I disagree for the most part with all of you. I consider it a nice thing when people are friendly and wish to talk, even if it is for the ulterior motives of practicing english or learning something about foreigners by talking with a real live one. I’ve encountered it countless times, and usually I’m happy to oblige them. In Nepal a student came up and started talking and we ended up hiking together for 3 weeks around Annapurna. In Vietnam kids came up and I ended up carrying on e-mail exchanges with two of them for years. In Laos kids came up and we ended up swimming and playing in their boat together. In Cambodia a beautiful girl approached me and we ended up taking a trip to Angkor Wat together ( ). In Japan kids played with me in a river and interviewed me beside a temple. And in Taiwan, I’ve consented to engage in small-talk with numerous inquisitive kids and adults (sometimes being photographed with them as well), and not only is it no big deal, but I usually enjoy it – being a star without having done a thing, and having the opportunity to educate, entertain and make people happy with the slightest of ease.
I remember hearing this kind of grumbling before, in Southeast Asia, from a foreigner complaining about all the kids running up and saying “hello, hello.” He explained how he would scowl at them and shoo them away. Not me. I smile, wave, “hello, hello” in return, and maybe throw in a nonsensical phrase in their own language to astound them and give them a laugh.
Are you really that busy? Are you that important that you can’t waste a few moments of your time with other human beings who are curious about you, admire you, and want to share your company? We’re all incredibly fortunate to have the money, the passport and the opportunity to skip around the world, visiting foreign lands and living among foreign people for so long that it becomes blase. But for those who lack such opportunity it can be a thrilling experience just to share a few words with a foreigner. Is it so hard to give them that thrill? Just by smiling at someone one can make them happy. By carrying on a few words one can make their day, and corny as it sounds, make the world a better place.
Next time some kid approaches try thinking of it as a positive experience. You might even find that you like it. I do.