I recently ran across this project in Krakow, Poland known locally as Gaduławka, or happy to chat. It is an upgraded bench that encourages people to talk to each other. This simple nudge in the form of an inviting sign may help in terms of fighting loneliness and social isolation. It is also a great opportunity for travelers to meet local folks.
The first “Happy to Chat”bench in Poland was launched at the Jewish Community Center of Krakow this September. The bench has a sign in Polish, English, and Hebrew inviting passers-by to sit and strike up a conversation with a stranger.
Gaduławka is the Polish equivalent of the “Happy to Chat” benches, which have already appeared in the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The new benches bear a sign reading “sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello!”
The bench project was initially conceived by Allison Owen -Jones, the creator of the “happy to chat”benches campaign in Cardiff, Wales. While visiting a park, she noticed a man who looked depressed and lonely, but had no idea how to approach him without being awkward. at that point, she realized how difficult it is to initiate a conversation with a stranger, so she decided to take matters into her own hands. She created signs that promote and facilitate human interaction, and installed them on multiple park benches.
Allison Owen-Jones, who assisted the inauguration of the first bench in Poland, emphasized that you never know what a simple “good morning” can lead to, and expressed her hopes that the bench will encourage people in the neighborhood to talk to each other.