This Coffee Mug Can Find You a Friend

Public Domain. Unsplash

A curious Norwegian initiative is connecting people in coffee shops who want to chat.

Some coffee shops in Norway are hoping to solve the problem of loneliness. They've come up with a clever idea to supply ceramic mugs labeled 'Skravlekopp.' This translates roughly as 'chatterbox' or, as a Norwegian friend explained to me, 'someone who barely stops talking, but not in a negative sense.'

The idea is that you can choose to have your coffee served in a green Skravlekopp as a way of signalling to others nearby that you feel like chatting. Someone with a similar urge for companionship can sit down with you and you've suddenly got a friend, at least for a short while.

It might seem like a lot of extra effort just to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but the fact is that many people have lost that skill, especially younger generations that now have more contact with people over texting and social media than face-to-face. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable to approach someone, not knowing if they want to talk. But with Skravlekopp, a simple mug bridges that gap.

From the website:

"It turns out that we up here in the north are a little shy and often afraid to disturb others. We need a little signal that we are available and that it is allowed to [have] a little talk. Maybe you can talk to someone you've never talked to before, maybe you can teach something you're good at, maybe you know something you didn't know, maybe you can meet again, maybe not. You can be the little human meeting someone needs today."

And people do need it more than ever. Ours has been called the 'age of loneliness,' and in the United States an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the population suffers from it. Last year I cited a Quartz report that said "around 200,000 older people [in the UK] have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month."

So we need initiatives like this more than ever. I hope other towns and cities take note, realizing that it doesn't take much to put a smile on someone's face and make their day.