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It’s one of many customs in which American cultural norms deviate from those of the UK and Europe.

In most places in the world, asking a stranger what kind of work he or she does, especially without any pretext, is frowned upon. ” is finally becoming a tainted question in North America, too.

For instance, if someone asks about her father, she may choose to mention that he passed away when she was a child.

When that happens, she says, she almost invariably is told about a loss the other has experienced. Talking to new people isn’t only a shortcut to learning more about the ways other people live, and perhaps stepping outside your own social echo chambers, it’s also beneficial: Sociologists have found that even weak ties, like those made while chatting with fellow commuters or travelers, are linked to feelings of well-being.

“The triangle is made up of you, a stranger, and a third thing that closes the loop—that might be something that you’re both experiencing or seeing that’s worthy of notice,” she told City Lab, explaining: There might be a cute dog or someone doing something strange—an itinerant preacher on the subway, say.