Coffee shop alternatives

Shoptalk over a cup of coffee is a standard practice. I don’t know about you, but I am getting rather bored with the same old, same old.

Source: http://olechko.org/
Source: http://olechko.org/

According to A Brief History of Coffee Houses as Meeting Places (what a great read, thanks!):

….the first coffeehouses started springing up in the late 1600’s, there was at last an alternative to the perpetual drunken haze, people “who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved.”

In coffeehouses, the people met not to drink and sing, but to exchange ideas, to discuss poetry, philosophy, politics science. One could even argue that coffee was the drink that brought the Enlightenment to Europe.

Career women, especially those in the entrepreneur world, know the value of “Let’s have coffee”. I am particularly fond of one-on-one conversations, where I get to know someone more upclose and personal. In my work, many of my conversations happen virtually – Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – so putting a (real life) face to an Avator or voice is always an exciting moment to look forward to.

By default, coffee chats happen in coffee shops. And again by default, Starbucks or similar chains are the typical choices because of their locations.

So lately I have been thinking: Why default to the same old, same old? Why not explore other ways to do out-of-the-office shoptalk? Why not make the experience more unique and enjoyable?

Alternative #1: Independent cafes

Source: blogto.com

The first step of course is to explore the many independent cafes that have sprouted up in the city in recent years. Some remain small and unique, a few have expanded to become a “mini chain”, as described by BlogTO.com.  Shame to admit that I have not explored many yet – more goodness waiting to be discovered!

Here’s a couple of useful links for independent cafes in Toronto:

Recommendations by Toronto.com
A comprehensive list and reviews by BlogTO.com

What about YOUR city? Any good ones?

Alternative #2: Art Studios

Source: http://www.tanyakirouac.com/studio-fuse/

I recently had a reunion with an ex-colleague at Studio Fuse, an art studio and exhibit space with a quiet cafe that is open to public. Situated in the Distillery Historical District, it certain beats a commercial joint amidst office buildings. During the afternoon hours of our visit, the space was relatively empty, so we pretty much had the whole room without worrying about eavesdropping (a concern in coffee shops in the business districts).

There are many similar establishments in Toronto and I am sure in other cities around the world as well. I have attended many functions in spaces like that, including an intimate birthday party in a cupcake studio and a Red Cross Canada fund-raising event in another art studio, etc.

Do you know of similar spaces in any city? If so, please share!

Alternative #3: Chinese Tea House

Source: taotealeaf.com

I stumbled upon Tao Tea Leaf while looking for a quick workday lunch spot. There were 2 options in the busy business district: this tea place (showcasing some interesting-looking vegetarian dishes) or greasy pub fare next door. No brainer.

It was quite an experience to step in from the buzzing summer heat into a quiet tea house. Much like other tea retailers, it had rows and rows of tea leaves (and the accompanying aroma), but the space was also decked out in Chinese rose-wood furnitures.  I felt rather regal, to be honest, and even slowed down to enjoy every bite of my lunch.

The place worked equally well for one-on-one meetings.  My client and I had a nice quiet conversation over lunch. It was 2 years ago and I am not sure if they have changed – but according to their website, they also host tea tasting events and workshops.

Does anyone know of other Chinese (or maybe Japanese and Indian too?) tea houses? Did you enjoy the experience?

Is saying Thank You outdated?

I posted this question on Facebook and received a number of passionate replies.

“Is saying “Thank you” dated? Helped a university fresh grad on something very important to her, and the word “thanks” had not been uttered or written. Funny, because in my experience, everyone from Toddlers to Seniors still say Thank You. Eye-opening really.”

black-boy-day-fragons-girl-Favim.com-401418
Source: favim.com

Obviously, it was all tongue-in-cheek, as I neither found it “funny” nor truly “eye-opening”. Simply put, a case of rudeness of an individual. Good manners should never be out of fashion!

A number of replies surprised me, pointing to the possible traits of the younger generation, specifically GenY. (Note: comments made by people from 20s to 40s). While I do interact frequently professionally with people from that age group, I don’t have that general impression – or maybe I simply attract/am attracted to those who know their manners?  Broad-stroke statements are dangerous and often unfair, and I am not going to make any judgement here, but I do want to share some of the replies with you.

 It does seem to be abit outdated. People expect things these days. My kids write thank you letters after bdays and xmas and seem to be out of the ordinary. It’s something I did and really fee strongly its good manners xx

This is one of my huge pet peeves. I love helping people and I don’t expect much for it, but when I don’t even get a thank you it makes me crazy.

I think appreciation is absolutely essential when someone helps you out. It is beyond courtesy, and in my book, to be extended to everyone who deserves it, including your own family.At the same time, I don’t want to vilify all Gen Ys because I mentored a young (to be) graduate on the phone and connected her to several others in her field, and received a (surprise) thank you letter in the mail. So courtesy is not completely dead.

