Its about manners and courtesy.


I’m glad you finally registered.

But I have to say, you’ve been nothing but a storm of negativity since you’ve shown up in these bulletin boards. You’ve made it quite clear that you don’t like Taiwan, don’t like Chinese people, don’t like Chinese culture or language… actually, I don’t think I know one single thing that you do like - except maybe New York.

Are you seriously this miserable or is this some sort of cock-eyed on-line persona?


I never said I don’t like Chinese people or culture - where did you get that from? All I remember saying is that I think Taipei city is the ugliest place I have ever seen. That’s not so negative is it? Its just the truth.

And the thing about brats holds true for ALL misbehaved children, no matter where they come from.