Mumsnet Logo
My feed

to access all these features


To not ‘get’ people watchers?

146 replies

Desertdweller8 · 02/09/2022 18:08

Everywhere I go there are tons of ‘people watchers’ who sit on benches and have their eyes glued to people/families and have no shame in being caught looking. usually I ignore it and keep to myself but it happens so often that I’m starting to question what these people gain in being nosey. There’s nothing about me that would cause wandering eyes to focus on me, I’m just an average person minding my business!

Went for a nice day at the beach before dc go back to school on Monday, sitting on a wall eating lunch and happen to look up at a lone woman watching our every movement from the sand. Found it very uncomfortable so we moved. She then seemed to have moved on to watch another family as we walked past and looked over.

now don’t get me wrong I know there are people that will think ‘how lovely a family enjoying their day’ to watch children play with fond memories of their own, and watching the busy rush of a town/city without focusing on a specific person, but I’m talking about those who intentionally sit and stare for fun with no realisation it may make some feel uncomfortable as they don’t want to be watched by strangers.

i have a friend who purposely goes to a specific cafe every morning to watch people from the window. She puts on social media things like ‘people watching from x if anyone wants to join’. She can’t explain why she does it when I asked. She’s had people approach her to argue about it and some people telling her to look away, from inside the cafe. sometimes she brings her mum and they make a morning of it. Is it loneliness? Boredom? I couldn’t think of anything more pointless than watching a family sit together/eat/walk/talk.

is there anyone here who does it? If so can I ask why? Genuinely trying to understand why it’s so common and enjoyed by so many!

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?


You have one vote. All votes are anonymous.

Justwanttobebythesea · 02/09/2022 18:49

I like to people watch if I'm early to meet a friend, having a me-time coffee or waiting for a train etc, it passes the time, however I would look from one person to another rather than stare.

I find this completely different to a stranger staring intensely at a family with children (even worse if they are male). That is not acceptable.


SnoozyLucy7 · 02/09/2022 18:50

OP, unless you are looking completely down at your feet, wherever you go out, you also people watch inadvertently, because we all do it. People are allowed to look at each other. Why would this be weird?

I love people watching when I am out and about. Of course. I don’t just stop and stare, but sitting somewhere with drink watching the world go by and the people in it, is just a nice thing to do.


Luredbyapomegranate · 02/09/2022 18:50

I've never heard of anyone going out to people watch, so your mate is a bit unusual.

But watching people is interesting if you find people interesting, or you're into fashion, or you want to see how other people parent, or couples behave, or... whatever really. If you aren't all that interested in people then obviously you wouldn't be into it.

But sometimes when someone appears to be people watching they are daydreaming or deep in thought, and the people they appear to be watching are just a random spot to focus on, like you do in yoga or something. That might be the case for the lady on the beach.


Hugasauras · 02/09/2022 18:51

DillDanding · 02/09/2022 18:45

I love people watching.

We went on a couples hotel/pool/beach type holiday in Feb (not the sort of holiday we usually go on). We bloody loved watching other couples. It was fascinating. I also like watching people in restaurants, but I see people doing it to us, so I don’t feel bad (although I’m very discreet 😂).

After a few days of our holiday, we got chatting to 2 other couples. ‘Oh, we were all convinced you 2 were Italian’ they said to us. They’d clearly been watching too; it’s a thing.

We give names and nicknames to the people we share our hotel etc with Grin 'Oh Manuel's in his tiny Speedos again and Freda is off her tits on white wine spritzers'.

People like to observe other people. It's human nature. We are social animals, even introverts like me Grin


Goosygandy · 02/09/2022 18:52

I like people watching. It's a bit like meditation, just watching people hanging out, while letting me thoughts drift. I don't think about them later, so it's not stalkery in my view. I never have people looking back at me so I don't think I'm staring. If people looked uncomfortable I'd stop, but it's not been an issue.

People are social creatures, they like being part of the tribe. However, it can be tiring interacting with other people. This is a relatively benign solution.


VirginiaWool · 02/09/2022 18:52

That might be the case for the lady on the beach.

Exactly. She had probably just seen a killer shark or something.


Hugasauras · 02/09/2022 18:53

And it's more just watching life go on around you, not staring at individuals for any length of time, just being present and watching people pass by.


Bretonbear · 02/09/2022 18:53

CurlyhairedAssassin · 02/09/2022 18:34

OP, I take it you just looked at your feet or directly into the eyes of your children (who I assume were sitting with you), and nowhere else? Otherwise, YOU were people-watching too.


I really think you are over thinking this OP.


Pieceofpurplesky · 02/09/2022 18:55

But you were looking at her to see if she was looking at you. Maybe she was wondering why angry woman was glaring?
Maybe she's like me and can't see beyond the end of her nose!


DancingBudgie · 02/09/2022 18:56

I love a bit of people watching from behind my sunglasses while sat outside a cafe or pub.
I can also rate any tasty blokes who come past too while I'm doing so.


NeelyOHara1 · 02/09/2022 18:57

If you're on your own somewhere are you meant to stare at the ground in case you accidently look at someone😎😀


Riapia · 02/09/2022 18:57

Everybody does it, yes even you OP wether you admit it or not.
I people watch and I do what everybody else does but won’t ever admit to, I judge.


Alwayswonderedwhy · 02/09/2022 18:58

I didn't realize this was a thing. Specifically going out to people watch people or staring is weird.
If I'm sat on the beach, at a park or having a coffee I'll casually watch people go by, that's what I thought people watching was.


IncompleteSenten · 02/09/2022 19:00

For info I am autistic.
I think it's a social thing.

