I can clearly remember learning all about 'Stranger Danger' when I was about 6 or 7. A stranger was any adult I didn't know. Strangers were scary people who were always coming up with clever and cunning plans to steal me on my walk home from school. Never mind that I didn't ever walk home from school, I was taught that's when they were going to strike! I was so paranoid about strangers - even women, because I was that weird 6 year old who read newspapers and knew all about Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. The first word I remember looking up in a dictionary is 'garotte'.
With this in mind, it's taken me a long time to unlearn the paranoid lesson here and replace it with a sensible approach to life. You see, after moving to the other side of the world, I've learned you should ALWAYS talk to strangers! I don't mean it exactly like it sounds and we should all be running around shouting at each other and trying to engage in conversation with every person we should meet (but Jesus, London! A friendly smile every now and then wouldn't go astray!) But I think the lesson we all need to learn is that (with common sense) we should absolutely not be afraid to talk to strangers!
Just since I have been in London, I have had some amazing adventures with complete strangers!
When I was on my way to Berlin to meet friends from high school, I was travelling alone. My flight left so early that I was actually forced to catch the last bus to the airport and wait until 6.25am when my flight departed. As I arrived at the bus stop, I saw some others with suitcases and asked them if I was at the right stop. A lone girl and a lone guy said I was. When the bus arrived, I started chatting to the girl behind me in line - asking where she was off to. We sat next to each other on the bus and chatted for over an hour. We were both waiting for early morning flights so I asked her if she'd like to set up a camp with me on the floor of the airport. I said I had chocolate and Red Bull and she offered some chips (crisps for my UK friends). As we got off the bus, I stood beside the lone guy from the bus stop. So I told him of our plans and invited him to join us. He eagerly agreed and when we were settled, he bought us all hot chocolates. It was a fun six hours. The girl was able to get some sleep knowing her stuff wouldn't get stolen and the guy and I chatted about Italy and travel. We had breakfast together when the airport shops opened and at 6.25am, I caught my flight leaving behind Roxy and Francesco, my new friends!
|Roxy, me and Francesco in Stansted airport|
When I arrived in Berlin, I had over 24 hours to spend on my own. I made my way to my hostel and steadfastly refused to sleep and risk wasting a second in this new, amazing city. So I took a bus tour and saw some incredible sights. I had already decided I would be pushing myself so had bought a ticket to the Fun. concert. Stupidly, I misread 2100 as 7pm and arrived two hours early for the show. I joined the queue of excited Fun. fans and kept my ear out for a chance to talk to someone. Sadly, I was thwarted by my lack of a second language as everyone around me spoke German or French so I just waited. And waited.
Finally the gates opened but all people with online tickets had to present their tickets at a booth behind us in the line. The group of girls behind me gathered all their tickets into one pile and passed it to the closest girl who went to hand the whole stack over in one go. On a whim, I tapped one girl on the shoulder and pushed my ticket towards her. "Could you do mine too, please?" I begged. She handed my ticket on to her friend and turned back to me. In very good English she asked me why I was by myself!! Turns out of the three girls, two spoke very good English! The other spoke both French and German. The girls asked if I'd like to watch the concert with them. They shared their Pepsi, held my place while I bought my tour shirt and took photos to pass the time. We had a blast!
They stayed behind to hunt autographs from the band. I was forced to drag my poor body that had been awake for near on 42 hours by then back to the hostel leaving behind Carole-Ann, Lea and Celine, my new friends!
|Carole-Ann, me, Lea and Celine at the Fun. concert|
In my hostel, Simon, one of my high school friends had finally arrived and after a big day, we were in our bunks resting. A nice guy who was staying in our room started chatting to us and ended up inviting us out for drinks. Well, Simon was too tired but I was determined to have fun. After all...
