I attended a research conference on social entrepreneurship. In conferences I try to talk to one new person on every break. Not because I am supposed to, as research practices are socially constructed by humans, but because I have found it a great way to get to know jolly people.
I would have never heard the following funny stories if I had only listened to my colleagues’ scheduled presentations. Well, here’s a true story. No one believes you when you say that. Yet, I assure you this one is. I was informed over the dinner that one of my Nordic colleagues was fined in Denmark after asking the policeman if he was wearing a thong.
This revealing brought up many other absurd stories related to meeting the guardians of law and order. The people around the table are lucky to live in countries where one doesn’t have to be afraid of the police. Thus, one of us had asked a permission to kiss a police (on his cheek) as a part of a dare competition. One had mistaken a police patrol ringing the doorbell as masquerade guests and invited them to join the noisy party they had actually arrived to interrupt.
Social gatherings in professional meetings are important. However, I am surprised how many people have a tendency to sit with people they feel close to. Especially this applies to international meetings. It is either sitting with people from your home country or people you already know.
This is understandable. After listening to presentations about new topics, usually not in one’s mother tongue, and using one’s brain to the extreme, it is quite demanding to try to make up a meaningful conversation with someone one doesn’t know. Yet, it has become such fun when I realised I don’t have to: usually everyone is overwhelmed by the quantity of interesting topics and they really look forward to a break. Thus, according to my experience sharing funny stories and laughing is the official brain maintaining activity in research conferences.