A stranger is probably a cool person you’ve not met yet…or a crazed lunatic…whichever

22 Aug

People who know me and have been out with me in public (the list of people doing that is getting smaller and smaller…) will know that I have an uncanny habit of talking to strangers. Before you get the complete wrong idea, I would like to make it clear that I don’t just go up to people passing me in the street, and start holding a long conversation (despite what my friends may say.) I’m talking about people in the queue at the checkout and serving on tills, people on buses and trains, at the bank, and in the cinema…and most recently in my case, the New Look changing room. I’m a big believer in communication, and in general being friendly to everyone, stranger or friend alike.

When I was younger, I was always told ‘never talk to strangers’ its one of the cardinal rules you learn as a child, and I find myself now saying the exact same thing to my seven-year old brother and three-year old sister, but the truth is I don’t practise what I preach, and with the exception of vulnerable little children aside, I think you should talk to strangers. Because the truth is you never know who you might meet, what you might learn from them, and even if that casual conversation, will later become a close and rewarding friendship. I think that sometimes we are all made a little paranoid and afraid of the world and the people in it, and its true there are a lot of things, places and people we should be careful of, it’s certainly correct to say that not everyone is as open, friendly and harmless as they appear to be. But at the same time, this shouldn’t stop us from sharing a joke in a coffee shop, or casually chatting away to someone you bump into in the street, we should be open to talking to new people, and not closing ourselves off because we don’t know them, and are unlikely to meet again.

Not all strangers are like these lunatics!

Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had have been with strangers, for example, when I finished work (I was at Next at the time) whilst waiting for a bus, an older woman asked me where to wait for the 33, after that we got chatting, first about cooking, and then about her sons recent divorce, and his difficult ex-wife. I know that some people find it easier to open up to a stranger who knows nothing about them, and therefore has no preconceptions about whatever they might say, and she was one of those people.

As I said at the start of this post, I recently had a lovely conversation with a girl in the New Look changing room, I was shopping for a dress for my granddad’s funeral (all my clothes are inappropriately bright) and I went out of my cubicle to check my appearance in the less flattering (and infinitely more terrifying) big mirror, and at that moment another girl did exactly the same. So I was twirling, making sure that the dress was flattering enough to be worn in public, and we caught each others eye. I laughed and she laughed, I asked for an opinion and it went from there, she was dress shopping for a party, in which a guy she was crazy about was also attending, and she was hoping to make an impression on. We spent forty minutes chatting about guys, and I ended up helping her pick the perfect dress to catch Mr cute guy’s attention, and so what was always going to be a depressing shopping outing for me, was transformed into something quite different and enjoyable by a stranger.

Mexico was a beautiful place, I’d love to go back and explore more of it and get to know more of the people who live there

Of course this isn’t always the case, I have also had people approach me that didn’t seem quite the full ticket, or seemed interested in more than just a casual conversation, but this hasn’t put me off striking up random discussions and chats. With all the people who fill the world, it seems silly to stick to contact with the few people we already know. There are so many people which live interesting lives different from our own, and another way of exploring the world, is to explore all the different people who are a part of it, and the way they exist. When I visited Mexico, I struck up a friendship with a waiter, when I went to dine alone one evening in the hotel restaurant,whose name also began with ‘Steph,’ he showed me pictures of his family and where he lived. By talking to him, I got to see part of Mexico that was beyond the hotel, I also got to know the entertainment staff, a staff member called Adrian taught me how to dance, and introduced me to authentic Mexican music. Had I kept to myself, I would have missed out on some fun and fascinating experiences.

Adrian and my younger brother Josh

So I encourage you all, get out there and if you see an opportunity don’t let it pass you by, talk to a stranger! You never know what you might discover, and the friend you might meet.

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