Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Why is there a double standard about sitting next to strangers?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26798points) May 14th, 2010

Isn’t there a double standard to sitting by strangers? In my area they advertise heavy to get people to take public transportation but I know people who never want to get on a bus, even when they have to get to class or work and their car is down for repair; they would rather pay extra for a cab or walk. They say they don’t want to take the bus because “one of those crazy people” might come and sit next to them. Yet there are places and times when they do out of choice or necessity. If they are going to San Francisco and taking the BART train depending o the day they are forced to sit near or next to strangers. That also goes for the ball game or concerts, they have to sit by strangers and if you ever been on a trolley in San Fran you WILL be sitting by strangers. So what makes strangers on a trolley or at a concert more palatable than strangers on a public bus? Where is your “stranger seating line”? A jet plane, ferry boat, concert, roller coaster ride. What?

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25 Answers

perspicacious's avatar

There is no double standard; I prefer not to ever sit right next to a stranger.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@perspicacious To not have to sit by a stranger you would never go to a sporting event or the theater or you’d just purchase the seats next to you so no one will occupy them?

bongo's avatar

wow, i have no problems with sitting next to strangers. they are all people just like me and you. even better when someone starts to talk to me, Ive met some great people on long train jouneys as long as im not sitting with my head in a book which only occurs if i have exams coming up but I will politely tell them I have to revise if thats the case. Its not like they are going to hurt you on a crowded public place like a bus or a train. relax a bit and meet some new people! you never know who you are going to meet. and just because someone doesnt dress right or looks a bit odd doesnt mean they are necessarily crazy, maybe they are just having a really bad day or something.
I will sit in a seat with noone next to me if possible just for space reasons but if there isnt a seat free like that i will come and sit next to people. maybe its the french in me – im british by the way if that makes any difference to things like that.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@bongo I’m with you. I don’t mind it at all and have had some really great conversations.
Of course I will pick an empty seat if available.
I do have a couple of double standards though. Given a choice:
1) I will sit next to a thin person rather than a heavy one.
2) I will sit next to a man before a woman.

bongo's avatar

@worriedguy I get you on the thinner person one, space is key on long jouneys, however being female I would usually sit next to a woman. I dont get it when people would rather stand on long jouneys than sit next to someone.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@bongo Because here in America most people are spoiled, they could never see going anywhere without their own car, so they can have their own music, smoke if they want etc. And the myth or believe that only strange people will be met on the bus. Or that they are more likely to be robbed. I am 85% cool with sitting by a stranger. I am with you on heavy people even on short trips across town because they can’t help squeezing into your space. I also don’t like sitting by other people’s small children because I don’t want the child chatting me up less the parents think I am one of those strange people, so as not to be rude to the kid I would rather they sit elsewhere. Same for cute girls, you can just have a pleasant friendly chat less they think you are trying to flirt with them <eye roll>.

Kraigmo's avatar

It’s true that low income and some troubled people ride the bus in greater numbers than one normally sees in public. I was raised sheltered from such people, so yes I did notice them first time I was on the bus. But the average person on the bus is just a person who cannot afford a car, is not able to drive, or a person whose work is conveniently located near the bus routes. It’s not really accurate or nice to put down bus riders. People either say such things out of culture shock, or simply because they’ve heard others say similar things.

ubersiren's avatar

Well, strangers on a bus or at a restaurant are different from strangers at a concert or ball game. I loathe sitting next to strangers while eating at a restaurant. Tables should be a comfortable distance apart. I want to be alone with my company, not hearing other people talk and chew and banging our chairs into each other. Now, at a concert or ball game, you are there for a common purpose- cheering on your team/performer. You welcome strangers there because they help you accomplish this goal. When I’m at a concert and everyone knows the lyrics, it’s like some cosmic brotherhood, to be a little dramatic, lol… I also don’t usually mind in public transport situations either.

filmfann's avatar

I have no problem sitting next to strangers.
However, I don’t like sitting next to people I know.

partyparty's avatar

I love sitting next to strangers.
They are merely people I haven’t got to know yet. I always engage in conversation, and perhaps they may become friends.
One never knows!

Gemini's avatar

I don’t mind sitting next to strangers at all. I know what you mean though…A few weeks ago I got on a bus to travel from one city to another, and as soon as I did I could see EVERYONE that had an empty seat beside them put their bag or something on it. I felt like I was punishing the person I chose to sit beside!

