How to talk to a stranger while traveling
When you travel, you will be put into situations to be with people you don’t know. May you be waiting in line, sitting on the train, or staying in the airport lounge, opportunities to talk with a stranger can come everywhere. For some striking up a conversation with a stranger can be a struggle while others enjoy it.
At times, people hesitate to start a conversation thinking they might be ignored or look weird for talking to someone they don’t know, while others worry about speaking in a different language.
Sure, talking with a stranger can be intimidating, but it is a familiar feeling. It is best to learn the techniques to make it easy for you, statements, and questions you’ll need for certain situations. Also, familiarizing yourself with the conversation phases can help to figure out your approach for each phase.
To understand travel conversations better, here’s a specific structure you can follow and statements you can use.
1st Step: Starting the Conversation
To start a conversation with a stranger, you need to have a good opening gambit. It’s best to stick with simple and safe topics that you can talk about.
Topic 1. Comment on your surroundings
You can start a conversation by saying something generic or commenting on your surroundings. This is relatable to others since you are in a common situation at the moment.
Some of the examples you can use to open a conversation by commenting are:
- “It’s crowded here, “Is this normal?”
- “This new terminal looks great, doesn’t it.”
- “Looks like it’s going to be a full flight.”
Topic 2. Talk about where you or your conversation partner came from.
It is usual for people to ask where you are from, especially if you look like tourists. Some of the common questions you can use to open a conversation are:
- “Are you on vacation here?”
- “Are you visiting from somewhere?”
- “Where are you from?”
Fellow tourists or locals may ask you how’s your experience so far. In this case, some questions that you can use are:
- “How are you enjoying your vacation?”
- “How is your day going so far?”
- “It’s pretty fun here. Are you having a good time?”
Topic 3. Weather
Since the weather is one of the important considerations when touring, travelers can instantly relate when this subject is brought up. It is a safe conversation starter and a great topic to talk about.
Here are some statements you can use.
- “It’s rainy this morning.”
- “The weather is so nice today. Are you from around here?”
- “The weather is fantastic!”
2nd Step: Keeping the conversation going
Now that you’ve started talking, you will need to elaborate on the established topic to keep the conversation going.
If you feel like the person may be receptive to a long conversation, you may talk a bit more and extend the conversation by asking questions. It will help you find common interest or points of intersection with your conversation partner. This way, you get to build connections and get to know the person better. And when they mention something that relates to you and your life, this gives you an excellent opportunity to explore that topic more fully.
To extend the conversation and learn more about the other person, you may use these general questions to keep the conversation going.
- “Are you from this area?”
- “What brings you here today?”
- “Do you come here a lot?”
A recommendable conversational technique is using standard ‘safe’ topics to extend your chat. This kind of subject will open doors to all sorts of other topics, and both you and your conversation partner will be comfortable talking about it. This might also help you identify common links that you can chat about in more detail.
Topic 4. Purpose of the travel
One of the topics you can ask is the purpose of travel, may it be a business, pleasure, or attending an event.
Here are the other ways to ask the purpose of travel:
- “Are you visiting a relative for a holiday or just getting away?”
- “New York, eh? Business or pleasure?”
- “Is it a work trip? or just for fun?”
Topic 5. Someone’s travel or destination
To find a common point of interest, you may ask your conversation partner about the places they’ve been or where they are heading.
Here are more examples to ask about someone’s travel or destination.
- “So where are you off to today?”
- “Headed for Tokyo?”
- “Have you been waiting for quite a while?”
- “Are you on your way home?”
- “Do you still have a long way to go today?”
- “Have you been in transit for a while now?”
- “Have you been on this sort of course before?”’
Topic 6. Work
Your vocation can help you connect with strangers too. It is safe to ask someone’s job since you don’t know each other, and this turns more of general information. When someone asked about your work, it’s only polite to ask about the person’s work as well.
Here are the other ways to state your work while talking to a stranger
- “I’m in the food marketing business.”
- “Well, I run a few little restaurants in Indonesia.”
- “I’m in the hospitality industry.”
Topic 7. Short personal story
You may also tell a short personal story which could be related to what the other person has mentioned keeping the conversation going
Here are more examples of how you can share your personal story with a stranger.
- “Well, I was in South Africa for about a month, and it was really eye-opening.”
- “I had to wait almost two hours for my luggage, it was terrible.”
- “My friend was telling me about the excellent experience of visiting Machu Picchu.”
