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Friday, December 4, 2009

Chat Up a Stranger

A gang of us were sitting around in Tokyo one day, and the subject came up of "what we missed most" from "back home." You know what we all agreed on?

Small talk. With strangers.

The supermarket checker. A mom in the park. The guy behind us in line at the bank. And that classic of all: the barber/hair dresser.

Language was one problem, of course; the Japanese skills of most of us just weren't up to it.

But more than that, Japan is not a culture where strangers strike up conversations. For a variety of social and linguistic reasons, they virtually can't. (It's complicated...)

Things are a bit more open here in China, but my Chinese is even worse than my Japanese was. So on visits back to America, the opportunity to chat with strangers is a real bonus.

Appreciate what you've got. Make the connection. Say "hi" to someone at random, and be ready for what happens next.

Don't know how to start? I find complaining always works. "Do you think this line will ever move?" "It's hotter than Hades out there." "This park could use more swings." The other person might agree with you, or disagree, but either way: you're off.

Oh, yeah, positive statements work too.

So chat up a stranger. Build a bridge. Maybe even make a new friend.

You'll be happier.

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