I find, it depends on the generation. Some people in a few certain generations do not seem to be familiar with the words Thank you. I know. It’s quite sad. Yes, we should not expect it, however, saying “thank you” should almost be like a default human to human code. Right? (To which someone else commented – I don’t think it’s generational at all. Some people get it. Some don’t.)

People don’t say sorry these days either!

 I am not surprised.

People here in <country> don’t say please or thank you either and it really irritates me….so rude!

This sort of thing really annoys me. I’m a stickler for manners and probably use thank you and please more than I need to! I’m old fashioned though, I like sending thank you cards!

Source: dribbble.com

What do you think about these opinions? Do you have anything to add?

Regardless of the Why’s, there is zero reason for not showing your gratitude. I am not talking about huge gestures (a bunch of flowers can be an overkill in some situations!). Often a simple “tks!” would suffice. There are so many ways to say thanks, it is hardly an effort. Do it in real life, do it virtually, make it funny, memorable, or serious…whatever you do, it is your voice, it is about you appreciating someone.

While the business world can be an arena, you will find that there are lots of people who are willing to help without expecting anything in return. You will find yourself in the position to offer help OR receive help time over time throughout your career life.

Saying Thank You is and will never been an obsolete gesture, whoever you are, wherever you are.

Enthusiasm is the mother of effort…

Once in a while, I come across quotes that are so timely that it’s like someone has untangled my web of thoughts and written something for me and me alone.

This is one of those quotes.

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Heels, Glorious Heels (or not)

When it comes to heels, there are 3 camps: Must have, Stupid idea, and those 1.5-inch devotees in between.

ballet-black-and-white-class-dance-Favim.com-673977
Source: Favim.com

I myself belong to the 1.5-inch camp because of my total inability to master heels. Many are objects of beauty, architectural wonders really (and I am not being sarcastic here, there are so many things a top notch designer can dream up), but they will always remain eye candy for someone like me.

Well, me and millions of women in the world. Try googling “how to wear heels” and you will find everything from instructional videos, doctors’ warnings, women falling, training classes from a former model (!), training classes from a man (!!), and confessions of the ultimate heel advocate Sarah Jessica Parker (!!!)

My take? I am not a doctor, a fashion guru, or what not to participate in this debate.  Your body, your style, your choice.

Nevertheless, I do have my 2 cents to share when it comes to women + career + heels. No, make that 2 dollars, this is quite a list.

Save the unusual/artistic/look-at-me shoes for after hours

Source: highheelsdaily.com

Indulging in the unexpected is cool, I like it. There are websites and even a whole museum devoted to the art of shoes and shoe-making. But unless you work in the fashion industry or alike, such footwear will only act as distractions. You never know how people would react to it. Perhaps you would be regarded as a unique and creative individual, a bonus for your professional image, or – much more likely for most business context – your attire would be considered inappropriate and unprofessional. There is no one definition for “artistic” or “unusual” shoes, so please exercise your judgement.

Pilot run – how long can you walk in those heels?

Source: shoeperwoman.com

I once attended an important meeting. Parking right outside, straight to the office, all good.  Until I was given a tour. A long tour of the big building. You see, I was betting on a nice sit-down talk and was spotting my 3-inch new shoes. So please don’t be stupid like I was. Never bet on just “being there”. If the conversation continues afterwards at a nearby pub, you want/should be there without worrying about that 5-block walk.

Classy heels as part of your outfit

My hats off to those who can master heels and incorporate them elegantly into their style. Here are a random few I like from The Satorialist. Garance (1st picture) is one of the best-dressed women I have come across because she makes everything works for her, and always appears to be comfortable. Giovanna (2nd picture) is similar, just a bit more colourful and daring.

Be comfortable, but don’t be an eyesore

Source: nytimes.com

Those are “Furkenstock” from Céline’s.  I don’t care if they are lux, cozy and ergonomically sound, they just don’t cut it. The same goes for well-worn sandals, anything that resembles slippers, UGG….you get the picture.

Admit your defeat, wear flats or low heels

Source: nytimes.com

Browsing for “low heels for work” images, I almost got distracted and started online shopping!  If like me you toddle on high heels, admit it and live with it. There are so many delicious options out there, from luxe to affordable….and all far from your boring matron-y pumps.

And I don’t really buy the “It” shoes concept either. Below are a few in my closet (years old but never made it to my feet yet….shame on me). Unless you are a die hard fashionista, you probably would not point and laugh at me being so last season.

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Signing off, I am leaving you with a “fun facts about shoes” questionnaire from the Bata Museum!