In a world of ten-page papers and back-to-back midterms, staying caffeinated has become essential to student life. In the midst of pounding away on your keyboard alongside that cup of cappuccino; however, are you being the average coffee shop patron or the obnoxious squatter? Here are some unwritten rules within the cafe culture to maximize utility and satisfaction for all of us coffee-holics.

How much café time do I get with a drink?

One drink or bakery good to every three hours of occupancy is pretty standard.

“About two to three hours is preferred, but people generally stay as long as they like,” said Luis Ibarra, a barista at Cafe Milano.


Photo by Smita Jain

How long can I stay working in one café?

Stay as long as you like with the aforementioned ratio in mind, but you might want a change of scenery to avoid boredom.

Tip: going to Elmwood would be perfect for café-hopping as there are numerous other options along College Ave.

Can I answer calls?

While short, hushed conversations are perfectly acceptable, launching into a thirty-minute-long discussion on whether the brain and the mind are one and the same is not. Save your loud and lengthy phone chat for later or step out of the café as a courtesy to those who wish to work quietly.

Can I have a group discussion?

If most of the people around you are tapping away on their laptops or trying to get some reading done, save yourself the annoyed looks and bring your discussion elsewhere.

For example, intense debates in the quiet study zone in People’s Coffee & Tea is a big no-no.

 Should I tip?

Between rising school fees and the high cost of living in the Bay Area, most of us are essentially broke. However, think of tipping in coffee shops as karmic payment: an extra dollar for soothing jazz music and a hipster feel. Personally, this writer believes it is a perfectly acceptable trade-off.


Photo by Smita Jain

Should I bus my dishes?


Free Wi-Fi! Now what?

Yay for access to Facebook! But be prudent with your usage. It’s not kosher to download your favorite movie on café Wi-Fi.

Strangers scare me! How should I interact with other customers?

In cafés, we’re all lovers of caffeine and the sophisticated coffee shop vibe. We’re always down to look over your laptop when you need a bathroom break or a quick breather from work. Just return the favor whenever asked. And smile.

Now that you can confidently maneuver through an experience of studying in a café, go forth and learn the world–with a cup of joe in your hands, of course.

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