How a young Chinese woman discovered
that Chinese are friendly and open
How well do we know strangers?
It seems a strange questions to ask, right? Because a stranger, by definition, is someone we don't know. Regardless, we've already generalized about strangers. In the USA we've even got a "proverb" that says, "Stranger, danger."
I'm the stranger expert
I suggest that I'm somewhat of an expert on strangers. For over seven years now (2021) in Kunming, China, I've invited strangers into my home by placing a simple ad on the Internet. In most weeks between two-to-five strangers will show up at my door for a one-to-two hour let's-get-to-know-each-other conversation. I've visited with well over 2,500 strangers this way. Many Chinese, knowing that I was doing this, asked me, "Aren't you frightened that you'll meet a bad man?" I've always replied, "If it happened, I never found out about it."
Riki is my interpreter
Riki, twenty-two, will be starting graduate school as statistics major. She agreed to be my interpreter for a two-day weekend holiday I recently took here in Kunming. She helped me check into an Airbnb in a section of the city I had never visited, a 30-minute taxi ride from my home.
My meeting-strangers-on-the-street holiday
Her job was to be my guide/interpreter. We would meander together down this street and that and into a few parks. I would approach almost anyone who wasn't walking somewhere quickly and ask, "Hello, may I talk with you for a few minutes?" Riki was by my side interpreting for me.
For the hundred-plus people we approached in those two days, sometimes two or three together, we did not get a single refusal. Then I would say, "I'm on holiday in Kunming. What are you doing in Kunming?" The conversation would proceed from there. At the conclusion of talking with each (former) stranger, I would say to them, "Even though I am on holiday in Kunming this weekend, I also live in Kunming." Then I would give them my card in case they might like to stay in touch. And I would often ask if I could take their photo or we could have a photo together. We got only one refusal with that request.
Riki's surprising discovery
As we were finishing up our two days together, Riki and I took a few minutes to share back and forth about our experiences before each of us returned to our homes. I asked her, "What parts of these two days did you like? Was there anything that you learned?"
Riki said that, before we approached any particular person, they often appeared as dour and unapproachable to her. Yet, once we started talking with them, she was surprised at how friendly and interesting they were.
What would it add to your life if...
What would it add to your life if you treated strangers as if they were already your friend?! What if you acted as if any stranger that you might approach would be happy if you did? What if you saw the world as your playground and everyone else as your playmate or potential playmate? What if you were willing to breathe into your fear and pat yourself on the back for choosing courage to approach strangers in this way? What if...