These past months I’ve heard from multiple friends that they can’t go anywhere without strangers talking to me, “Everyone talks to you! It’s so annoying!” or “Does it bother you that everyone talks to you?”. (Ummm…. no.) This past weekend I spent a good 30 minutes in a deli on the outskirts of the history center engaged in conversation with two in-the-know American tourists. As I stood outside the bathroom door, I heard in a strong New York accent ring across the room, “Secret Society of Vegans? What’s that all about?” in reference to the emblem on the back of my jacket. I chatted with the couple who I came to know as Al and Rachel, two chatterbox (people after my own heart) Americans from New York whose thick file folder of printed off restaurant recommendations I was impressed by. We each had found our way to Volpetti Più, a low-key, highly regarded staple in Italian Rome. Away from the direct history center, on the outskirts of the Testaccio neighborhood, we were the only English speaking players in the game of Saturday lunch, à la Romani-style. Myself and my dining companion huddled in a corner joyfully drinking red wine out of plastic cups, accompanied by an array of cicchetti (small plates) followed by an all day adventure of strolling through beautiful Rome – a typical weekend in Italia.
I walked away after my encounter with the New Yorkers evaluating this “making friends with strangers” characteristic I have come to further enjoy – something I have always seemed to have had but has seen an influx recently. I blame a lifetime of watching my grandfather, a man whose catch phrase is, “So where are you from? – a simple question that often leads into the divulgence of life stories and confessions. I have witnessed him making connections with people all over the world – my favorite was a group of young teenagers on a swiftly moving European train. By the end of the train ride, they all would have joined the Church of Giuseppe. The man is a genius. He breaks down barriers both socially, politically and culturally.
As I continued to think about this over the weekend, sitting down to devout twelve minutes to the useful Ted Talk “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” by Celeste Headlee, I drew some conclusions about this noticeable influx in my current life. It seems I have begun to see the fruits of my labor as for the better part of the past year, I consciously wanted to become more approachable. And apparently, this internal desire has adapted into a cross-cultural way of life.
It simply makes me happy to connect with people around the world. It makes me feel human. I believe it makes us kinder, engaged and less selfish. It makes us interested (I truly am) in other facets of life and forces us outside of ourselves for there is nothing more unattractive in a human being that self-centeredness.
So, if you see me sitting on a bus in Thailand, walking through a souq in Morocco or paddling around in a boat in Croatia, please, come talk to me.