Good conversations (often about culture, politics) in other countries?
March 24, 2007 5:55 PM   Subscribe

When vacationing in a new country for a few weeks, what are the best ways to find interesting, thoughtful people with whom to have conversations (including but not exclusively about that country's culture, politics, etc.)? Would you recommend some kind of volunteer or more organized cultural learning expedition to serve this aim?
posted by Malad to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A bar.... seriously.
posted by fire&wings at 5:59 PM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

public transportation
posted by nonmyopicdave at 6:21 PM on March 24, 2007

I think f-wing nailed it--- find a comfortable bar in a pleasant part of town and just be yourself. Americans find "foreigners" fascinating, just as "foreigners" will find an American a novelty.
posted by Dizzy at 7:04 PM on March 24, 2007

I just walked up to people in bars... and talked to them.
posted by Netzapper at 8:30 PM on March 24, 2007

It depends on the culture really. A bar or coffee/tea shop are good. If you are in an islamic country, a bar might not be filled with locals but a cafe or coffee shop would be. Walking through a park or going into a cafe I've met a lot of great people. Just shopping in a supermarket I've met cool people too. Just ask around to find out where the locals go. Get off the beaten tourist path.

If you are in a non english-speaking country, a lot of times if people find you non-threatening they will enjoy practicing their english with you. You should learn a few phrases in their native language first though because that is what will open people up to wanting to talk to you. If they see that you are making an effort, then they are more likely to make one as well.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:53 PM on March 24, 2007

And if you're in the UK, there's really just one top answer: PUB.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:54 PM on March 24, 2007

What everyone else said. Assuming that "interesting, thoughtful people" isn't some middle class code for "exclusively well educated" the answer is: the pub.

Exception to this rule: Northern Ireland. In which case, very much not the pub.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:36 PM on March 24, 2007

I'm going to break with the theme in answers here, as much as I like bars and pubs, and suggest joining Servas. Servas is an NGO set up to further world peace through international travel, and the way it works is you sign up as a traveller (or a host), and stay in people's houses for two days. The idea is that you stay in someone's home and help out and find out how the natives really live. There's a definite leaning towards the laid back pacifist type in the organisation, but in my opinion, that's no bad thing. When travelling, you get the book of addresses for that country, and choose people who you think you might get on with (profession, ages, interests, languages spoken are all listed). It's not really organised though, because you then just phone/email and ask if it's ok for you to stay for a few days.
posted by handee at 1:57 AM on March 26, 2007

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