Thursday, February 11, 2016

Is it OK to talk to strangers?

When I was younger my parents used to tell me "don't talk to strangers", but what I observed them doing was "talk to strangers at every opportunity". This attitude was quite typical in Ireland and it still is a cultural norm.

The Irish Tourist Board is very proud of the fact that surveys of visitors to Ireland report that the people are very friendly. However, the reason for the friendliness is simply a desire to meet strangers.

The reason for this is because Irish culture evolved in a situation where people lived in small villages and everyone knew each other very well In this situation when you met a local person, there was a good chance that you already knew a lot about that person's life so it is not surprising that the conversation might tend to be a little boring. In contrast, on the rare occasions when you met a stranger/tourist you made a special effort to speak to that stranger because it would be an interesting conversation where you might learn something new.

So you see the famous Irish friendliness is in fact just a way to relieve the boredom of living in what until recently used to be a very mono-cultural society.

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