Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are dining with a group of complete strangers? If you can think of a situation at all, was it when you were travelling? How about in your home town? I’m talking complete strangers, not at a work event where you know the the person organisation/hosting. This is the exact predicament the folks at Stranger Danger dinners want to place you in. The only background information you have about the other dinner guests is that they too contacted the mysterious (and cheeky) ‘Sam Smith‘, and indicated that they would like to attend. It’s a leap of faith many people in Perth, Australia have made, driven by the increasing need for real human connection away from a computer/smart phone screen.
The people (I think they are people) behind the event do all the background work shrouded in secrecy. An invite may take a week, month or year, but when it comes they choose 8 people, make sure you are in fact strangers (presumably though Facebook friends), choose a time, book a restaurant, and send you the details. All you have to do is pay for your dinner and turn up!
Curious to know more about these matchmakers (but not in that way, events are strictly platonic), I have on good authority that they are from diverse backgrounds- from design to environmental science, and that the key thing that brought this concept together was the simple desire to facilitate a non-threatening means to connect with others. “We’d often find ourselves lamenting how hard it has become to make friends as you get older,” they disclosed. “There’s a certain stability you gain in work, life and friend groups which makes it less socially acceptable to chat to new people with a view to seeing them again socially.” With support from their local restaurant/bar, Lot 20, their idea became a reality, hitting dinner number 150 this week!
The strangeness of the night really permeates all parts of the experience- in the best possible way. You have no idea who the organisers are and you never meet them. They say the element of mystery they maintain around their own identities “takes the focus off us and puts it on the dinner guests and makes it about the community.” All the hard work is done behind the scenes with conversation cards and often gifts from local makers and businesses set out on the table upon your arrival. They have thought of everything! Even providing suggestions on how to get the night going, and personal ‘Me too’ cards so that you can easily join the conversation without feeling awkward that you’re interrupting someone you don’t know very well. You can also, of course, choose to ignore the program completely as you relax into the dinner. By the looks of some of the dinners on their Instagram, a few shared bottles of wine (give or take) can quickly lead the night in it’s own direction. Like a well oiled machine, everyone gets a text as the end of the night nears with contact details in case you actually want to befriend these strangers IRL.
It’s not surprising that the nights have become such a success. The simple concept draws directly on the backlash from the virtual world. “In this age of Facebook and texting, people’s need for real human connection just took it from there,” they said. It puts people and connections back onto the streets of the cities- in restaurants, bars and cafes where they used to be. The strangers are working on expanding to other cities, though note that the original dinner format will stay the same. “For us it’s important to retain the authenticity of our dinners, we’re staying well away from anything mass-produced… then we’ll work on our evil plan for world domination.”