Aethelwine's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I do find this interesting. Do you think it is mostly an American thing? My son will be traveling to Germany soon, and his German instructor just went over some information with the students about what to expect while there. He told them that while dining in a restaurant, it is very common to share a table with strangers and to not be offended by this. They may end up having a wonderful conversation they never expected to have.

Primobabe's avatar

The rules about “personal space” are cultural and vary significantly.

In the U.S. and Canada, the standard distance for a conversation is 1 meter. In other cultures, the distance is much narrower. I’ve seen people literally walk each other across a room; one person steps forward to close the gap, and the North American naturally moves backward to reopen it, and on and on!

Of course, the 1-meter rule isn’t true for more intimate conversations, but it holds for talking with a stranger or casual acquaintance. If you’re from North America, try to notice this the next time you’re chatting with someone, and think about how uncomfortable you’d be if the distance were cut in half.

perspicacious's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I said “prefer.” Of course it happens. When I can keep it from happening, I do.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve never known anyone like that yet. Most people will take a seat away from a stranger if one is open to allow for as much space as possible as a courtesy and comfort but pretty much anywhere I go then I see people get up and adjust if it’s a shuttle, plane, theater, open concert, waiting room, etc.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jonsblond I don’t know of all the communities in America but those I have lived in or have great knowledge of that holds true. @ubersiren did a good job at pointing out what I have seen, people viewing different groups of strangers differently, with her is seems to lie with purpose or reason for bring together. Not like what I normally see as what @Gemini has seen. On a near full bus the person who will more likely get a seat cleared and or made more inviting is some very attractive young woman (and that by men only) if the person is very old or on a cane or walker then you will see people give up the seat but I think it is more because the law says so than their over the top benevolence . People on larger urban areas seem to be more adjusted to sitting next to people they don’t know because it happens all the time. San Fran it is easier get around with out a car than with one and it is so populated not just with those that live there but tourist it is hard not to be swirling in strangers at any given time. Smaller communities bristle more. And being seated at a table with strangers unless it was a church (a large one) function or a company or school thing where the strangers are not total strangers just people that is a part of a bigger group you do not know. The only other instance I have seen where people are comfortable sitting with strangers is if they go to the right Asian bar and grill and they have to sit at a grill side counter while the chef tosses shrimp around with his spatula. I think Americans traveling overseas and having to sit with strangers at a restaurant many would find uncomfortable (maybe not so much if they figured the other people didn’t speak English) some might get into it as all part of the travel experience.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I am not afraid to sit next to strangers.
I have met some of the most entertaining people on planes:)

DominicX's avatar

I would sit next to a stranger, although I probably wouldn’t choose to do that right off the bat if I were traveling alone; it would only be if it were crowded and I had no other choice. However, I don’t travel alone most of the time. In fact, I can’t think of a time when I was on public transportation by myself. I don’t think I’ve ever done that…

iphigeneia's avatar

I’m usually comfortable sitting next to strangers in public transport. Usually I try to grab a seat by myself up the back of the bus so I can finish putting on my makeup, I know it’s terrible but I’d rather sit next to someone in tattered clothes than stand. Well, unless it was an unsafe route I was taking, then I’d be more comfortable not getting so close to anyone.

Actually, the worst sort of situation I’ve been in was when I was sitting with a woman and her children. They were bouncing everywhere, and being noisy, and saying things like, “Can we go to the supermarket and get some eggs and not eat them and wait until they hatch into chickens?” I desperately wanted to either laugh at them or pick them up, sit them in their seats and tell them to settle down, their poor mother looked so exhausted. I’ve also sat near ‘crazy people’ who asked me to sing along to the bus radio with them.

The sort of company you meet on public transport is probably different to the crowd that’s just paid $100 to see a musical. But just because someone looks poor or is raving to the air doesn’t mean they’re going to harm you. I’m lucky that in my city I don’t have to worry too much about theft on public transport. If you keep your wits about you, stay near the driver if you feel unsafe, etc, then you’ll probably have a positive experience of spending some time in the company of strangers.

Draconess25's avatar

@iphigeneia Well, did you sing along….?

ubersiren's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I would love to sit next to you on a flight!

Silhouette's avatar

I don’t mind sitting next to strangers anywhere. Bus, tram, Dairy Queen, It doesn’t make any difference.

smoky's avatar

Not many people know this, but it is actually illegal in the US state of Illinois to sit down, or even interact, with strangers in any public place! An example of those laws is at

Aethelwine's avatar

@smoky I’ve lived in Illinois the past 20 years and have never heard of anyone being arrested for that. lol

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