The Coffeehouse Conversations are an opportunity to enter those other worlds, if only for a few hour
At Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, strangers sit down to eat or drink together, with a menu of questions to ask each other. The questions lead to stories among participants, and the evening is an adventure in storytelling. We want to revive the spirit of debate that existed in the coffeehouses 100 years ago.
The events are in English to allow people from all over the world to take part. After a brief introduction, you meet someone and enjoy fine Viennese food in a relaxed atmosphere.
Questions range from 'What was your best-ever mistake?', to 'Who has been your mentor?'. They are easy to understand, but difficult to answer. Previous dinners have led to weeks of email exchanges, where the pair continued to discuss the ideas presented. Other questions explore travel, friendship, work and inspiration. The questions are often very personal, but it feels somehow permissible to launch into them with a stranger when they’re written down. “Some people don’t answer any of the questions on the menu and some people spend two hours on one. That’s fine – it’s not a test – but they do take you to another place, and give you the confidence to cross the line of trivia.”
The aim is to sit down visitors with locals, one to one. For us, visitors - or outsiders - include musicians, conference attendees, resident diplomats and cultural travellers.
The Guardian visited this event in 2018, and wrote some lovely analysis of their experience.