I always hear older generations say, “It’s a shame that people don’t talk to each other anymore when they’re on public transportation.”
So, today on my flight from Chicago to Madrid, I thought I’d give it a go.
I sat down for the eight hour flight next to a middle-aged woman and quickly realized that she primarily spoke Spanish. I thought to myself, Eh, maybe it will be too hard to talk to a complete stranger in another language. I don’t have to talk to her.
Halfway through the flight I reminded myself that I would be doing exactly that every single day during my study abroad, so it might be a good idea to get a head start now.
The woman next to me was looking at the flight map, so I thought I could ask her if Madrid was her final destination or if she was headed somewhere else. I sat in my sat for five minutes rehearsing the Spanish translation and trying to muster up the courage to ask her.
Finally, I blurted out in Spanish with an awful American accent, “Are you going to Madrid or another city?”
She was super friendly, and very patient with my less than fluent Spanish. We had a half hour long conversation where I told her that I was studying abroad and she shared that she was visiting her children that live in Kentucky.
Our conversation ended by exchanging numbers and her telling me to call her if I ever need anything while in Spain.
Obviously not all airplane conversations will go this well. I’m sure I’ll have some incredibly awkward ones in the future. But, I think it’s always best to try.
Here are a couple reasons I used to convince myself to speak up:
- You’ll likely never see them again! You can make a complete fool of yourself and never be reminded of it in the future.
- If conversation gets awkward, you can pretend to fall asleep. Unfortunately you can’t do this in regular day conversation, which is why it’s great to put yourself out there on airplanes.
- You could learn something new about your destination. Maybe your seatmate is a local and can give you travel tips, or vice versa.
- You may make a meaningful connection that’s useful in the future. Whether business related or personal, having more contacts is never a bad thing.
- If you do embarrass yourself, you’ll have a great story to tell all of your friends. Like maybe, “One time I tried to speak German on a plane and I accidentally called the guy next to me a hamburger instead of asking if he was from Hamburg.”