How to Talk to Strangers (Sorry, Mom)

Author: Maggie Cammaroto

Surprise! There’s a whole world out there, and it’s full of people. People you didn’t sit next to in Biology. People who didn’t end up on your little league baseball team or in Sunday night yoga class. People who don’t even follow you on social. If you have the good fortune to travel on this big blue marble we call Earth, then you’re going to come across these unfamiliar folks. Perhaps on a bus or a plane, in a cafe, bookstore, or bar, somewhere far, far away from all the people you actually do know.

As kids we probably weren’t taught how to talk to strangers, but sometimes when traveling abroad, we have no choice. Here’s a simple guide on meeting people abroad (and yes, we did experiment with these tips in the real world – they passed the test with flying colors!).

Safety First

 Of course there are times when we definitely should not be trying to talk to strangers. Is it day or night? How many people are around? What substances are present? Are you alone? Consider the context you find yourself in and ask yourself, “Do I feel safe here?” If you hesitate to say yes, you’re likely not in the best place to make a new friend.

Be Curious

 Why are you trying to make a new friend? Are you lonely and want a pal to adventure with? Do you need their validation that you are, in fact, fun & likable? Do you feel awkward dancing by yourself in the club (btw we think this actually sounds like a good time)?

Our motivation behind approaching a stranger often colors how we come off to them. Just think about someone asking for directions vs complimenting your scarf vs leading with the line “If you were a fruit, you’d be a ‘fine-apple.’”

What if, instead of seeking something from this stranger, our intention was to let them offer their full, authentic selves? What if we were just curious about this person in front of us? What did they have for breakfast? What lights up their soul & makes their heart sing? Or maybe…

Where are you from?

This one is such a game-changer that it deserves its own subtitle.

These four words are all it takes to start a conversation – no insinuated messages, no boasting, no desperate pleas. Just a genuine interest in getting to know a new friend. What better way to start than with their hometown? Someone’s origins can give you a window into how they grew up & the culture they’re coming from. Plus, we have no doubt that asking this question will open up a whole dozen cans worth of stories. The best part? When you put the emphasis on this new person and who they are, you take the pressure off yourself to show up in some manufactured way. You’re free to be the lovable badass you are.

Namaste

This word gets thrown around a lot, but the truth of this sanskrit salutation is quite powerful.

My yoga teacher explained it like this: “The light in me recognizes the light in you.” I know to some that might sound a little “woo-woo.” But this light could mean anything. Perhaps to some it means a divine essence, or it might mean a heartbeat, or maybe it’s camping, or being a pescatarian. This light is anything we see in ourselves that we also notice in this other person.

Especially when traveling, it’s too easy to label all our potential new friends as “other” or “foreign.” They might come from different cultures, speak different languages, eat different foods, or have a different sense of humor. Nonetheless, we’ll be more successful in finding companionship if we acknowledge all the ways we are alike. Search for sameness and you’ll soon realize how much we all belong no matter where we find ourselves.

Some closing words

Humans are where they are now not because they avoided eye contact in the cave. Our species is legitimately founded on social connections. While we at mindhamok acknowledge the importance of alone time, we can’t get through life by ourselves. And besides, more often than not, that stranger with a cool tattoo across the room wants to be your friend as much as you want to be theirs. Put your mind in a hammock and remember that meeting new people can be easy & natural; it only takes some initial bravery & a little bit of practice.

 

Pssst. If you’re hungry for more friend-making tips, we wrote a whole blog about it!

More To Explore

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Safety at night (the small print!)

Now look, mindhamok aren’t trying to be the fun police, but safety is important & as we venture into new cities with new customs, cultures and rules, it’s crucial to have our wits about us.

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If you’re on the gram or tiktok, then you’ll know what it’s like to be inundated with content full of engagement rings, trips to Paris and montages of happy couples. Bleugh! It’s intense, we get it, and not always easy on the ol’ mental health.

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