Mingle trick #1: Pretzel Challenge

I love Toronto, but it's not a great mingle city. I'm a social guy, but chances are high, not with lack of trying, I'll go to a party and spend most or all of the night talking to people I already know (and perhaps a few of their friends). Maybe my experiences as an ex-pat and living in the states has softened me, but I'm use to a much warmer social environment where talking to new people is not challenging or rare. Yes, there are exceptions, but in general, new social interactions are generally pretty cold in this city.

And so, on this slow posting holiday Monday I thought I'd offer an ice-breaker party suggestion for Toronto's often challenging social climate.

Mingle trick #1: Pretzel Challenge!

Keep reading for description and rules...


All you need is a bowl of pretzels (not minis or rods), some mouth dexterity and an unpretentious party.

You start with an unbroken pretzel. The goal is to bite away the middle part of the pretzel, leaving the outer rim of the pretzel unbroken (keeping as much of that outer rim as possible, see photo on right). It seems easy, but pretzels break easily and mouths are big and clumsy. The most effective strategy in winning at the pretzel challenge is pictured in the four photos at the top of this post. That last bite is by far the trickiest.

The only rules: you can only use your mouth and teeth to remove parts of the pretzel (biting), and you have to finish the pretzel once you start, that way you don't have a pile of once bitten pretzels in the garbage.

It's so fun. This game is perfect if there are a few people munching around the food table awkwardly talking about nothing at all. Get people active, make it competitive, make new friends!

When someone completes the pretzel, they can wear it over their ear like a champion (see bottom photo, that's a champion). Keep it there all night, it's a wonderful conversation starter, "Hey, why do you have a pretzel over your ear?"

I know a lot of you will never need a juvenile ice-breaker to talk to new people, but it's a fun game and was really successful at a party this weekend. Does anyone else have a tough time talking with new people in the city? What other suggestions do you have to get people mingling.

Some people might disagree that I think this city might be socially challenging, but let me give you and example of something that happened at this same party this weekend:

Before the pretzel game, I actually found myself talking to two people I didn't know. That was good. We were chatting for a while, small talk, all good, but THEN, a third person I didn't know came along. This new person knew both of the people I was talking to, greeted them, shook their hands and started talking. At this point all of their backs were to me and no one was any longer acknowledging my presence whatsoever. That was it, they were done. No introduction, no "nice talking with you," just done. Does that seem acceptable in any social situation?

In Toronto, I've kinda gotten use to it... doesn't mean I have to like it.


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