A couple of years ago, I was having lunch with a friend. After we finished, he ordered a latte. When it arrived, he examined it and pronounced it too foamy. He was going to call the waiter over to have it replaced, but changed his mind. “If a foamy latte is my most serious problem,” he said, “then things must be all right.”
“Foamy latte problem” has since become my shorthand for “the trivial problems which Westerners find absorbing in their own lives” or “banal issues we obsess over because our lives are, from a global and historical perspective, astonishingly easy and luxurious”.
We encounter these all the time (and I’m as guilty as the next latte buyer): Should I get cruise control on my new car? Should take yoga or Pilates? Or, the most recent example I found, how should I tell my vegan friend that I’ve started eating fish?
So, an idea for a website: FoamyLatteProblems.com. It just features inane problems like this, maybe in juxtaposition with actual problems like 400 people killed by an earthquake or the extinction of a species of dolphin.
I suppose it’s rather mean-spirited, but it’d be designed to remind Westerns (again, including myself) that if they’re healthy, have a job and somewhere to live, they’re better off than 99% of all humans who have ever lived. What do you think?
I’ve heard the same idea propagated as “first world problems,” which is a less oblique reference to the same idea.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to the M C Frontalot song First World Problems
My personal version of “foamy latte problem” involves a minor revolt staged by 2 residents in my building over the colour of paint that an interior designer had chosen for the common areas.
My first thought “if the colour of the paint on the walls is the biggest problem in your life, you’ve got it good”.
If only such energy could be directed to other issues (ie the always ignored local government issues).
As a kid, about eight years old, having recently returned from a trip to a developing country I remember being struck by another one of these – which is definitely more in the vein of the first/developing world spectrum. A number of my friends were complaining about lack of nintendo (early nintendo, when there was still sega)… flashes of shanty-slums flashed in my eyes.. an early and invaluable perspective.
Something like this?
That is dead-on–thanks!
In its long history of pointed satire, that might be The Onion’s most excruciatingly biting piece. Wow.
Though I do like this one, unrelated as it is:
The wonderful thing about a site such as the one you’re proposing is that no one could ever complain about it if the servers went down as that is such a foamy latte/first world problem!
(Although I should point out that your comment form ate my first response and that has really ruined my day).
The Foamy Latte concept came up on my Facebook wall recently when we were mock-debating the cliche toilet “seat up / seat down” issue. One person commented: “What a privilege to be worrying about your toilet seat when others don’t have access to fresh water.” Shut us up!
Isn’t this just middle-class guilt? Guilt with no follow through – no action.
People who say things like “what a privelege to be worrying about your toilet seat when others don’t have access to fresh water” are just so annoying! Who talks like that?! I hate when other men leave the seat up!! It seems so dirty!
So I can’t discuss toilet seat issues because I am not currently plotting to save the world? We should spend all our time discussing the terrible things happening in the world? And then not do anything?
Yes, somewhere in Africa there’s a village, or a province, or a nation on the poverty line. So, pay a charity that has the facilities to help them. Do your bit and don’t brag about it. Get back to discussing whatever your pet peeve is.
Or jack your job in, leave your family and go build a water purification system in Africa. Just don’t judge me because I want to talk about things that piss me off!
So yes, I hate foamy lattes!
When we discover that foamy lattes are further eroding the ozone layer, this post will be hailed as the beginning of the foamy latte boycott movement.
Comments are closed.