Sally Flint

I'm always socially awkward when sitting on a plane!

How to Not be Socially Awkward

I’ve realised that social awkwardness is something I definitely have. For example:

I’ve just had an automated email from KLM, asking me to give feedback on my recent flight to Humberside from Bangkok. My granddad used to say to me, “if you haven’t got anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” I will not, therefore, be completing the feedback survey. 

How to Avoid Social Awkwardness on Flights

To be honest, though, there wasn’t anything particularly terrible about this flight, but, well … is it just me .. or.  are like me and you find having to sit 11 plus hours with a perfect stranger on a plane brings out your inner cringy, socially awkward, stammering child? The ideal of course would be to travel in luxury, so it may be worth while you searching through one of the private jet card programmes out there to see what the best jet card for your needs might be. 
 
Alternatively, these strategies may help overcome social awardness.

  • Whatever the circumstances do not make eye contact with fellow passengers. Not even if your neighbour drops their knife into your dinner tray, spills their dinner tray onto your lap or even has the audacity to change your in-flight entertainment channel when you are snoozing, so that they can multi-view. (These have all happened to me.)
  • Keep your arms folded for the duration of the whole flight. Being cramped and uncomfortable is preferable to the armchair arm jig, that will otherwise require your engagement with said fellow passengers.
  • Go to the bathroom before getting on the plane. This will avoid craning your neck several times to avoid toilet queues or being freaked out by the ‘whoosh’ of the aeroplane toilet that never fails to fright. (Yes, I usually really can hold my bladder for a whole day or night!)
  • In the unfortunate situation that you cannot wait to go the bathroom any longer, under no circumstance disturb your neighbour or attempt to climb over their sleeping frame. This can lead to intimacy with undesired consequences, such as accidentally sitting on their private areas.
  • Ensure that you have removed anything you may need from your overhead baggage to avoid awkward manoeuvres during the flight which may result in you dropping something onto your fellow passenger’s aforementioned private places.
  • Ideally do not use the overhead container at all, and instead use the under-seat space, quite doable, if you are prepared to squish your knees up to your chest.
  • When the flight attendant mishears what you would like to drink, take what’s offered with a smile.
  • Curse inwardly at the plastic waste, but under no circumstances voice your environmental concerns. KLM flight attendants are notoriously scary – my hunch is that they think they are just epitomising the characteristic and arguably stereotypical, Dutch forthrightness -but they are actually frightening!
  • Be stoic and uncomplaining in the case of having faulty earbuds or inflight consoles. 11 hours of silent, eye avoidance, leg cramped, arm folded activity can be fun.
  • In the following situations smile warmly and say it is fine:

The child behind you kicks your seat continually for 11 hours.
The passenger in front of you reclines their seat to its max for the duration of all meals.
The inflight attendant spills hot coffee on your lap.
The inflight attendant gives you a meal you didn’t request.
The inflight attendant forgets to give you wine or bread roll with dinner (this particularly applies to vegetarians).

  • Smile and say it doesn’t matter as the trolley catches your ankle for the umpteenth time, when you have the worst seat, next to the toilets at the back of the plane.

Shared Social Awkwardness

Upon landing you will probably feel exhausted with so much social awardness. Take some relief in the sure knowledge that plenty of other passengers will be feeling exactly the same as you. My final advice is, don’t acknowledge any smelly armpits, bumped heads, or squished bodies as you remove your luggage from the overhead rack and wait standing for a good twenty minutes to depart the plane, such has been your haste to depart. Take your time and relax knowing that any social awkwardness is about to disappear until your next flight … or at least until you reach customs and immigration!

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