I don’t think one has to be in a different country to have these kinds of encounters. One simply has to be open to other people and have the courage to take the first step in starting a conversation. My husband is really good at this. We go to Costco, and while I’m shopping, he manages to get in long conversations with strangers he meets in the book department, while standing in line, or just walking around.
I used to work at a bookstore when I was young, and I not only got into meaningful conversations with customers I’d never met, but I often wound up inviting them over for dinner or to continue the conversation. I think all that’s required is a real desire to get to know others, an encounter in a place that suggests a common interest, and someone having the courage to make the first move. I think everyone has a hunger to be known by someone who might care about them. The question is whether they will risk letting a stranger past their normal defenses. Often they will, since they may never have to see that stranger again.