I Wave at Strangers

Photo credit: FreeRangeStock.com

Photo credit: FreeRangeStock.com

I drove towards our home along the main street of our new-to-us, rural town. It was the street where all of the local businesses–churches, flea markets, and bars–centered themselves; the street with all the action. It was quaint, I thought. It was rustic and authentic compared to the big city suburbs that we had always called home. I had always imagined living in a small country town like this, raising our family on God and gravel roads and home-grown produce.

As I turned the car away from the main road towards our new home, we passed another car. My husband picked up his hand in a “hi-how-ya-doin?” sort of way. The stranger in the car did the same.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Does he know you?”

“I don’t think so.”

I processed the non-information and then asked, “Well then why did you wave to him?”

“It’s what people do out here.”

“Oh. That’s weird.”

“It’s not weird. It’s just how people are in the country. They’re friendly.”

“It’s still weird.”

“And you always wave to the cops,” he said.


“Because everyone does.”

“What, are they going to pull me over if I don’t?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“That’s weird.”

The only time I had ever waved at someone I didn’t know–except for those awkward moments when I waved to someone thinking I knew them, when embarrassingly it turned out that, no, I did not–was when I accidentally cut them off. I would be driving and singing away with the radio, until I realized at the last moment that I needed to be in the other lane. And then I would do the obligatory “Whoops! Didn’t see you there!” half-wave that probably just pissed off the other driver as I slipped our car in front of theirs. There was certainly no time in the mad dash on highway 70 between home and work to gawk around and wave to people that I would likely never meet. And given said bad habit of cutting people off, calling the cops to my attention just seemed like asking for trouble.

As it turns out, my husband was right. People who live in the country will wave to you, for seemingly no reason at all and whether they know you or not. Especially the old guys in trucks. Especially the folks who drive by and spot you reading a book in the peace and quiet of your front porch. It felt like such a heavy, uncomfortable effort to lift my hand and wave in return. But I did.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, I started initiating the wave. Lifting my hand a few inches off the steering wheel and aiming an open palm at a stranger passing by just felt like the natural thing to do. Sometimes the other person waves back. Sometimes they don’t. And if they don’t, I always hope that eventually the local hospitality rubs off on them too.


**If they’ll have me again, I’m linking up with the other talented bloggers-who-write at Yeah Write! Come and join us on the grid!**


39 Comments on “I Wave at Strangers”

  1. christina says:

    it’s kind of like the Smile. i smile at strangers a lot. some smile back, most don’t. i live in Chicago though so no, i generally don’t wave to someone. πŸ™‚

  2. Kristin says:

    We do the wave in my Baltimore City neighborhood, too. For us, it signals we live here as opposed to the many who are just driving through.

  3. Bee says:

    The drivers’ waves here in Chicago are more out of courtesy, like “thanks for letting me turn left in front of you” rather than outright friendliness. I do like that I live in a heavily residential area with single-family homes behind ours. Though we’ve never met those neighbors, we do wave when we see them. It gives our little patch in the city a neighborly feel. I’m glad you feel comfortable waiving now. It feels nice to smile or wave at a stranger.

  4. Emma says:

    I live in a very small town and this is common. I had the opposite experience when I first visited a big city, it was NYC, and no one even made eye contact much less waved. I was overwhelmed. I’m not much for having conversations in the supermarket, but I do like to wave and say hello as we pass by even if I don’t know them. You always write the sweetest of posts.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Emma! I could definitely see how it goes both ways. It’s all about what’s comfortable for you. Turns out I didn’t even realize how unconnected I was with my community until I moved to one that stays pretty close. There are good and bad things to that for sure, but the open friendliness I love.

  5. shannon says:

    Try moving from a more rural place where everyone does this to a place where no one does and you’re the waver. It’s funny to watch people react.

    This was a nice read.

  6. I love the title to this post. I also think it is nice to greet people. I would like to see that happen everywhere – bring people together.

  7. Mayor Gia says:

    Ha! That seems a bit odd to me. I’m not a great waver

  8. MizYank says:

    I love places like this! When I went home to Oklahoma with a long-ago boyfriend, people there never failed to wave and smile, and it usually seemed quite genuine. I’m glad you’re doing the wave.

  9. iasoupmama says:

    We’re wavers, too. Of course, I live in rural Iowa, so… yeah… My kids love waving at the farmers driving their machinery.

    • Laura says:

      lol Yeah! And they always wave back, if they see us. πŸ™‚ Sometimes I think that would be a great job to have… sitting on a tractor all day every day… But then I realize that there’s a lot more labor to it than that and that I can’t even keep a house plant alive soo… yea… lol

  10. Vanessa says:

    Every year for vacation we go to way out in the middle of nowhere. And we wave to everybody we see, because they all wave to us. Last summer after we got home the habit stuck for a few days. I got some odd “do I know you?” looks.

  11. dberonilla says:

    Aww I love the wave! I live in a big city so we don’t wave to everyone, but we do wave to cars passing through our neighborhood. Especially if we know the people in that car live here.
    I really liked your story, Laura!

  12. I love that small town friendly! That doesn’t happen where I live but I would get right into waving back. Great story!

  13. I just moved to the suburbs from NYC, and I had to remind myself again how to be friendly to strangers. In NYC, it is a survival of the fittest kind of culture, and no one smiles and waves. But since moving six weeks ago, I have had entire conversations with strangers in the grocery store check out line. I got used to the fast pace of Manhattan, but it has been really nice to slow down.

    • Laura says:

      I know what you mean! After being here two years, I can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know, so slowly but surely it’s less “strangers” and more familiar faces. It’s been a nice change. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Great piece. We moved from Chicago to a small village in the South Suburbs. I had a similar experience my first time at the grocery story. “Why is everyone smiling at me and saying hello?” I wondered. I was immediately distrustful. No one did that in the city. The small-town charm has definitely grown on me over the years.

  15. Ginny Marie says:

    I loved living in a small town! Waving was definitely the thing to do. But sometimes it is nice to be anonymous in the city. πŸ˜‰

  16. outlawmama says:

    I want to be a waver. My grandparents were rural folk, and they were big wavers. I want that in my life.

  17. I worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming one summer in college. Waving was big there too and it was probably one of my favorite things about living there. And there were many!

  18. That is one of the things I LOVE about small towns.

  19. Paula J says:

    We wave here too. When my children were small, they would ask me, “Who was that?” If I didn’t know I would always say, “Billy Bob.” They thought that was pretty funny.

    • Laura says:

      That’s funny! My son doesn’t even ask. I think he considers it the norm. I’m okay with that! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and sharing!

  20. Laura says:

    WordPress is so easy. I highly recommend starting with a free WordPress site. They have lots of helpful tutorials and will literally walk you through everything you need to know to get it started!!
    The content of the blog… That’s all on you though! And sometimes the hardest part is deciding WHAT to write about… Some people methodically plan out each and every post, and others just write what is on their mind/heart…. Most of us are somewhere in between… With an idea of what we want to write about before we begin, but let our minds and hearts guide the words from one post to the next. Good luck! πŸ™‚

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