In some ways I admire my dad. He's the kind of person who will talk to anyone and everyone he encounters. When I was younger I always thought he was embarrassing, weird, and I just wanted to leave; but now I wish I were as brave as him. I wish I could make conversation with waiters at restaurants, or talk rugby with the uni boys kicking balls in the park, or simply find out more about people because they're fascinating. I wish I were able to sit in a bar and talk for twenty minutes with a stranger, with no clue of who he is until he reveals that the concert he was at was in fact his own, and that he happens to be a singer your wife is a fan of - true story.
What I've realised lately is that people have problems with talking to strangers. It's so unusual and this generations tends to relate strangers to kidnappers and rapists. We can't accept that sometimes people talk for the sake of having a conversation. You don't need to want something or be friends, or colleagues, or even have a mutual friend. Not too long ago a conversation simply depended who was at the same place at the same time (from what I've seen on TV anyway). So what happened? Why are we all so rigid and awkward?
My koong koong (grandfather on mum's side) came to visit us from Malaysia just a few days ago, and I found that my dad isn't the only one. Leave Koong Koong alone for a few minutes and he'll already be asking some family where they're from. And the funny thing is, the families are always super friendly. As soon as a country is mentioned he rattles off knowledge of the place, crafting the conversation around their culture, in the same way my dad does with every single waiter who's ever served us. I don't understand how they became so worldly, but I know I want to be like that too.
I've decided I'm going to try. I'll never be able to go up to any sort of stranger and spark a conversation, but there's always the people you want to say something to but don't, because they're a stranger. For example, the girl in the bookshop who's looking straight at your favourite books, wondering what to buy. You know you could give her the perfect recommendations and plot sypnoses, but you're too scared.
It's like Vincent, the non-Asian/Asian stranger from last summer. We had a long running inside joke about what shouldn't have been that big a deal. Even he made it seem like a big deal when he sat next to us. What shouldn't have been weird at all was perceived as extremely weird because that's this generation's mentality. We only talk to our family, friends at school, people at co-curriculars, and people we work with. Nobody makes a friend by going up to them in the middle of the mall, and that's fine, but we shouldn't be scared to talk to each other. I think I want to be a Vincent, no matter how strange it may seem.
The last conversation I had with a stranger was my hairdresser. This was unusual because normally I awkwardly sit while whoever's cutting my hair goes about their job in silence. But you learn something from everyone, and she taught me the logistics of getting a tattoo, which is information I may need in the future. In the same way, I learn a little from every new person I meet at work. I learn what life is like under their circumstances, new things to enjoy doing, and all these people are still within my demographic. I wonder what life's like for those so different to me. Maybe this is how my dad and Koong Koong became so worldly.
With what I learn at school being predictable as hell, and the amount of new experiences available to me limited, I guess talking to people is the best way to gain knowledge. I'm aware that my true self is pretty socially awkward around new people unless I make a conscious effort, and reading articles and blogs could suffice, but I reckon we should all make an effort to talk to more people. We all want to expand our minds.