One of the most fascinating aspects of travel is people-watching. This is the act of simply sitting back in a public place, perhaps on the patio of a café or on a balcony overlooking a street, and just observing people going about their day. If you sit there quietly enough you can blend into the background and watch the endlessly intriguing ways that people behave and interact with each other in public. Here are some people watching tips for you.
Differences to Look Out For
People watching is different everywhere you go. The way that people stride down a busy street in London is very different to the way they saunter down a dirt road in a small village in the Philippines. Do people walk together in groups or on their own? Do they smile at strangers or look straight ahead? How are people dressed?
It’s interesting to watch the dynamics of a street market in Bolivia, a small village pub in Ireland, a restaurant in Istanbul, a café in Vienna, or a public square in Argentina. Each culture has its own rhythm and set of behaviours and depending on where you are in the world, people will walk differently. They will talk at different volumes and greet each other differently. Sometimes with a polite nod, sometimes with a hearty kiss on both cheeks.
People Watching Tips when on Holiday
I recommend that for every destination you visit, you spend some time people watching. Here are some people watching tips on how to successfully do so:
- Choose a busy location where you can blend into the crowd, such as a café, a bar or a public square. The busier the better – you want to disappear into the woodwork.
- For the same reason, don’t dress in a way that draws attention to you. Be as neutral as possible.
- Sit in a corner with your back to the wall, so that you have the best view of what is going on.
- Or, sit by a window or on a balcony so that you can observe the street.
- Bring along a book or a tablet so that it looks like you are reading or catching up on emails, rather than just staring at strangers.
- Don’t stare too long at any particular person. Humans have an uncanny ability to notice when they are being watched and that person will start to feel your eyes on them and be uncomfortable. Move your gaze around to different people in the crowd.
- If you do awkwardly make eye contact with someone, give them a smile and then look away.
- Avoid taking photos of people, as this might be seen as creepy. Leave your camera at home and just observe.
- You can people-watch with a friend. But be careful not to talk about the people around you too loudly in case someone overhears you.
- You can also people-watch while perusing a market. Stroll through the shops slowly and look at the merchandise while watching the interactions between the customers and sellers. These are always different depending on the culture.
- Bring a notebook with you to record any observations that strike you as interesting. They might give you a deeper insight into the culture.