So we wondered down the road from our hotel chatting. He was Brazilian and had seen quite a few European countries. We traded stories of our adventures and compared notes on our home countries. He bought a round of drinks and I bought the next round. The next day, Andrew, my other friend from high school arrived. Simon and I waved to him from the hostel room window as we saw him approach. Then we decided to hide in the bathroom while the Brazilian pretended to have booked out the whole room for his birthday and convinced Andrew he was in the wrong room. He played the part perfectly and I still laugh thinking about poor, confused Andrew while Simon and I stifled giggles in the bathroom. Then the four of us went out for dinner! It was fantastic, but he had to leave to go to the next country that morning. But when Fred left, we waved goodbye to our new friend!
|Andrew, me, Simon and Fred at the hostel bar|
The next night everyone from room 505 at the hostel was having drinks. I went downstairs to get something from the room. On my way back up, I noticed the button for calling the down elevator was crooked so I tried to straighten it - accidentally pressing it. When the doors opened for no reason, a girl was standing there by herself. I apologised for pressing the button. She said it was ok and she was trying to decide if she should go to the bar or the lobby. I said 'the bar! Come on! Come back up with me!' So she did. I have never got along with a girl so quickly and so well. We were chatting about everything and sharing stories. She was American, travelling Europe. I sadly learned she wouldn't be going through London but we swapped Facebook details and hung out all night! I know she will gladly host me in New Jersey and she knows she is welcome in London anytime! My biggest regret of the whole Berlin trip (which will one day be rectified) is I didn't get a photo with Jennifer, my new friend.
Then there is the pinnacle of these stories. The absolute epitome of why you should always welcome a friendly stranger in to your life. Matt, my best friend in all of Europe! All of the Northern hemisphere in fact!
|Zombie Marilyn Monroe and Tony Stark|
I met Matt in a pub when I was with my brother. The series of little coincidences that lead to our actual meeting is astounding considering how much he has affected my life here in London. As much as falling off my scooter sucked, if I hadn't of I would not have met Matt as I would have been at work that day instead of testing out my recovery with a small day out before returning to work the very next day. We met when he called my brother out for making fun of the way Americans write the date backwards. We started chatting and nearly two hours later, swapped Twitter details. Matt came to visit me after my shift the next day and we went out to London Dungeon the week after. We've pretty much seen each other every week since. I introduced him to football and made him a Liverpool fan and he in turn taught me about baseball and made me a St. Louis Cardinals fan. For Christmas I bought him a Liverpool jersey and he bought me a Cardinals one. I took him to his first EPL game and one day, he will take me to my first MLB game.
|Me and Matt at Anfield|
When I went to LA last year, he arranged for his sister (who is an incredible girl who I am lucky to call a friend!) to play tour guide for me on my first night alone. We got on so well that I left Disneyland early to spend my last day with her before heading back to London.
|Me and Matt's sister Boo in LA|
When his sister visited recently, we spent heaps of time together taking in the sights of London.
|Matt, me and Boo on the River Thames|
Matt asked me to join a co-ed softball team with him and now we play every week. I have in turn made some more amazing friends on the team who I hang out with outside of softball.
|Evan, Matt, me, Kieran, Krista, Aneil and Sam|
Just some of the Basejumpers softball team!
I've also met Matt's other sister and even his Mum. Matt has hung out with my dad and was even with us when he visited his childhood home for the first time in 50 years. One day soon I am going to go to America and Matt will show me around his parts. I hope he comes to Australia so I can teach him how to throw a boomerang and wrestle his first croc.
I was talking to a friend from my softball team and he seemed shocked to find out how Matt and I met. But without that friendly act nine months ago, I wouldn't have even been having that conversation with a softball teammate. I have had some amazing adventures and these are only some of them. I love my life in London and the people I have met are a huge part of that.
And it's all because I ALWAYS talk to strangers.
Miss SAMawdsley xx
- Have you had some amazing adventures with strangers?
- Have you ever made friends with a stranger?
- Has talking to a stranger ever gone wrong for you?