Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beyond the Comfort Zone: Attending a Stranger Danger Dinner


Imagine walking into a restaurant with no idea who your dinner guests will be for the next three hours. Once, the very thought of it would have made me squirm. But now, having last night attended such a dinner, I can confidently say that it was one of the best things I have ever done.

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A new initiative has taken my city by storm this year. An unknown Perthian 'stranger' created Stranger Danger Dinners which, simply put, sees eight strangers and potential friends dine at a local restaurant for three hours. The motive behind it? To get people to step outside of their comfort zone and to acknowledge the existence and amazing qualities of people who you would otherwise pass by on the street. 

When I received my invitation to attend a dinner, I was elated and up for trying something new. As the day of the dinner drew nearer, however, I became increasingly nervous. By the time I stepped foot into the restaurant, my hands were shaking. The easy thing would have been to bail. But if I had acted on that split second of doubt, I would have missed out on an evening full of laughter, relaxed vibes and general frivolity.  

I had the pleasure of dining with a number of different people. There was an architect, a travel agent and member of the education board, to name just a few. The conversation flowed so easily (with the aid of a few alcoholic beverages), and when it quelled, the conversation cards put us right back on track. The cards ranged from general questions, such as 'What's your favourite TV show' to the more obscure, such as 'Would you rather wear lettuce undies or squid socks?'. A personal favourite of mine required all guests to state their Burlesque stage name based upon the colour of their underwear and what they ate for lunch. Mine wasn't half bad, being Pink Fruit Salad, whereas others, such as Black Curry, had us crying of laughter.

Jokes were said, favourite albums and films were shared and enlightening conversations were had. Accompanied by delectable Eastern Mediterranean inspired vegetarian dishes, the night flew by and was over in no time at all, without a single glance at a phone screen (well, asides from one attempt to introduce a guest to Tinder).

Thinking back, I don't know why I was so unnecessarily nervous to begin with. It goes to show that you have everything to gain by stepping out of your comfort zone; whether that be a new group of friends or simply a boost in self-confidence. At a dinner such as this, I had nothing to lose. Thankfully, my experience was anything but negative. At the end of the night, my dinner guests and I parted ways, not knowing if or when we would meet again. But just that one dinner gave me a spring in my step and memories to cherish. 

So I encourage you, whoever you may be: don't feel scared to go beyond the comfort zone. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, they're not as scary as you may think. You may be inspired by their story; you may even make a new friend.

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