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Strangers

Not a scam but have seen a few post about peoples' fear of strangers when abroad. This was a few years ago but I decided to share. I had just been to the booking office in Sevilles Santa Justa station to book some tickets for the following week to Malaga. When I left the station i seen and heard two american girls discussing how best to get to the hostel they were staying in, so I asked if they needed any help and where they were meant to be staying. It was the same hostel i was at so i said i am going back there now if you want to come with me, they said yes so we got the bus outside the station to the hostel and got them booked in. The two girls were very grateful that I had helped them after they were unsure of their bearings when they had just arrived in a strange place. They offered to buy me a drink at the hostel I declined and instead bought them one as a welcome to Sevilla.

It felt good knowing that I had helped them out and that they were so grateful, i hope if i was in a similar situation somebody would help me in a similar way. What i am trying to get across is not everybody who tries to help you is trying to scam you and alot of people do genuinely want to help, yes be alert and on your guard if something seems off then just walk away but the vast majority of people IMO our kind helpful people willing to help out tourists who are lost or need help.

Happy Travels

Jay

Posted by
308 posts

Some of my favorite travel memories involve the kindness of strangers!

Good reminder, Jay. It does take a bit of effort to be "open" enough to allow it to happen.

Posted by
924 posts

Love it! Good for you for being the good Samaritan in their hour of need!

Posted by
1845 posts

It's a lovely and heartwarming story, Jay. Nice to read about this kind of "stranger" interaction rather than threatening pickpockets and scams. I particularly agree with what you say in your last paragraph--"not everybody who tries to help you is trying to scam you and alot of people do genuinely want to help, yes be alert and on your guard if something seems off then just walk away but the vast majority of people IMO our kind helpful people willing to help out tourists who are lost or need help." Beautifully said.

Posted by
10797 posts

I think it has a lot to do with you attitude. If you go looking for the good stuff, the good stuff will find you. We get to Europe three times a year and on each and every trip we encounter a random act of kindness. It has become so common that guessing when and where has become part of the ritual of travel.

Posted by
30957 posts

Jay,

I've also been helped by strangers many times during European holidays. I try to pay that forward when I can, and have helped other people to find their accommodations, buy tickets from a Kiosk or whatever. As I travel with a large camera, I'm asked on every trip to take pictures of other travellers (using their own cameras), and I certainly don't mind helping with that. No doubt the people that ask me to take photos can clearly see that my ability to run is about the same as a Pachyderm, so they know I'm not likely to abscond with their camera.

Posted by
440 posts

James E,

Thats nice to hear i do feel that only the negatives make it on here and this is why some people assume that Europe is a big scary place of people trying to fleece you in some way. As well i suppose when you have been helped you leave that place with a much higher opinion than you did before. If you are ever in Liverpool and need help just ask myself I will be more than happy to help or anybody on the street, we Scousers are known for a friendly easy going ways.

Jay

Posted by
440 posts

Ken

It doesn't seem a big gesture offering to take a photo of somebody but from personal experience when you are asked I am so grateful because instead of having photos with somebody missing you can have whoever you are with on it, thus making it a much better photo and memory. I am only 27 but I feel that with the advent of the selfie and the even worse selfie stick asking somebody if they would like their photo taken could get you strange looks. I am more of a traditionalist of taking photos with a good digital camera and getting them printed to either frame or put in an album.

Jay

Posted by
11613 posts

Ken, you made me laugh. Sometimes if I offer to take a photo of someone, I get a once-over like, "I can take her if she runs off with my camera"! A pachyderm would beat me in a footrace.

There was a thread a while back on The Kindness of Strangers, probably closed but available through Search. Many lovely stories.

Posted by
10797 posts

Funny you mention the photography. A few months back I was in Kyiv and my significant other was going to take my picture with Maidan in the background (watch the Netflix documentary “Winter on Fire”). Before I knew it this well dressed gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s approaches and starts criticizing my stance, and my belt is crooked, and take my sunglasses off and …. All with gestures and waving arms; because it was all in Ukrainian. I did as directed, then put my arm around him and pulled him into the picture. Best vacation photo I have ever had.

Not to put a negative twist on any of this, but you can have the liberty to relax, meet people and otherwise enjoy the trip, if you first take some precautions with yourself and your valuables. That kind man in Kyiv could just as easily been after my wallet; but it’s not something I have to worry about because I use a lot of common sense in other regards.

