How to Talk to Strangers

Flying in the face of parental advice the world over, here at House of Coco we’re encouraging you to go out in the world and talk to as many strangers as you can.

Whilst solo travel is one the most empowering, invigorating and personal developmental things you can do – particularly as a woman – there are a few obstacles to getting out there and going solo. Safety is obviously a big one, but there is also that inevitable question of loneliness. Even the most social of butterfly can find the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger in a foreign land – perhaps in a foreign language – a little daunting. But if you want to get the most out of your solo journey, its kind of essential. Because talking to yourself is considered strange almost universally. Luckily the chatty bunch here at House of Coco have your back. Read on for some top tips on how to make your solo trip a little less solo.

1. Comment on a topic common to both of you at the moment

While travelling, this is one of the easiest. Because the most interesting thing you and your soon to be best friend have in common in that moment is the foreign country you’re both enjoying. Talk about places you’ve seen, places you want to see and things you want to do. Chances are likely that your chosen stranger has the same travel to do list, or is more than happy to tag along. If your chosen stranger is a local, comment on something that is happening nearby. If you’re impressed by the bartender’s wicked drink slinging skills, chances are the person standing next to you at the bar is to.

2. Comment on a topic of common interest

Usually a technique best used in countries where you can speak the language, brushing up on some local news, or even topics of local interest is a great way to spark a conversation. Most cafes have copies of the local newspaper lying around for customers to read as they wait, and most locals will have an opinion to share. It doesn’t have to be political, or a hot button issue, for example did you know that Austin, Texas has more dogs than children?

3. Invite that person to join you in something at the present time

In the hostel kitchen making a cup of tea or coffee? About to head out for a drink or to get something to eat? Invite your chosen stranger to join you. Right up there with making conversation with strangers, dining alone is one of the most daunting things about solo travel (personally I love it, but that’s a topic for another article). If your chosen stranger is also a solo traveller the chances of your invitation being accepted are quite high. Once out and about in public the conversation should flow quite smoothly, particularly if the place is equally exotic to the both of you. Navigating menus in foreign languages and attempting to order with local staff is always an embarrassing and delightfully bonding experience.

4. Ask questions

Just as in number 2, if your chosen stranger is not a fellow traveller but a local of your destination, a good way to strike up a conversation is to simply ask a question. Most people love to chat, and depending on the country you’re in, a lot of them like to share their opinions, be that on the best bar to visit that night, best thing to see in the city, or their opinions on local and national politics. All you have to do is ask, and I promise you, chances are high you won’t be able to get them to stop.

5. Be approachable

Nine times out of ten, if you’re a visitor to a country, the locals are going to know. Travellers have this persistent look of awe and slight confusion on their face at all times, and you stand out to a true local whether you have a map in hand and a camera slung around your neck or not. The good news here is that most locals love their country and their city, and they’re usually pleased that you’ve spent the money to come and see it for yourself. As above, people love to share their opinions and as long as you can maintain a kind, approachable and warm exterior, you’re going to be fielding travel recommendations from left, right and centre. If you’re travelling solo, you’re instantly more approachable than you would be surrounded by a bunch of friends, and people are going to be interested in hearing your story as much as you are in hearing theirs.

Once you’ve mastered the art of talking to strangers you’ll find you have friends no matter where you go.

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Maddie Clarey

Anthropologist, writer, explorer. Making my way through the world, one language barrier at a time.

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