when chatting to strangers what do u ask them?

21 Jul

london 6.28pm 21C sunny friday 2017

i came across this article in my wordpress feed, about what to ask strangers to get a conversation going with them. i was surprised when it says americans like to ask what work you do, but the french dont like that question.

it reminded me of the chat i had with this american family the other day in chinatown whilst looking at the wong kei menu in their window display. we chatted about food. which it seems is a safe topic to talk about with strangers.

the british of course talk of the weather. that is a safe topic and always get strangers talking.

i like asking people what they do for a living, and also where they are from, but it seems those are quite sensitive topics nowadays …it seems the french will shut u down if u ask them what they do for a living. they prefer u to ask about where they will be going for their holidays. not something we ask in s.e.asia.  

but asking someone what their work is, or where they are from are common questions when u talk to strangers when in s.e.asia. at least during my time there. and if it is a woman, she will ask you if u are married. and if u are, the next question will be if u have children. haha.

i now i say i am retired, and they always ask what i was before. i think it natural to find out what a person’s work is or was.  i think for people of my generation work looms large in our lives and we may feel we are defined by it, even if that is now being frowned on by the young generation.

i think with us oldies, we like to find out more about that person, rather than just exchange inanities, and platitudes. and our curiosity can appear to be rather intrusive and prying.  we think it a waste of time to just exchange inanities. we want and are curious about what that person is. with the idea of fixing them in the social scale, or wealth (or lack of it) scale.

i have a feeling that in the past, if u see a stranger, it is there to determine if that person will be friend or foe. someone u can ask to do things for you, and support you, or sell to, or   a burden or someone who will want to exploit you… but today,  that may no more be the case and we just want to connect with another human being and be made to feel good about ourselves and make them feel good too.

in a way, it is the same when we write in our blogs. we are chatting to strangers, and so that might explain why there are so many blogs talking of food. it is a safe topic amongst strangers. and maybe why personal blogs are not common. when u talk of your work in a blog, it becomes dangerous, in that u might be talking of an employer and what u think of him or her, who might be reading your blog… so i can understand why so many steer clear of that topic. but you might be saying, surely in a conversation with strangers that does not apply… it would be a strange coincidence if they turn out to know your boss… haha. but still no one likes to talk too intimately about what they do. they certainly will not tell you where they work. not something u want to share with strangers.

added. 9.21pm. i said that people dont want to share too much with strangers, but i remember when i was in usa in the 90s, i found the americans love to tell you about their mental health. they will tell you they are seeing their therapist. to americans that is so ordinary, it seems everyone has a therapist they go to, that no one feels embarrassed about seeing one. is that still the case nowadays? or is it just the people i happen to meet with… it was gay new yorkers and gay san franciscans/los angeles that i meet with. maybe in those days people still have issues with being gay… and so they as a group might go to therapists more . 

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4 Responses to “when chatting to strangers what do u ask them?”

  1. Sarah M Monday July 24, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    I do actually like the American habit of oversharing. I hate endless smalltalk about the weather and find it refreshing to talk about something real for a change. It’s something I aimed to do after coming back from the US the last time: to chat about real stuff rather than this silly weather chat. I have had varied success.

    • alifesgayventure Monday July 24, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

      yes, it is so nice when u can really chat about things that mean something… but it is rare. and yet it is perfect for total strangers to unburden their souls as it were. there is the anonymity for one thing, so that whatever u say will never come back to you via friends for it is hardly likely u will meet again. one can be really honest about it. and it fulfils our curiosity about a person. how they see themselves. and what looms large in their life right now, whilst chatting. i sometimes think it can be very therapeutic for the one talking of their life… i get this a lot when i was a student, talking to fellow students, there seem to be more time for chat when i was a student. though our lives are rather uncomplicated and so we dont really have personal problems to mull over.

      • Sarah M Monday July 24, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

        yes I often tell people I don’t know a lot of details about my life (sometimes people are uncomfortable with this; it’s an experiment). Often I ask people to recommend books or films, or ask them if they like cats or whatever. Anything to avoid the ‘bit cold isn’t it?’ conversation.

      • alifesgayventure Monday July 24, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

        people here like you to share, but not divulge anything about themselves. unlike the americans. haha. you have to set the mood as it were by offering something about yourself and then u get something back from them, and then u put out another morsel of info about yourself and so on … a kind of tit for tat. whilst americans just go off like a drain and expose their souls . at least in my time there. but maybe not so much now what with the internet. they might be justified that what they say may well appear in the internet in some form or another.

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