Talking to strangers

Over the weekend Mr M and I braved the truly awful SF public transport system and took BART to the Mission District. Because I enjoy feeling like I’m about to get mugged whilst simultaneously breathing in the sweet smell of sun-baked urine. I’m cool like that.

Of course there was track work so we were herded into the rail replacement bus and shuttled over to safety.

Mr M was seated next to a 10-year-old Aussie kid and his Mum for the duration of the bus ride. This kid had his Pokemon shirt on and was just itching to start a conversation with anyone.

On a rail replacement bus with @mikey_h_m, who happened to sit next to an #Aussie kid. The kid is talking his ear off. #socute #AussiesinUS

ā€” Kath (@krasf) September 18, 2016

And so they talked about life in the Pokemon trenches and living in Australia. He even tried to arrange a little meet up:

Kid: Um…are you going to San Francisco? What hotel are you living at? #importantquestions

ā€” Kath (@krasf) September 18, 2016

It made me think about how likely Californians are to strike up a conversation with people they don’t know. In my (limited) experience, I’ve found that if you’re in a crowd of two or more people you’re more likely to get a couple of off-the-cuff remarks thrown at you by people outside the group.

Now I will cite some experiences because my high school English teachers (I’m looking at you Mr Barrs) would be aghast if I didn’t back up my argument:

  • Concerts: I went to see Courtney Barnett at The Fillmore all on my lonesome late last year. Which is something I’m pretty used to doing back in Australia. No one really spoke to me (the loner with the beer glued to her hand) but groups of people were chatting with each other about how they’ve known about Courtney and how great she is for YEARS.
  • Shopping: If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been in the checkout queue at the shops and the person behind or in front started waxing lyrical about the items I was buying, I’d have a lot of useless change. Let’s see, I was given tips on how best to use avocados, told that I must be very healthy, and chatted to about holidays in Australia.
  • Festivals: We sat down for lunch at the Gilroy Garlic Festival and when we were done I was busy on my phone trying to work out where my San Francisco Marathon volunteer shift was going to be the next morning. After a lot of Google Mapping, another couple asked if we were playing Pokemon. Thus began a conversation about how everyone’s playing and how confusing it is. And how Pokemon KILLS! That last part may have been me trying to bait them.
  • Camping: Alright, for this one I can’t quite remember a specific example but I know that people were happy to just come up to our group and have a chat while we were hiking or in the town.
Mr M, who has much more experience with Californians being that he is one and has lived here for a large swathe of his life, begs to differ. He reckons that if you’re wandering around the city, you’re more likely to be roped into a chinwag, since they’re used to being surrounded by so many bodies. But if you’re further down the Peninsula people keep themselves to themselves a bit more. But he also subscribes to the rule of pairs and groups.

What’s your experience? Are Californians big talkers? 

3 thoughts on “Talking to strangers

  1. Hmmm I think it depends on who you are comparing them (us?) to! When I moved back here from France I was really startled by all the friendly small talk, but I also think that people around here (a few hours south of you) aren't likely to strike up a whole conversation, just little snippets of "why yes it is a beautiful day" and stuff like that. We don't have the social lubricant of public transport šŸ™‚ Also, I have never been to the Gilroy garlic festival and I'm starting to think that I should really go next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *