“So, where are you from?” *groan* As travelers, we have had that conversation a thousand times over. I feel like I should wear a name tag that says,
Hi, I’m “x”
I’m from “x”
I’ve been here “x” amount of time
I’m headed to “x” place next
*facepalm* How are you ever going to make lasting, genuine memories with someone when every conversation sounds like that? It gets redundant answering the same questions, and you don’t truly get to know someone that way. Instead, here are some helpful tips to get the most out of your conversation with that lovely gent or gal at the bar!
What country has been the biggest culture shock for you?
This is a fantastic, open ended question. It will force people to recall different quirks about other places, that they may not have brought to your attention otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to learn about their culture/heritage/background. What is normal for them may be completely out of the ordinary for you. (Like how casually they throw around the “C” word in Australia…big culture shock for me). It’s always beneficial to understand other’s perspectives!
What one food from home do you miss the most?
Ohhhhh food. Don’t get me started! Food is the nonverbal language of the land. So ask that German girl or Russian guy, what food do they miss the most? I can almost guarantee it’s not going to be pizza (an American favorite), but rather a traditional dish that you may not have heard of. Maybe something their mom would cook for them as a child. Getting to know the culture of a place through their cuisine is quite an experience. Plus, you’ll have something to look forward to when you visit their home land.
What is the best food you have found in your travels abroad?
I told you not to get me started on food! This is another great question, because everyone has that ONE food that stands out. The thing that will make your mouth water just from thinking about it. The food that haunts your dreams. For me, it’s Nasi Goreng with sambal. That was my comfort food in Bali, and quite honestly, I ate it twice a day! I’ve since tried to replicate it here in the US, but it doesn’t even come close to the real deal. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a great recipe for their favorite dish or perhaps even learn about a cuisine that you weren’t familiar with before! Either way, food is something everyone loves and has no problem talking about!
What is the scariest thing you’ve experienced in your travels thus far?
Maybe they got robbed in the last country they visited (sad, but it happens). Or perhaps they conquered their fear of water by taking surfing lessons. Fear means something different to everyone, and generally we don’t open with “this is what I’m afraid of.” By asking this question, we break down the social barriers that say we need to keep our walls up and be constantly on guard. Sometimes travel can be frightening. To be able to talk about it with someone else can be a huge relief.
Of all the places you’ve traveled, where would you live if you had the chance?
I love this question because it says more about a city and it’s inhabitants than anything else. It also reveals a great deal about the person you are speaking with. For example, I loved Bali, but I couldn’t see myself living there long term (1 year+). I would get too restless! However a surf instructor or yoga teacher may love it there. Similarly, someone who works in technology and computers may prefer to settle themselves in Japan or China, rather than someplace like Greece. Personally, I could see myself living in Australia (if my gypsy feet ever stop moving!)
These are just a few ideas of some ice breaker conversations. Once you ask a few of these questions, others will come flowing naturally and you’ll have made a new friend before you know it. Remember, travel means so much more when you can take away authentic experiences, so don’t be afraid to open up and share!
“We’re all just walking each other home”
– Ram Daas