I want to share a little trick I have learned in my travels. Â When you are traveling, you meet a lot of people and the first things you learn about someone are their names and where they are from. Â I also found this as a freshman undergrad at Macalester. Â There were so many people at Mac from all over the world that you truly wanted to find out where people were from in case it was somewhere you never even knew existed! Â It turns out people have quite a bit of pride and love for their home city, state, or country.
I even noticed this in myself! I started saying that I was from St. Louis, “Missourah”, home of Nelly, the Cardinals, the Arch, Ragtime, the Show Me state, etc. I started to believe that St. Louis was probably the best place ever to have grown up.
Given that so many people must feel this way, someone’s home becomes an important idea that you can connect with. I would offer that “home” as part of their identity can be almost as important as their own name.
Having traveled and lived all over the US, Australia, and Europe, I know my fair share of local culture and regional attributes. I also spent my younger years memorizing the world atlas. This gives me a huge extra boost when finding a common ground to identfy with new friends.
If you want to make instant friends, all you need to do if find out where someone is from and get them talking about it. If you give the slightest indication that you have been to Dublin or know where Kiev is or that you have a second cousin that used to go whale watching off Japan, you can bet the other person will become instantly engaged (not necessarily married yet). This signals to your new friend that you really care about them and want to hear about their life. The special bonus is that if you haven’t been somewhere, you can live vicariously through that persons stories, or even get some great travel tips for the first time you do go to South Africa.
So go out and just try asking your new acquaintance where they are from. You will get some really positive reactions. After I learn where someone is from, I sometimes like to follow up with “Oh, you don’t have much of an accent”, or “Oh so that is where you accent is from.” Both of which usually lead to further discussion, finding a new drinking buddy, and eventually world peace!