As much as people hate to admit it, Starbucks is currently one of the largest and most popular café chains in the world (aside from good ol' Australia). I don't know of anyone who hasn't been to Starbucks yet, but even those that go in from time to time have doubts and inhibitions about the menu and the fancy pronunciation of things.

If you haven't been to Starbucks (or rarely go) but have friends who are regulars (and practically live there every day), chances are you might have heard a thing or two about what goes on inside and that ordering something you don't know could be a total nightmare. So you never go, and when you do, you have your friends order "whatever they think you'd like" just to save yourself from having to choose from the menu.

To start going to Starbucks and hanging out like a pro, you need to bear in mind 5 things that'll help you blend in and look like you practically live off of the brand.

1. Do your research.

Duh? Ignorance is often the main cause of fear, and in this case, knowing what their staple menu is and how to pronounce the names (acai is not ah-kay, but a-sai or a-sa-ee, etc.) will do wonders for your confidence. Stumbling over how to say "macchiato" (ma-kee-YAH-tow) or knowing what the bases are for a specific drink (coffee or milk, etc.) should be avoided. A trick would be to visit their website (country-specific) and browse their menu section. The more you know about something, the less hesitant you'll be when talking about it.

2. Socialize with your baristas.

Starbucks has personalization down to a "T". I don't know how it is in most countries, but Philippine-based Starbucks chains have very friendly baristas. Don't be fazed if you come in and are welcomed with a loud, "Hi, welcome to Starbucks!" greeting. Return the acknowledgement warmly - seeing you comfortable will make them more willing to assist you and provide whatever you might need. Don't be afraid of making small talk!

3. Know when to get your drinks iced, hot, or as a frappucino.

Not all drinks work in every form. From experience, Toffee Hazelnut (one of their best-selling Christmas drinks) is better warm and allows you to enjoy the flavor with every sip. (Tastes exactly like Christmas!) The same principle goes for cappuccinos and other items on the menu. If you aren't sure, don't hesitate to ask the barista. You might think this will make you seem more ignorant of how "things generally work", but in reality, asking the barista means you care about the quality of your drink and that you aren't ordering for the sake of being in Starbucks.

4. Use your stars with your Starbucks card.

No, using the stars won't make you look cheap. For every drink you get using your Starbucks card, you get 1 star, and once you get 12 stars (after 12 drinks),  you get a free grande-sized drink, eligible for upgrade to a Venti for a lesser price. Getting a card and using that instead of cash will make you look like a regular. Besides, it saves you the trouble of having to have notes around all the time. Such a hassle. You may reload your card online or when you order at the counter.

5. Ask for suggestions.

From what I've experienced, it's a great idea to ask for suggestions on what drink is best paired with which food item. In our local Starbucks joint, the baristas already know that I love extremely bitter drinks, and they take that into consideration when I ask them to throw in food of their choice that they think will taste good with my signature drink (an Americano with 5 shots of espresso, and breve). I also often have them prepare a drink that'll surprise me or something they created. It not only makes your Starbucks experience a little more exciting, but it allows your baristas to feel trusted and happy with their work.

Starbucks owes me a lot of money (which basically means I've been hanging out at the place for long periods of time and have willingly given my money to them), but am I mad? No. Do I regret anything? Maybe one or two purchases (those Bagel Bites were harder than normal).

Point is, Starbucks is a charming place for people who want to be both indoors and outdoors. Every Starbucks branch feels homey, but it doesn't rid you of the chance to socialize with other people. If you've previously been doubtful of the place and unsure of what to expect once you get inside, I hope this post does at least a little to relieve some of that uncertainty.

If you want to read more stuff about Starbucks (too shy to ask your friends or barista, maybe?), leave a comment and tell me what else you want to know!