The idea is almost too simple-strangers sit together for two hours over tea while having a conversation-and yet the results are profound.
But it’s not about the tea.
A “host” will lead the conversation between three to five people, the idea being that two hours of committed time will allow the topics to delve a bit deeper than casual conversations allow.
Currently, organizers are seeking teatime hosts to get the program off the ground.
Ankit Shah, founder of Tea with Strangers, started hosting parties in San Francisco while in college as an effort to get to know as many people as he could before graduation.
He said the whole idea is to learn how much we can relate to other people without focusing on superficial differences.
“I had no idea what this would become, but it struck me immediately that there was something special about sitting for a two-hour conversation with people I knew nothing about,” Shah said. “There’s only so long that the small talk can actually continue.”
Once the ice is broken, so to speak, the conversation often turns into a much deeper and rewarding experience. Shah said that everyone has “gold [nuggets] of awesome” just waiting to be mined.
“The irony in it all is that no one is all that strange,” he said. “There’s no such thing as the ‘other’ when it comes to people we don’t know. We’re all cut from the same cloth.”
The Chattanooga launch for Tea with Strangers is expected to begin shortly after Sept. 1. Each session will include just five strangers and a host.
But this is not a networking event, dating club or even a catalyst for making friends.
“Everyone has a different rationale for coming to teatime,” he said. “But the common thread between it all is the fact that there’s pretty much no other way to meet people in a no-strings-attached fashion that permits you to just open up to people without any requirement for further interaction.”
If you attend 10 different teatime events, the experience will be different every time.
Shah is working hard to make many teatime gatherings happen in a variety of cities around the world. He hopes to expand the program to as many “big cities” as he can. He will also experiment with different types of gatherings under the same idea.
Recently, he launched Birthdays with Strangers in San Francisco. The program invited strangers who had birthdays between June and September to gather for an outdoor party.
“We want to make it easy for people to bring folks together in an inclusive fashion that actually permits them to understand each other without it feeling like anyone’s networking, flirting or assuming much about one another,” Shah said.
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