I am in Portugal, alone, attending a conference and spending my birthday week in style. I have to add, that I miss Petit Joel like crazy (did I just type this for real) but I enjoy every second here in Porto. What an amazing, beautiful and charming, laid-back, chaotic city. I am exploring and testing new food which is so much fun and yum. My favourite so far is Pastel de Nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart. Combine with a cup of coffee and a good book= perfection.
Or this traditional Portuguese soup (Caldo Verde):
I don’t even mention that the ocean is almost empty due to the amount of fish I eat. So fresh and good. Diet soon.
I mentioned that I am here alone. So wherever I go and sit down or wait, there seems to be this commiseration which almost is like a sign of survival for some people. Since I am here, I bonded with many women and men over different weird things that I lost track. For example insane long lines at a Pastel de Nata bakery where I turned around to look at other people in line and then made the head/eyes upward movement to wait for agreement how terrible it is to wait that long. Waiting for agreement? Maybe. This is communication, too. Why do I have this urge to emotionally connect with other people? Why do other people? Maybe because I am woman? I don’t know why but whenever the right moment comes along I have this urge to interact or connect with strangers. It is just this instinct to bond with a person close to me who is also happy, surprised, lost (like today at the beginning of the conference), upset (also at the beginning of the conference) or confused (see above). I want to share some other propensities of connecting with others and how I break the “we-are-no-longer-strangers-stage” and small talk starts.
Waiting in front of a conference room, at a bus/train station or overall waiting for something that is delayed. Nothing brings people together talking more frequently. Being stuck in an elevator? It takes usually a couple of seconds until the other prisoners start talking to me. Also, anything that is confusing creates conversations. Looking for an entrance (like I did this morning) instantly creates a new family.
Extremely insane slow or long lines in a store. Being in a store and the person all the way in front pulls out a checkbook or purse full of vouchers and coupons. Great conversation starter right there.
A loud, sudden, crazy sound out of nowhere. I look around where the sound came from or jump in surprise. Many times the source of the sound will never be discovered.
Always: Women’s bathroom at bars or clubs. Especially, when and if drunk. It always surprises me what is exchanged and said in women’s bathrooms but it explains why they always go to the bathroom together. Why? I don’t know. I never did it intentionally.
The weather. What is the best conversation starter ever if you have nothing else to say? Yep, the weather. Most likely I get a response if I say how disgustingly hot, wet or cold it is. Any mutual discomfort is a great way for strangers to interact. If I sweat like crazy and the stranger is: bonus points.
On the plane. I have already written about it here but want to add that the flight to Porto was a mayhem of turbulence. Turbulence on a plane create friendships. Also, great landings (German people usually clap), bad/good food on the plane or this amazing feeling that the 8-hour flight is finally over.
Closed or closing stores. I immediately bond with the people waiting outside. People share my irritation and everyone who waits unites against the one and only enemy, the closing store.