These are the six standard ice-breaking questions that I hear when travelling...
1. "Where are you from?"
- the most popular question, usually answered with a country, and then - "Whereabouts in Umpalumpaland?" - "No I mean exactly" - the most persistant questioners are usually those from your homeland.
2. "What do you do back home?"
- or if following from question 1. - "What do you do in Umpalumpaland?", variations are usually based on some assumptions - "What do you study back home?"
3. "How long have you been travelling?"
- generally one from those on gap years that haven't yet realised that some travellers are addicts and will spend much of their lives travelling. Looking for easy answers like "2 months"...
4. "Have you been here long?"
- the travelling equivilent of "do you come here often?" - often followed up with "where are you staying?"
5. "Where are you going next?"
- this is often followed with "oh - I was just there - you should definetly do the 'cheese factory tour' and stay at 'old toasties guesthouse'".
6. "Where did you just come from?"
- or "where were you before here?"
These questions have there place, a conversation has to start somewhere - and everyone has an answer to these questions...
Any other standard questions that you get asked all the time?
I find that the kitchen is always the hub of conversation in hostels in western countries - there's always an interest displayed in what is being cooked - even my own speciality backpackers meal gained quite a few compliments... Boiled Egg a la Instant Noodles with a Multi-Vitamin Pill for dessert.
I think there were definitely some ice-breaking tactics going on by complimenting that meal.
So my addition to the list... 7. "What Are You Cooking?"
or "That smells good"
Hmm. My response to question one is Canada but then the locals seem to look at me funny, point at my eyes and then ask, 'Korea? Phillipino? Chinese? Japanese?" One time I said Sweden, but that backfired slightly in Agra when this rickshaw driver/tour guide flipped to this review in Swedish and told to me to read it as one of my fellow countrymen had written this glowing review... so therefore I should also take his tour.
My addition to the list (for questions that locals seem to ask me) 8. Are you married/do you have a boyfriend?
anyone travelling in India....
"Your country sir?"
"Your profession sir?"
"Change money sir?"
"Your good name sir?"
Hmm. to add to the India questions, I'd also suggest, "I'll give you good price?"
What was your favourite country? Normally asked by non travellers or anyone trying to be polite, but frankly couldn't care less. Have experimented with several responses - generally all anyone wants to hear is that their country was your favourite.
Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Positive response will often be a conversation stopper. Negative response may land you a stalker for the duration of your hostel stay.
How old are you? Response will either inspire anyone younger to start treating you like their mother, or anyone older to tell you about what they did/where they travelled at your age.
My least favourite? What's it like travelling alone? As a girl? Is that safe? Followed by - 'man you're brave' .... since when did having the funds and motivation to travel the world become brave?! (See my Bosnia blog for my thoughts on this!)
When I was travelling for a length of time at 18 - a few who found out my age would automatically treat you as though you knew nothing and had experienced nothing compared to them (usuallly those who had reason to treat you like this wouldn't....) - that you were the perfect fit for the stereotype gap year backpacker.
Then there were those who'd decide you were far too young to be travelling alone and would start acting like your mother!
Which is worse - being thought of as a mother figure or mothered unneccesarilly? (Unless science takes a few leaps I won't ever be able to comment on the first.)
When in Japan a commonly asked question followed by a pause and a blank expression from those who arent so obsessed with everything to do with health- Whats your blood type? and after youve paused blankly, unable to offer even a guess the questioners will proceed to discuss what blood type they think you are- much like a star sign!!!
I've grown to love the "preliminaries" or "tourist foreplay" as me and a coworker have grown to call it. There's no denying it's one of the most monotonous thing you can ever go through, but as a tourguide it's fun. After a while you kind of figure out who you're going to be friends with, and not to be rude to the ones you're not, but it's fun to screw with them. The other day i was a pro skater and there's been times where i just can't be bothered and a sturdy "aliens brought me here" will suffice.
I also deal with the age thing, but after a while it just rolls off your back. I've been over here a year and a half since i was 17, i don't really appreciate people judging me just on my age. But sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, i've just learned to pick my friends better.
in closing though, i still love the intro questions. no one even remembers your name over here, just where your from or job description...it's sometimes more important to people.
Matt - you're absolutely right - it's just as bad being treated like a child by older more experienced travelers. I don't ask anyone's age anymore. I've found that age doesn't equal maturity or an interesting person anyway. In fact, the coolest people I've met have often been the 60-something backpackers or the just out of school ones - they always seem to be the most enthusiastic, which is somewhat infectious!
The most common question I've got traveling around from State to State here in the US is What Brings You Here?
where one can be honest or can have some fun with responses like: "YOU!" Than laugh like a maniac or "In Soviet Russia Here Brings You!" Another question that is often asked on very long road trips is (usually asked by fellow travelers in a waking whisper) Where the hell are we?
In urban Thailand, I would add:
"Ping Pong Show?"
"Hadsome man, you want boom-boom?"
The serious answer, though: "Which places have you been?"
and "Are you beginning or ending your trip?"
I hear those a lot.
How do you afford to stay travelling for so long?
this is the most retarded question that i get asked constantly. my response is i dont. i am usually couchsurfing or working a live in job. thats how.
and another one:
I wish I had the money / guts / etc to do that!
people just dont realise how little money it takes to get started, and how easy it becomes once you have started! Its usually just the guts factor.
Another classic is:
"What are you going to do when you finish?"
Erm I dunno that is part of the reason I went travelling! For some people the classic question before I came to China/ It was also commonly said when I told people I had been to India or was going to India was.....
"Why did/are you go/ing there?"
This one really gets my goat......why bloody not?!?!?!?
You lot are well ace, wish I could meet your for bevvies! Funny as.
On a similar note, you've got to remember that it's all down to the insecurity of each individual. "Tourist foreplay" as one of you put it; spot on that! But it's not exclusive to the world of travelling. What do fresh faced students chat about when they turn up for their first semester? Similar things.
I think it's all down to envy and fear.
"You're going where? -Oh, you're so lucky"
No. -lucky doesn't come into it. What comes into it is a visa and a willingness to work your arse off and not go out for six months before you go away.
Either that or when you say "Oh, -i'm going to Nepal in December" they go "oh my god, that's far!" -yes, it is. -And?
lol...-peope are funny.
I am a group travel organizer. So I get paid to take luxury vacations with people. I also get paid to scout out new locations. So the number one question that I get is "how did you get started?" and "can I work for you?"