‘But they don’t serve Gold Blend in Rajbiraj’: instant coffee and cultural differences

One fundamental difference between Brits and Americans (and Europeans too, for that matter) is attitudes to coffee. Whereas it is completely acceptable in Britain to drink instant coffee, and even serve it when you have guests over, Americans are all about beans, French presses and stove-top espresso makers. Drinking instant coffee is pretty much unthinkable to people on the other side of the pond, but it is a completely normal habit to us islanders. This is because Brits have more of a tea culture and are relative new comers to the world of lattes and Americanos, which reached our shores on a wave of the 1990’s economic boom.

One thing that has caused particular hilarity among my American colleagues (and US-educated Nepalis) is that for many Brits, treating yourself to Nescafe Gold Blend rather than just regular Nescafe granules is the height of refinement. Gold blend is slightly more expensive, tastes marginally less awful and comes in a jar with a classy gold-coloured lid.

If you don’t believe me, just watch this sequence of cult advertisements from the 1980s/90’s, which follow the protracted story of two star-crossed British people who are brought together by ther love of Gold Blend. If you watch these adverts you will truly believe that you are buying a jar of pure sophistication when you throw Gold Blend in your shopping basket.

Look at these elegant people and their exciting lives! Doesn’t every British woman dream of a man making a similarly emotionally retarded display of love for her? It almost makes me want to take a jar with me to the field so that I can feel as sophisticated as the doe-eyed, red-nailed woman in the advert, even when I am deep in the hills and covered in red dust. Except the line ‘but they don’t have Gold Blend in Milan’ would be substituted for  ‘but they don’t have Gold Blend in Rajbiraj’

N.B Having said all of this, Nestle is a somewhat morally reprehensible company and this is in no way an endorsement of them – like attitudes to hot beverages, my sarcasm does not always transverse cultural boundaries very well so I feel I should spell this out to avoid offence.

If you really want to have some good coffee, there is plenty of the real thing to be had in Nepal if you have a french press, a stove top pot or, in the case of some of my field-based friends, a sock, to brew it in.There is no doubt a lot of potential for fair trade and social enterprise in Nepali coffee. Someone just needs to come up with an advert as good as this one for Nepali coffee (I’m sure Nepali tele-films can provide inspiration) and then everyone will be happy.

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5 Responses to “‘But they don’t serve Gold Blend in Rajbiraj’: instant coffee and cultural differences”

  1. Very good post, made me laugh out loud in my hole UNTIL I read your postscript about how morally reprehensible Nestle is and then I remembered how offended I am by anything to do with Nestle and anyone who mentions it. Do you know they kill babies in Africa? Your blog is practically endorsing them and I am therefore boycotting it.

    PS Do you remember the PG Tips advert with the funny monkeys?! Sooo cute yaah?!

  2. Yeah Swampy, ever time you read one of my blog entries Nestle burns down an acre of African children. I had thought that as a new father you would be more sensitive.

    Yes, I remember the PG chimps. What happened to them?

  3. The chimps live with me now down my hole. I had to save them from circus ring masters who wanted to make them B rate celebrities, a bit like Big Brother contestants. The African children also live with me in my hole.

  4. Hey, watch it! I am a Brit but I know what you mean. Trouble is, Nescafe is just so addicitive. I guess like marlboro light cigarettes, they found a way to get the caffein into your blood extra quickly. And I guess we Brits, like with alcohol, drink for the high rather than for the taste. Its changing tho! Every highstreet is peppered with good coffee shops now.

    Necafe, nor gold blend, will ever die, but hopefully it will be relegated to the emergency cupboard.

    If you are in Nepal and want to buy a stove top coffee pot, you can find here: http://coffeepotnepal.com/ – think they are a bit better than a sock.

  5. Thanks for comment, might just have to look into one of those coffee pots. Nought wrong with a sock but I’m ready concede that these might do a better job.

    Nescafe (and Gold Blend) will never die, but I agree that they should probably be confined to the darkness of a cupboard for emergencies

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