Travel Etiquette Tip: Don’t overshare. Please, please. Don’t overshare.

a table and chairs in a restaurantSo I’m sitting in the Admiral’s Club in Tokyo, trying to figure out what to write for my blog post today. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’ve been scanning my topic ideas, while kind of listening to the conversation next to me.

(Do you ever do that? Listen to the conversation of people next to you? It can be highly entertaining sometimes. Other times, not so much. Anyway.)

The two gentlemen next to me were clearly business associates, and were talking about their company’s work in Asia. Normal stuff. Then another man came up, who apparently had met one of the guys in a bar here. Next thing you know the new guy is talking about his marriage, asking questions about the other men’s marriages, asking how much money they make, and then going on a monologue about his ex-wife. He just talked and talked, with lots of awkward silences from the other men. I could totally tell that the original guys just wanted this new guy to go away, but he just didn’t get social clues.

And from this, the topic of my post today was born. Meeting new people can be one of the great things about travel. But please, please don’t share the most intimate details of your life with your new acquaintances, unless it’s very clear that the are enjoying the conversation as much as you are. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t ask them incredibly personal questions! Especially in a loud voice.

(Okay, as I’m writing this, the guy has asked everyone around him—including me—if they’ve read 50 Shades of Gray, which no one has, and  then asks me to explain to everyone what it’s about. OMG.)

If you happen to be halfway listening to a conversation and it has become really uncomfortable, put your headphones in. Even if you’re not actually listening to any music, it gives you an excuse to not participate should the conversational ball be tossed your way.

Readers, ever overhead an excruciating conversation?


  1. Perhaps it’s cultural? I know in Russia it’s fairly common to ask new acquaintances/friends how much they make a year over drinks.

  2. common ( cultural ) thing in Thailand, get the “20” questions about yourself from just about anyone you meet.

  3. The fake phone call also works for either short periods or when running the credit card, timeshare, polling kiosk people gauntlet at the airport or mall.

  4. One of my aunts was known for being very direct with people when they were not behaving correctly. I was with her in an airport lounge in London when this other passenger started talking to us, telling us all about her trip to England, and all about her home in Boston and her summer house on the Cape, and so on. Finally, my aunt asked, “Well, exactly how much money do you make per year and what other assets do you have?” Stranger was taken aback and my aunt smiled and said, “Oh I just assumed you were letting me know how wealthy you are and I thought I would save us both time.”

  5. It is worse when you’re stuck on the plane with “that person”. You can feign a bathroom stop or wanting to get closer to the gate when you’re at the airport. But on the plane…. There’s a time to stop talking. Please.

  6. What’s worse, being loud or eavesdropping? Seems like you two complement each other.

  7. ask them if you can have their airsick bag, tell them one is usually not enough for you needs, they might just move away

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