I have been told all my life not to talk to strangers. As a 19-year-old living in a foreign country I call that nonsense.
Living in UK can be a nightmare for an extrovert. I find myself being told off all the time for oversharing or approaching random people on the street. How can I not? In a country full of people from all corners of the world the curious side of me tends to take over. To be quite honest, it intrigues me how people here can be so kept to themselves – well until they get drunk obviously. I guess British people were just brought up that way, taking the ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ advice a bit too literally. Can’t they see that the beauty of life is in creating bonds and learning from others?
I travel quite a lot, every three months, to be precise. The plane is basically the mosh pit of social interaction. I mean, you are trapped next to a stranger for, in my case, some solid three hours. And don’t even try to pretend you don’t listen to people’s conversations, because we all do.
I always tend to get involved and get to know who is sitting next to me. It is the essence of travelling. Once, on my way back home, there was an elderly couple sitting next to me. It was impossible to ignore them! They opened up this enormous ancient map of Portugal that made more noise than the baby crying at the front. They were planning, very last minute, their trip around Portugal. Without Wi-Fi, there was not much they could plan, so, as a proud citizen, I decided to intervene. They were quite pleased with my help and began to be more interested in my experience rather than their ‘so not planned’ trip. It felt great to have company for those three hours and even better to hear about their adventurous life experiences. I might never see them again, but I will never forget that special conversation.
The truth is, I have learnt something from every person I have met, either on the streets of Leicester, at university or on a plane. Strangers are just people like you and me. We all have stories to tell. So, allow yourself to be more open to others, because everyone has a lesson to teach you that will change your life completely.
By Francisca Quádrio