Anyone else forgotten how to talk to strangers? | Matt Mohan-Hickson

How do you talk to strangers?

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 8:41 am
Bonfire and fireworks display in Cosham at the King George V playing fields, November 6, 2019. Picture: Habibur Rahman

This is not a rhetorical question, I mean it genuinely. Because it certainly feels like I have totally forgotten how to interact with new people.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how the last year-plus has played out.

You don’t need me to replay the highlights of the pandemic era. But it is safe to say that it hasn’t exactly been a good time for working on social skills.

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I think until recently, I could probably count the number of actual real life humans I had spoken to on my fingers. Which was basically limited to my housemates, my girlfriend, occasionally my parents and staff at the supermarket asking if I wanted a bag.

So now we are out and about again and being social – I feel incredibly rusty.

What are you supposed to say to people you haven’t met before? Hello? Should I introduce myself first or ask their names?

I am probably being a bit flippant and belabouring the point – but it still feels very odd to actually be meeting people out in the real world.

Over the weekend, I went to a party with my partner and some of her new university friends and it just felt extremely awkward.

It was a bunch of people who barely knew each other, trying to work out ways to communicate with each other and make things less cringeworthy.

The obvious answer in this case was to drink plenty of alcohol and play drinking games. But this can’t be the solution for every time you find yourself in a social situation post-pandemic.

Or at least it shouldn’t be, lest we all end up as alcoholics – which does not sound like a particularly appealing fate.

The start of a party where the majority of people didn’t know each other would have been quite an awkward few moments even before we lost a year of social interaction.

Without the shared experience that comes from being part of a social group, you don’t have the old jokes to fall back on or the collective social shorthand to kick start the conversation.

I have become so used to interacting with people I already know how to communicate with that I have forgotten what it was exactly like to meet new faces.

It’s been at least five years since my last fireworks display

I actually can’t remember the last time I saw fireworks.

There is a vague memory of going to a display in Ware, Hertfordshire, in 2016 – but I can’t remember if I have been to one since.

One of my housemates had a bunch of fireworks in his cupboard in the kitchen for over a year, always suggesting he would go to a park and set them off but never actually doing it.

So, I have resolved to go down to the Cosham fireworks show this year - after missing out on the November spectacular for so long, I should make the most of it while I can.

Hopefully it will be more than worth the long wait between my last firework display.

But as long as the weather holds out, it should be thoroughly spectacular.

Buying beer in Norway has given my the six-pack blues

Have you ever made a purchase that you instantly feel like passing out from shock?

It has only happened to me a handful of times so far in my 28 years on this earth. There was the time I bought a shower mat from Debenhams in Southsea and when it was rung up at the counter it cost 40 quid, I was too stunned to say anything.

And now over the weekend – I ended up paying the equivalent of 17 British pounds for six cans of Heineken. Six cans.

Sure, I was away in Norway for the weekend and picking up beers for the aforementioned party and I was already aware that alcohol is more expensive there than I am used to.

But for it to cost £17 for just six cans of beer? I nearly fainted.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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