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Dealing With Inquisitive Strangers

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Inquisitive Strangers Questions

Travelling anywhere, even just to the next town, will likely bring you in contact with strangers. If you travel further and maybe more 'out of your element' questions from strangers may make you uncomfortable or even fear for your safety. If you are confronted by inquisitive strangers while you travel remember to stay polite, give vague answers and send firm signals when you no longer wish to chat. If all else fails simply remove yourself from the situation.

Stay Polite

Strangers may have any number of reasons for asking you questions about yourself, but whether your instincts are telling you these people are good (if a little irritating) or bad, remember to stay polite. Offering a short answer with a smile and with neutral or positive language will keep anyone from feeling as though you are being aggressive. Needless to say, avoid using swear words or negative slang in your answers, and don’t hesitate to avoid answering all together by saying something like “Oh, who wants to talk about work on holiday?” or “It’s too nice a day to spoil it talking about my rainy home town!” As long as you state your answers in a polite manner no one should have cause to complain.

Give Vague Answers

There is no rule that you must give specific answers when dealing with inquisitive strangers as you travel. In fact, basic safety sense tells you to give vague answers. When confronted with a question like “Where are you from?” an answer like “the UK” or “Wales” is just fine. Remember, strangers don’t deserve answers to their questions just because they ask them. Most often you’ll be able to give a vague answer which they would have discovered anyway (carrying a UK passport, a Welsh accent, etc) so at the end of the day you won’t be sharing any thing new about yourself. You can also feel free to tell untruths if you are feeling threatened, such as that you are travelling with a partner even when you are not, or that you your next stop is Vietnam even if it’s really Singapore. Just make sure that if you do lie to a stranger you are reasonably certain you will not see them again and your lie will not be discovered.

Send Firm Signals

If you don’t want to chat with inquisitive strangers at all, send firm signals that you have other activities on your mind. Pick up a guide book, tell them that you’re excited to listen to the podcast you’ve been saving, mention that you would like to continue your novel during lunch or excuse yourself and let it be known that you are going to take pictures out of the coach window or write your journal during the train ride. If you hope to discourage strangers from chatting at all during a flight or ride, simply smile, say something alone the lines of “have a nice flight” and turn back to your preferred activity. It may be that a stranger just won’t stop talking, in which case avoiding having to answer questions by turning them back on that person may be a good option, or a direct approach such as “I’m sorry, I’m not feeling well and would prefer not to chat” may be best.

Remove Yourself from the Situation

Trust your instincts as you travel, and if they tell you to get away from an inquisitive stranger don’t worry about being overly polite while doing so. Having to be somewhere else in just a few minutes, needing to speak with a tour guide quietly, deciding you’ve had enough to drink rather than settling in for the evening, placing an urgent phone call or email or even just desiring a nap are all enough to get you away from a situation without making it obvious that you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t see a way out of a situation, consider bringing someone else (a tour guide, another group member, a member of the cabin crew) into it so that you feel less isolated.

Dealing with inquisitive strangers is often a part of travelling. If you find yourself fielding questions from strangers remember to be polite, give vague answers, send firm signals that you don’t wish to chat and remove yourself from any situation which makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

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