Once you determined the common point of interest, you may express it through the following:
- “You know something similar happen to me just last week.”
- “I’ve tried the coffee there as well.”
- “You’re going to the Flower Festival? I’ve been there several times.”
Topic 8. Asking for Opinions
It may also be useful to listen to local or fellow travelers’ opinions. Being open to small talk and asking for their suggestions can pay off. There is a good chance that the stranger you are talking to has good advice about places to see or things to do in your destination city. Moreover, since everyone indeed has an opinion on something, they would also like to share it with those who are interested. It opens up the door for a whole new area of conversation.
Here are some questions you can ask to get the other person’s view on a specific destination or activity:
- “I’m clueless. Any suggestions?”
- “Has that been your experience too?”
- “Has that ever happened to you?”
Topic 9. Asking if your conversation partner wants to talk longer
Be reminded that when you meet a stranger during your travel, he may be following an itinerary. If they are a tourist like you, chances are they might want to explore more of the area and spend time in understanding more of the culture in their limited time. Therefore, it’s worth checking if your partner still wants to keep on talking or just being polite during the conversation. By asking, you are showing that you are considerate of their needs.
Some of the questions you may ask if your conversation partner still wants to talk are the following.
- “I just realized you’re probably in the middle of something. Do you have time to chat?”
- “Let me know if you need to get going. I don’t want to take up all your time.”
- “I’m not keeping you from something, am I?”
Topic 10. Giving your name
It’s common in casual situations to give your name after having talked to someone for a while. After chatting for a couple of minutes and having just finished a small topic in the conversation, you may have the opportunity to introduce yourself formally.
Here are some examples of how you can give your name:
- “My name is Christian, by the way, Christian Parson.”
- “It’s been really great to chat with you. My name is Ralph.”
- “Nice to meet you. I’m Dale Carter.”
- “I’m Michael, Mike, for short if you like.”
3rd Step: Closing the Conversation
Every conversation reaches a natural end, which typically happens quicker when conversing with a stranger in your travel. A sign of being a good conversationalist knows when to stop talking and making your partner feel appreciated before ending the conversation.
Here are the other ways to close your conversation:
- “It’s been lovely meeting you. Take care.”
- “I really enjoyed our chat. Thanks so much.”
- “I had a great time talking with you. Hope to see you again soon.”
To give you a sample of how a casual conversation with a stranger while on travel can be, here’s a dialogue that you can observe.
Mark: There are a lot of people out here today.
John: Yes, quite a lot of people.
Mark: I think it’s because they use this alley as an alternative route since they’ve closed the street down there for the event tonight.
John: Oh, really?
Mark: Yeah, I’ve noticed it on my way here. Are you here to join the festival?
John: No, I’m just visiting a friend. He has been inviting me to come here. How about you?
Mark: Work. I have to visit one of our restaurant’s branches here. I’m a chef. What about you?
John: I’m a Curator. Is it your first time to come here?
Mark: Yeah, that’s why I tour around during my free time.
John: Great, what are the places you’ve been to?
Mark: I went to the ocean park and this well-known destination restaurant serving exotic dishes.
John: I went to the ocean park last weekend, too. A lovely place.
Mark: Yeah, it is.
John: How about the restaurant? I have also heard about it. What dish did you like the most in there? I was thinking of trying it out cause I’m also kinda curious.
Mark: Yeah, it was awesome! I liked it a lot. I tried Fried Tarantulas, and it’s crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. That restaurant is perfect if you are into culinary adventures. The Dishes have a distinct taste. Oh, by the way, I’m Mark.
John: John here. Too bad, I can’t try eating there anymore.
Mark: Mind if I ask why?
John: I got to go back home, so maybe I’ll try it on my next visit.
Mark: Yeah, right, sorry for taking up so much of your time. Do you need to take off?”
John: Actually, I still wanted to have a chit chat, but I have to catch my flight. I just dropped by to buy this coffee before I head to the airport.
Mark: Oh, I see, anyway it’s been great talking to you, John.
John: Likewise. Nice to meet you, Mark.
Mark: Nice to meet you too. Have a safe trip.
John: Thanks, Bye
Having a conversation with strangers is one of the best ways to enjoy your travels. Remember to relax, maintain your pleasant demeanor, and enjoy the experience of meeting someone new and getting to know them a little better. It only starts with a small talk that requires knowing the right thing to say in any given situation to connect with people.
If you want to learn more about Travel English or practice to hone your conversation skills, our tutors can help you speak more fluently and confidently.