Buenos! Let’s rock those communication skills!
Why and what for such a subject? I’m well aware that not everyone is a great mixer and excels at making acquaintances, especially knowing that in a while we will all go our separate ways and never see each other again. Some people find smalltalk nothing but natural, have it with radiant smile on their face and never experience awkward silence. Others, however, find it torture and use lots of energy to think of a subject, engage in chit chat and keep the conversation going. If such distress is accompanied by a feeling of pointlessness (I won’t keep in touch with this person anyway, so why bother?), the task gets even tougher. Today’s tips are for you, dear introvert!
You need to keep in mind that hitchhiking is a sort of a tie-in deal: somebody offers you a ride, but expects to learn something interesting or to be kept company. I’d say that 2-5% of drivers who pick up hitchhikers go for silence. It’s our job to sense whether the driver wants to talk and if they prefer to listen or be heard.
Nobody should suffer while travelling, therefore, if you don’t feel so comfortable socializing, it would be perfect to pair up with someone who does. Obviously, it’s a huge merit if such person socializes well in a foreign language.
Generally it is possible to communicate in English in many countries, however, chances are that you come across a total language barrier. Don’t give up! Turn on your inner Roberto Benigni: use facial expressions and gesticulation to make yourself understood.
So let’s cut to the chase finally.
Here are some examples of good conversation topics and ones it’s better to avoid.
Don’t bring up politics or religion and duck the questions related to these subjects. Legend has it, that many a hitchhiker were put down after entering a debate. No matter how strong your feelings on the controversial topic, it’s better to respond with an “I haven’t really thought about that” or an “I don’t want to get into this subject”, especially if you don’t agree with what your driver just said.
Typical conversation topics include family (children, their age and occupation), hitchhiking (if it’s a popular way to travel in their country), the driver’s destination (why they are going there, what further plans they have), favourite places (e.g. for spending weekends), hobby, job. Try not to ask to many closed questions (which only require a yes or no answer). Instead, ask additional questions and elaborate on a subject, for instance: Where are you going? And what’s there? Are you going there in business?
Further examples of questions:
- Have you ever hitchhiked yourself?
- Do you often take hitchhikers? Why do you take them?
- What kind of work do you do? Do you enjoy it?
- What do you like doing in your free time?
- Have you ever been to… (your country)? Which places?
Don’t underestimate local knowledge:
– Can you recommend the best/ most picturesque/ most efficient/ cheapest…
- hikes in this park
- places for fishing
- route to…
- places to visit
- places to eat
– What are your favourite places in this area?
– How do you like to travel around …?
You’ll notice it quickly if the driver doesn’t care for chatting or is too stressed about talking in a foreign language. Then, just sit back and admire the views.
When there’s something interesting on the way, why not ask the driver to make a quick stop?
- Sorry, could you stop for a second? It’s beautiful here, we’d love to take a picture/ have a closer look.
Drivers will often ask about yourself and about life in your country. The most common subjects include:
- if you’re married and have kids
- how you like their country/ what you liked most
- how your travel is going and where you’ve been so far
- your accommodation (and other travel details)
- living conditions and average income in your country
- political situation
- topics that make your country famous (for Poland that would be Lewandowski, the Pope, Lech Wałęsa and winter sports) – what are they for your country?
And when nothing seems to work, you can always take the risk and enthusiastically point to the radio 🙂