I don't give a shit who's doing what around me as long as they aren't inconveniencing me. In fact I go to the other extreme and sort of erase them mentally from my surroundings but I am aware that its people like me that are in the minority with this.

I remember when I used to go to restaurants with people. They'd be looking round at other people and I'd be looking at them wondering why the fuck they wanted to do that. Who gives a shit what randoms are doing at the other side of a room?

I asked my husband once and apparently it's to know what's going on. Same reason he regularly looks out of the windows. "Just checking the world is still there ha ha tee hee". I laugh because I realise it's supposed to be funny but I don't get it.

It makes zero sense to me but that's the only explanation I've ever been given so if it is of any help you're welcome. 😁


Desertdweller8 · 02/09/2022 19:05

im glad some of you see what I do in that it seems intrusive and odd. I certainly don’t mean the passing glance or a quick smile at an old lady, I mean people who specifically sit and focus on a person or a few then turn their focus to another family and so on. Watching the world go by isn’t the same thing as that often means taking in the weather, sounds etc not intruding on specific peoples’ personal space.
for those that do it what would be your reaction if you were approached and told to stop looking (or similar)?

OP posts:

TheHateIsNotGood · 02/09/2022 19:07

As a lone traveller People Watching was one of my favourite things to do from a 'cafe' table. Although I always had a book, paper or similar on the table too that I would glance at so I didn't look so much like I was staring.


TheHateIsNotGood · 02/09/2022 19:14

Good question desertdweller. If I was in an unfamiliar location then I would apologize and stop staring and look at my book - including some parts of the UK if I felt a threatening vibe.

But in a familiar place - if you didn't seem to be mentally impaired in some way - then I'd probably laugh at you.


ManateeFair · 02/09/2022 19:14

Watching the world go by is absolutely fine, normal and common, ffs. Of course it’s not weird to sit on a bench or outside a cafe with a drink and do nothing. What do you want people to do? Fix their gaze at the floor? Face the wall?

‘People watching’ is completely different from staring. And I do not think people ‘stare intently’ at you everywhere you go. You’re just paranoid. Some people lack social skills and stare, but that isn’t people watching. 99% of people give you no more than a passing glance, which is normal human behaviour.


ThisIsNotAFlyingToy · 02/09/2022 19:17

I love people watching but it's just a thing you do when in a busy spacy. It's glancing and noticing, not staring. It's also why all those "Wear what you like at the beach/pool because no-one is looking" threads are bollocks. Of course they're looking (but almost certainly don't care).


Hugasauras · 02/09/2022 19:21

I find it weird this seems to be happening to you all the time. Perhaps we are very boring but I've never noticed anyone staring at us 🤷‍♀️


Bangolads · 02/09/2022 19:22

Dear god, people are curious. 7 billion people in the world and you’re surprised we don’t all like the same thing- are you bonkers?


Whatinthewonderingfuckisthat · 02/09/2022 19:28

I don’t get it- I really, really don’t. My husband will do this at the airport- I can’t understand how he doesn’t get bored and have questioned him before on how he gets any sort of enjoyment/doesn’t get bored doing it.
I need a book or to be looking round shops or something- 2 mins in my seat and I’m bored senseless!
I just think that we are all built differently and that the enjoyment I get out of a Series or book, others must get out of watching people!
wish I could do it though as it’s save me money!


AllThingsServeTheBeam · 02/09/2022 19:30

Whatinthewonderingfuckisthat · 02/09/2022 19:28

I don’t get it- I really, really don’t. My husband will do this at the airport- I can’t understand how he doesn’t get bored and have questioned him before on how he gets any sort of enjoyment/doesn’t get bored doing it.
I need a book or to be looking round shops or something- 2 mins in my seat and I’m bored senseless!
I just think that we are all built differently and that the enjoyment I get out of a Series or book, others must get out of watching people!
wish I could do it though as it’s save me money!

You can do both


ItsJustLittleOlMe · 02/09/2022 19:30

PinkPencilCase · 02/09/2022 18:38

I don't think what you're describing is how I understand people watching. Surely it's more of a watching-the-world-go-by vibe than choosing your victims and staring intently.
You friend sounds like she is just having a morning doing nothing in a cafe, enjoying the atmosphere and hoping she might get some company?

Exactly this. For example when I go on holiday, a European city break, I love to just sit in an outdoor cafe in the town square with a coffee and watch the world go by. That's generally what's meant by 'people watching'. Not a stalker staring intently at someone that they've fixated on and noting their every movement.


Desertdweller8 · 02/09/2022 19:31

Well I knew some people would struggle to understand what I meant…
it doesn’t happen to me all the time it’s an observation, I never said people stare intently at me, I notice people doing it in their surroundings, people I know admit to doing it and made me realise it’s a very common thing. The majority of people stop when they’re ‘caught’ but there’s always some that stare. A general glance at passerby’s would be watching the world go by. Focusing on a certain person or people is specifically people watching.

so ‘thehatels’ you mean if someone was uncomfortable at you staring at them and asked you to stop you would laugh? How do you know they haven’t got learning difficulties or scared of your intentions and you’re causing them mental distress? Doesn’t sound like people watching to me, sounds like borderline harassment/stalking.

OP posts:
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

We're all short on time

Log in or sign up to use the 'See Next' or 'See all' posts by the OP (Original Poster) and cut straight to the action.

Already signed up?

Sign up to continue reading

Mumsnet's better when you're logged in. You can customise your experience and access way more features like messaging, watch and hide threads, voting and much more.

Already signed up?