Growing up, I’ve always been told not to talk to strangers. “Strangers are bad people. They are going to kidnap you or kill you.” and I don’t blame my parents for saying that because as a young child, I probably could not discern the good and bad guys so to make things easier, they taught me to eliminate talking to strangers altogether. However, as I grew up I realised talking to strangers is one of the most exciting things to do.
I discover the joy of talking to strangers during the year I spent in New Zealand, in a city called Invercargill. The population of the city was about 50,000 at that time. 10,000 in the urban area. Because there were so few people, everyone were like neighbors and you’d just naturally greet any strangers you came across. You even say “hello” to the bus driver when boarding the bus and shout “thank you” when alighting. It was a bit of culture shock to me when I was first approached by a stranger at the bus stop while waiting for the bus. But through that conversation I learnt about his interesting past and we became very good friends. To me it was an eye opener, window to a world that I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t shared with me.
Also, as a person who like to travel without tour group and preferably to a place that I’ve never been before, I often find myself at the mercy of strangers. I had to trust strangers to point me to the right direction and I find it a lot easier to find my way by asking strangers than to figure out my own way using the map.
One of the reasons why we don’t usually talk to strangers, for me, is because I’m afraid. Sometimes we are afraid of the unknown and the many what ifs it comes with. But I’ve learnt that people are a lot kinder than we give them credit for. Of course, you don’t talk to people who offer you lollipops and ask you to sit in their car. That’s how people die. But in most situations, talking to strangers can be pretty interesting and you’ll never know you meet.
After all, don’t we all start out as strangers?