Posted by
741 posts

This isn't in exactly the same vein as the OP's story, but in the same spirit, I hope. My wife, son and I were having dinner at a tiny Italian restaurant in Paris. The seating was very close quarters, as in practically rubbing shoulders, and a young blond man was at the table next to me. When our food came, the young man and I noticed we'd ordered the same shrimp risotto dish. We wished each other "bon appetit" and, as the evening wore on, we struck up a conversation. We learned his name was Sebastian, that he had an apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower, was a regular at the restaurant and was friends with the owner. He told us more about his work and how much he enjoyed living in Paris (he'd moved to the city from a smaller town). We didn't catch everything he said in his heavily accented English, but we all caught the spirit of convivial happenstance to make a happy connection far from home. At the end of the evening, Sebastian bought us after-dinner drinks (a delicious liqueur we'd never heard of) and, strangers no more, we toasted our brief friendship.

We had many wonderful experiences on that trip, but our dinner with Sebastian was truly a memorable highlight.

Posted by
30957 posts

jayhamps,

I rarely offer to take photos of others but am frequently approached by other tourists and asked to take pictures with their photo device of choice. That's probably because I carry a large dSLR, so they assume that I know what I'm doing. They don't seem to mind handing me an iPhone, iPad, P&S camera or dSLR. They no doubt observed that I was unlikely to abscond with their camera.

I recall one occasion when I was having dinner at a rather posh restaurant in Sorrento. There was a honeymoon couple at the next table and I took photos of them a number of times during the meal (at their request). I don't know why that occasion stands out in my mind, as there were many others.

Posted by
382 posts

My wife was asked once to take a fellow's picture by one of the bridges in Amsterdam. He was quite specific what he wanted. She took one, he didn't like it. She took another, then another, then a few more. One didn't have enough of the bridge , one didn't show enough of the sun, or he didn't like his expression. 20 minutes later we were done. We still keep laughing at that one.

Posted by
9361 posts

Almost any time I see a dad taking a picture of the rest of the family, or similar, I offer to take a picture of all of them. I have been turned down a few times (once was by someone taking a selfie of himself and his girlfriend), but generally they are happy I offered. I have even done this, through pantomime and smiles, on the Great Wall of China, when I saw an elderly Chinese woman taking a picture of her husband. They happily posed together, then insisted on taking my picture for me on with my camera. The resulting picture is blurry and off-center, but one of my favorite mementos of that trip.

Posted by
440 posts

Warren

Wow you must have some patience I bet you will never forget that person

Posted by
3807 posts

Along the lines of stoutfellas story - we (hubby and I) were in a restaurant in Corniglia, Cinque Terre having a late meal. There was a woman eating alone at the next table. She ordered something like lobster risotto, and my husband commented his mom would probably have liked the lobster in that. Well, she was from New Zealand, and we seriously spent the next - I'd say 3 hrs or so talking about anything and everything. (A time when the Italians letting you be at supper was lovely - we are usually in a hurry to see the next thing, but we were staying in Corniglia so nothing else to do).

We actually saw her the next day in Vernazza and hubby was saying hi - come to find out the night before she just missed the 11pm train to whatever village she was staying in and had to wait until midnight for the next...oops!

Anyways, I feel kinda bad that I didn't get her name and see if I could friend her on FB. Oh well...

Posted by
4499 posts

It can be a little easier when your a college student, but I've made plenty of friends by just chatting with a restaurant "neighbor," someone sitting next to me on a train, or even people I would see several times over a day or two at the same sites. I even dated a French girl that I met in England once we were both back in Paris. And I've been invited to several people's homes or to special events after meeting them. It's less common now that I'm older and travel with my wife, but if you are open to meeting people, it can happen a lot.

Oh - and I'm an introvert and rather shy with strangers. Go figure...

Posted by
1654 posts

Our warmest memories are of interacting with both the local citizens and fellow travelers we've met. I hope that others practice caution but are still open to those opportunities to make new friends. We have been helped numerous times by kind strangers who pointed us in the right direction.

We took the commuter bus from Greve to Florence for a day trip. It turns out the bus we took did not go all the way into the terminal. The bus driver didn't speak English and there was only one other passenger when we got into the city. After an animated discussion with the bus driver (who I think was actually supposed to go to the terminal), she approached us and explained (in faltering English) the situation. We told her we were trying to get to Piazza San Marco. She instructed us to get off the bus with her at the next stop and take the local bus 33. We followed her instructions and once on the bus, we asked for assurance we would reach our destination. Another kind young woman assured us. As an older gentleman got off at his stop, he quietly told us our destination was in three more stops. By then it was 8:12 and we were to join an 8:30 tour. We got off the bus at 8:20, in time for a quick caffe before reporting for the tour right on time!

Luckily we didn't come off as complete rubes on our trip. We tried to blend in and were stopped several times in Florence, Sienna and Rome by tourists who started by asking us if we spoke English before asking directions!