Sunday, February 10, 2013

breaking the ice.

Recently a question was posed by one of my favourite travel sites, what is the best way to meet people in other countries? Leaving it open to the public I was not surprised at all to see getting drunk featured in about 99% of all replies. Whilst alcohol gives confidence to the most timid of us it can also dampen your natural senses and create uncomfortable even dangerous situations if the other people don’t have the best intentions. As my little sister recently discovered when her and her partner were beaten and robbed in Thailand by people they thought were their friends. And what if you don’t drink? What is your answer then?

The perfect opening line. When you first pick up a novel to see if you will like it, its often the very first paragraph or sentence that draws you into the tale. So many creative writing workshops out there stress how important that very first sentence is. And that’s the same in real life. Usually it’s the first five minutes of meeting someone that will determine if there is any future in your friendship. This means the first line has to be smooth, relatable, slightly humourous and open to a detailed response. I can share with you a few of my success stories of meeting people on the road.

Hey how’s it going – This line is the easiest but not necessarily the most effective. It can be difficult to carry over if you aren’t naturally confident. Sure you will invoke the almost recognisable response ‘good and you?’ but then it puts pressure on you to implement the next line. ‘Not bad so Where are you from’ is almost guaranteed but if you must continue down this path my best advice is to build the enthusiasm. Remember if you have five minutes to make an impression and you aren’t drinking you need to show this person that you are as awesome as you actually are. Let’s face it if you are travelling the world you must be awesome. So believe that and everything comes easier. I recently used this line after getting off an all night train and having to kill eight hours waiting for my boat in Bangkok. I responded to his ‘good how are you’ with a tirade of information ‘not bad!!! Was on one of those night trains last night and it was actually really comfortable have you ever been on one?’ (he had) ‘oh really nice yea all good except at like some crazy hour these people are walking up and down the pathways yelling something in thai I dunno and I’m just like shut the fuck up man I want to sleep I don’t want to buy your random stuff’ then the conversation flowed after that discussing the interesting stuff people sell on trains, and once the conversation started it kept going. Next thing you know we are best friends!

Is anyone sitting here can we join you? – So this is a new one I only just discovered in Thailand but ended up being my calling card for most of the trip in Koh Phanagan. It all began when we went up to our favourite haunt on Kangaroo bar to have a beer and discovered it was full except for one table in the back. More interested in sitting at the balcony edge I noticed a table with two guys only and manoeuvred myself over to them, ‘can we sit here?’ I asked referring also to my sister & her boyfriend who were not far behind. Heather’s boyfriend Sam is actually really good at small talk but seems to lack the opening line skill, I am often bad at small talk so we tend to work well together. Heather just comes off nice and sweet and is good at keeping people interested so as a threesome we weren’t doing so bad. Sam did most of the work on this one getting the guys talking and soon we had a little fivesome that ended up sticking together for the next few nights. The best option after accepting the seat is to introduce yourselves and use the dreaded over used ‘where are you from’ but usually once you are sharing beers over the table you can keep the convo up and running easily. I used this line again later at a party on another beach and we ended up meeting quite a few random people that night.

Do you have the time? – An oldie but a goodie & a nice way to get a conversation going. Its best to keep an eye for someone with a watch but a lot of people do have phones now. Since I wear a watch I usually take it off and slip it in my pocket before making my move. Once they inform you of the time you do need a great next opening line. Mine was ‘well my friend left and all these creepy 20 year olds keep hitting on me can I just dance with you guys’ it worked and I had a really awesome night in the end. I don’t use this line very often but when I can’t think of anything else it comes out. I always try to have a back-up line in case it requires more work which usually involves some chaotic situation I’ve just been in. Sometimes my chaotic situations are pretty much nothing maybe a guy knocked my drink over but add raised eyebrows and a lot of expressive words and taking your grandmother shopping suddenly becomes the most interesting thing in the world! I tend to use the phrase ‘Holy Shit’ a lot when I’m doing this.

Involve weed – Not so much a line but still effective I was walking around the streets of Puerto Penasco Mexico on my own having lost everyone and came across a bunch of random locals drinking in a truck. So without any Spanish I pulled a bud from my pocket and mimicked joint rolling. Next thing you know I’m sitting in the tray of a 4WD, stoned, buzzed & drunk having broken conversations in Spanglish. The adventure ended when I woke up in a tent miles from my hotel surrounded by several passed out Mexicans and having to hitchhike back. Many a person has been met by sharing a joint around a table or two. At a party on Haad Tien I met an Austrian guy when he passed me his joint. Smoking weed together is one of the easiest ways to get to know someone. If you don’t smoke than this won’t work for you but if you do try and have a joint on you at all times. My little sister is the master at this. Stoner speak is her speciality.

Be original – By far my best opening line ever was in a parking lot in Toronto. I was stone cold sober, had just finished rocking out to Underworld, all alone and about to drive two and a half lonely hours back to my house in Muskoka. I bit my lip walked over to two guys dancing by their car and asked ‘Hi, Can I take a photo with you I’m all alone and want to pretend I made some friends tonight’ It’s a story I will never forget, that I will retell till I die that ended up with me making friends with two of the most amazing guys ever. Two guys that literally saved my sanity in eastern Canada working at a college resort with a bunch of kids I just didn’t relate to.

Sometimes it not about what you say but just having the confidence to speak up. There are so many people out there who are open to meeting people but are too scared or shy. If you develop that confidence to be the person who makes the first move you can open doors to places you have probably never seen before. You will also be a part of a better world where everyone is accepted and colour, sex, religion doesn’t determine who you can and can’t speak to.

Be the future, blur the borders, jump in a ball pit.

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