Looks like a lot of people have something to say about chronic coffee shop campers…
If you’re reading this, I want you to take a deeeep breath in, and then out. Okay, are you relaxed now? Well, we need you to be because every headline featuring this topic has been nothing short of blood-boiling. We’re here to take a different approach, hopefully a calmer one. Scottish vlogger Dale Philip has a point—but so, too, does every chronic coffee shop camper (myself included, typing this article in a café I’ve stationed myself in for the past five hours).
Okay, he has a point
And yes, it’s a valid one
Now, if you haven’t heard about what’s going on, Dale visited Baguio City and posted a TikTok criticizing the long lines and “digital nomads—no, digital gonads” who opt to hog up the space in cafés rather than stay in their homes to get their work done. He stresses that he’d hate to be a business owner and have people stay in his shop for long periods like he witnessed at Starbucks—and he’s not wrong! Speaking as a business major, coffee shop profitability is definitely at risk with this being the café culture norm.
@dalephilipvlogs Laptop Loitering Digital Nomads at Starbucks I visited SM City Mall in Baguio, Philippines. I was considering getting a Matcha Latte from Starbucks but when I saw it was full of laptop loitering digital nomads, I changed my mind. #Baguio #Philippines #Travel #TravelVlog #SoloTravel #BudgetTravel ♬ original sound – Dale Philip
But here’s a little tip: If your perspective on coffee shop culture is anything like Dale’s, maybe it’s best if you don’t set up shop here in the Philippines. Let’s face it: Café culture here is all about the sink-in. What we mean by this is nobody goes to a café nowadays just to grab a cup of coffee and leave (if you do, you’re definitely in the minority). Everyone sinks in for a little bit—whether it’s to sit down and chat with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, finish that project you’ve been meaning to or you just want to unwind in a bustling environment whiffing the fumes of fresh coffee grounds with a book in hand. Whatever it is you do in a café, it’s a part of the thriving local café culture. Sure, it’s probably terrible for business owners hoping to get more foot traffic into their stores, but if there’s anything my business classes have taught me, it’s that your business model must adjust to the business environment and not the other way around.
So, is our café culture a bad thing?
Yes, and no…let me explain
Let’s start with why it’s potentially a “bad” thing. If we want to analyze why this “sink-in” culture exists in the first place, we can probably trace it to one of the major issues regarding recreation in the Philippines—the lack of public spaces. We’re talking about the unrestricted use of public libraries and parks, specifically, the spaces where people can happily do their work or chat with a friend without feeling guilty about affecting profitability because the whole point of spaces like these is to use them for your enjoyment endlessly (or at least until they close for the day).
Chronic café camper Mark*, who just graduated from college and works from home, shares, “After losing access to college libraries and campus parks where I used to work and hang out [in], I’ve resorted to café hopping to keep the same routine I had when I was a student.” And he isn’t the only one. Another chronic café camper, Anna*, shares that she opts to sink in at cafés to read a book instead of visiting a park because there are “no parks near [her] area” to begin with, but the Starbucks just around the corner is the perfect place to get some afternoon reading done.
Another point is that staying home isn’t always ideal when needing unbothered relaxation and productivity time. When we look into the unstable at-home internet connections of most café campers and the fact that many seek to escape the mess and noise from within their homes (be it from family members or from needing a change in scenery), it makes sense why cafés serve as the next best alternative for them.
@tonirmorales Ayun share ko lang. Pakiramdaman lang talaga #issues #thoughts #opinion #starbucks #cafe #studying #working #realtalk #foryou #fyp ♬ original sound – tonirmorales
Our café culture is a “good” thing because it provides a solution to the lack of public spaces and serves as a haven from the clamor at home. People go to major lengths just to find cafés that perfectly suit their needs—take, for example, chronic café camper Paris* who jumps from café to café every week as she studies for her board exams. “It’s the only way I can stay motivated to keep studying. A good ambiance with strong Wi-Fi is all I need—oh, and good coffee, too!”
A peaceful resolution
Welcome to the Philippines, Dale
The discussion isn’t about settling who is right and wrong but rather educating everyone on one simple matter: perspective. Of course, witnessing café culture like ours may shock some foreigners, and getting proper context on why a culture is the way it is may not exactly be on every traveler’s tour guide kits. So, in any case, let’s cut the guy some slack and hope he’s learned his lesson on what life in the Philippines is like—and hopefully, he got to order his matcha drink somewhere else to help cool down after his momentary meltdown.
If you identify as a chronic café camper, share your thoughts below on “overstaying” in coffee shops—we’d love to see it!
*Names were changed to protect the identity of the interviewees.
Words Vanessa Tiong
Art Alexandra Lara