Traveling solo can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Being on your own means that you get to choose your own adventure and explore new and interesting places at your own leisurely pace. However, it also means that you’ll have to navigate unfamiliar social situations all by yourself. One of the best ways to meet new people during your travels is by going to bars and restaurants. Here are some tips to help you socialize and make new friends.
1. Know your audience
Before approaching strangers, it’s important to take note of the people around you. Observe their behavior and the vibe of the place they’re in. Some bars and restaurants cater to people who want to have a quiet dinner, while others may be more lively and suitable for socializing. Knowing the type of crowd will help you approach the right people and increase your chances of making a connection.
2. Be approachable
If you want others to be open to talking to you, make sure you appear friendly and approachable. Smile, make eye contact, and avoid staring at your phone or book. Bring a prop like a unique piece of jewelry, a fun accessory or wear interesting clothes that can make people start conversations. Putting out the right body language and energy will help attract people to you.
3. Start with a compliment
Starting a conversation can be daunting, but a genuine compliment can go a long way. If you focus on something you like about the person or the place you’re at, and share that appreciation, it will let them know that you’re friendly and interested in getting to know them more. However, always make sure that your compliments are specific and sincere. Otherwise, they may come off as insincere or give false hope.
4. Offer to share
If you’re seated at a communal table, you can start a conversation with the people around you by offering to share some food or drink. It’s a small gesture that can lead to a lively conversation about different cuisines, drinks or local recommendations. However, make sure to respect other people’s preferences and dietary requirements, and always ask politely. For instance, you can say, “Hey, would you like to try some of this? I’m afraid I ordered too much!”
5. Ask for recommendations
When you’re new in town or unsure what to order, ask the staff or other patrons for their recommendations. People love to share their favorite bar or restaurant and may even offer to join you. It’s also a chance to show that you’re open to trying new things, and can lead to interesting conversations about local culture and history. For instance, you can say, “Excuse me, I’m from out of town! What’s your favorite dish on the menu?”
6. Play a game
If the place you’re at has games or activities such as pool, darts or trivia, it can be a great way to bond with others and show off your competitive side. Not only will you be engaging in a fun activity, but you’ll also be spending time with potential new friends. Just make sure that you don’t get too competitive or obnoxious towards others, and always remember the rules.
7. Avoid controversial topics
Small talk is good, but some topics are best avoided in polite company. Avoid subjects that may be divisive, such as religion, politics, or ex-partners. Instead, stick to light and positive subjects such as hobbies, travel, movies, or music. Not only are they easier to talk about, but it’s also a chance to discover new interests and passions.
8. Listen actively
Active listening is a crucial aspect of having meaningful conversations. When someone is talking to you, give them your full attention. Ask open-ended questions, clarify their points, and show empathy by acknowledging their feelings. Don’t interrupt or dominate the conversation, and avoid checking your phone or watch. Remember, listening is just as important as speaking.
9. Respect boundaries
Not everyone is open to making new friends or socializing with strangers. If someone gives you signals that they don’t want to talk or spend time with you, respect their boundaries gracefully. It’s important not to take it personally, as there could be many reasons why they might want to be alone. Don’t get defensive, rude or pushy by insisting that they talk to you, instead move on to the next person and enjoy your own company.
10. Say goodbye gracefully
As the night progresses, it’s always a good idea to say goodbye to your newly found friends graciously. You can express gratitude for their time and company and feel free to exchange contact information if you wish to stay connected. However, be respectful of their privacy, and avoid being too pushy about it. You never know, you might run into them again, and if not, you still had a great night out socializing with strangers.