23 May 2019

Like, follow, respond and share: we're super social on social media. But in real life, Dutch people could dare to become a little more social.

Research shows that 1 in 3 young people feel they have too little contact with others. More­over, more spontaneous conversations make you happier. That is why we have the golden tip that we have been sharing for 90 years. Where you learned from your mother not to talk to strangers, we simply say:

Don't Talk to Strangers

Do you want to help make the world a little more social? Share your conversation or story with #talktostrangers or read more about the campaign below.

Word on the Street

Together with VICE Nederland we took to the streets with a camera, looking for inspiration. We asked the question:

Can you remember a conversation you had with a stranger?
And do you have any tips?

Start a conversation...

Awkward!? Research shows that people believe we'll become happier, more understanding and less lonely if we just start talking to a stranger more often.

But if a spontaneous conversation is so nice and good, why don't we do it more often?

The main reason is that most people just find it a bit awkward to talk to someone new.

Read more about the research (click to open)

More spontaneous conversations make people happier

On social media, people like and follow each other en masse and regularly seek interaction with strangers. In the daily life of the average Dutchman, however, it doesn't seem obvious to have a chat: only a third of millennials regularly have a spontaneous conversation with a stranger, according to our research carried out in collaboration with Multiscope.

Happier and less lonely

Surprisingly enough, there is a great desire for spontaneous conversations: 82 percent would like to chat with a stranger and more than 90 percent think that it would even be good for our society. According to them, it would ensure more mutual understanding and would make the Dutch less lonely. On top of that, 84 percent think it would make Dutch people happier.


Nevertheless, only half (56%) have regular encounters with a stranger. Among millennials, that's only a third (32%). One in three people finds it uncomfortable to start a conversation with a stranger. For 20 percent the discomfort is so great that it stops them from having a chat.

"One in five avoids spontaneous conversation for fear of an uncomfortable situation."


It's striking that the majority (55%) think that the Dutch aren't expecting a spontaneous conversation at all, while 9 out of 10 find it no problem if someone starts a spontaneous conversation with them. 8 out of 10 people would even like it if someone new would start a chat with them.

* Research conducted in collaboration with Multiscope among 1042 respondents in May 2019.

Our tips

Special face-to-face conversations - do you have them often? Our colleagues do at least! You never know in advance what a spontaneous conversation can bring about, so here are a handful of our best tips and stories!


"Don't hide your curiosity. Dare to ask!"



Recently I was walking outside at Stayokay Amsterdam Oost and to my surprise I saw a bus from FC Groningen. I am a big football fan myself and became curious. What did this bus do here?

I decided to ask the bus driver for the reason for his arrival. Although the reason was not so exciting - he brought a school group from Groningen to Amsterdam - the conversation took a different turn.

It was soon about our shared passion: football. I told him an anecdote that I regularly tell about the hostel. Namely that in this building (at the time the Technical School) sports lessons were given by the legendary football coach Rinus Michels.

This gentleman nodded enthusiastically and had to smile. When I asked if he knew this, I was surprised by his reaction: he had followed these lessons himself in his younger years! He told about the lessons, that they revolved around discipline and pleasure, and that he has benefited from it all his life.

I found it special that the anecdote that I regularly tell suddenly came to life through the stories of this gentleman. It proves once again that behind every unknown person there are many surprising stories.


"Talk to the bartender, and involve others in the conversation. You'll get to know everybody before you realise!"


When I was working in the hostel bar on a quiet evening, I was joined by a guest from California. We got into a conversation and I soon learned a lot about him. When it became a little busier and a number of solo travelers sat down at the bar, I decided to involve everyone in our conversation.

Within a short time we were chatting with a Canadian, a German, a few Irish and an Australian the entire evening. In the evening the whole group went out together and a number of them went on traveling together and are still in contact with each other.

This is just one of the many spontaneous conversations and friendships that arise here at the hostel. It is really nice to see these conversations come about and to be able to play a role in this by linking people to each other.

I now also apply that hostel mentality in my daily life. I often chat with strangers, because I find it pleasant and surprising - and because I know that people actually always like it. So why not?


"A compliment is the easiest conversation opener."


The conversation that has stayed with me the most is with a refugee from Eritrea. She came to dinner with a friend in the restaurant where I worked. At the end of the evening she came to the kitchen to thank us and compliment us on the food. Dinner was over, so we had the time to talk. She said that she also loves cooking, and that she increasingly learned to appreciate Dutch cuisine.

I asked her where she came from, and that's how she told her life story. It really struck me. She had fled because of the lack of future prospects in her own country. She had left everything there, and then went through a horrible journey to arrive in the Netherlands.

After all she had endured you would think that she would be marked for life. But I have rarely met such a positive and sincere person. She wanted to tackle everything, enjoy every day. And that was her message to everyone: seize the day.

I went home with a mixed feeling. The story touched me. It made me sad, but at the same time I became very aware of how lucky I am. And that I want to be just as positive as she wants to be in life.