Talking to strangers in a café is not as terrifying as it sounds. Hi! My name is Dario, and I wrote a guest article for all you café goers in Tallinn.
Why me? Well, I spend a large chunk of my time in cafés. Every day, actually. The first thing I do after my morning routine is to get out of the house and visit a café. It started with working remotely as a software developer in cafés and being surrounded by people. Over time, it turned into a habit that I don’t want to quit.
How to talk to strangers in a café
In terms of coffee, I always order the same thing, and when it’s the first café visit of the day, I always go to the same place. There’s a simple reason: staff will remember you quickly, and you will feel like a part of the community because you become a part of the place.
Of all the different coffee drinks, I find Americano the best. Here is why:
- With virtually no calories, it fits with every diet and fasting regime
- Coming in a large cup, it’s something you drink for 10 to 15 minutes, creating a space for just sitting there and enjoying
- It’s usually less expensive than drinks that include some kind of milk
Over time, cafés turned into spaces that I use to make new connections with people. You get to know the other regulars at the place, and by essentially becoming part of the furniture, you become a familiar sight for other people who visit the café.
Usually, people go to a café for a break in their day, which means that most people are approachable.
My experience with talking to strangers in a cafe
Approaching people became a valuable part of my life: in 2019, I found myself with not much of a social life left. I decided to tackle this problem by challenging myself to talk to one new person every single day. Saying Hello to a stranger would count, but I had to make every day count. Every single one, until I got the feeling that I understood how this works.
Over 100 people later, I felt I got it and stopped the challenge. What stayed was the habit.
Nowadays I’m happy to chat with anybody at a café. Of course, I try to be careful not to disturb people who are visibly focused on something, but that’s a surprisingly small number of people.
Over time, I’ve had many great interactions.
What kind of people did I meet while talking to strangers in a café?
I met a former startup employee who is now working on bringing Growth Marketing to Estonia through his own agency. We started a conversation after I approached another regular at my favourite café, who was so busy he didn’t hear me. Luckily, somebody else did!
Another time, a man with the most amazing long, curly hair and an exquisite, thick moustache entered the café. I promptly asked him what he was doing to take care of his hair. We ended up chatting for an hour on the spot: he’s 40 years old and now studying again. He claims that spending time with people much younger than himself opened him to new perspectives and enriched his life.
You rarely see people reading physical books. So, when I see one, I usually ask the reader about the book they are reading, what made them choose this particular book and so on. One time, my question fell on deaf ears, but the person sitting next to the reader said she was not reading, but translating a book. A long conversation about language, culture and the challenges of translation ensued.
One of the people I’ve known for the longest time in Tallinn, I met in a café. He was making a joke while ordering, and I stood in line behind him. I jumped in on that joke, and we started talking. We’re still friends, 7 years later.
My recent favourite interaction was when I complimented a guy on the choice of his coat. The conversation quickly escalated into a one-hour talk about art. His partner also hopped in because both happened to be artists. In what must have been the greatest coincidence this year, they happened to live in a city in the UK where I was supposed to attend the course. Not being able to make the course, I could finally transfer my ticket to somebody who could actually go!
Talking to strangers might seem daunting at first. But we are all humans, and the vast majority of people I approached really appreciate the connection. Besides brightening up a person’s day, it’s a really nice way to get out of your bubble and to get exposed to different beliefs, opinions, and topics.
And sharing a cup of coffee is just the right setting for this, no matter where you go!