Once upon a time, a commenter on this blog mentioned it can be easier to make friends abroad because in other countries it isn’t weird to park it in an empty chair at a coffee shop, even if there is already someone sitting at the table. Sharing a table in a crowded European pub or restaurant is friendly, rather than the American personal-space invading.
During my trip to London I’ve witnessed this firsthand. On Sunday night I saw a couple ask another couple if they could sit with them, even though the other couple was quite obviously in the middle of dinner. It seemed quite weird. I don’t know that I’d want strangers blatantly interrupting a dinner with my husband. (And to be clear, these weren’t tourists, these were just regular locals eating dinner). But as the night went on, the couples chatted a bit, and seemed friendly enough. I don’t think they’re necessarily going to call each other at home, but it was certainly one way to attack the whole couple-friending blind date issue.
As we watched the couple crash a dinner table, my friend and I dissected the situation. She thought it was a bit odd, too, but explained that—just as that commenter once said—such an encounter is much less unusual in London that it would be in, say, New York City.
I wonder what it is about us Americans. Are we just more protective of our personal space? Are we more private? More wary of strangers? Ruder?
Have you noticed that strangers are more willing to share space and chat outside of America? Or am I reading too much into this? If it is true… why?