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Observing People as a Pastime

Updated on November 29, 2017

Watching the World Go By

A search on Google for 'people watching' led me to find some information on this topic.

They also call it 'crowd watching' - it involves observing people and their interactions. One gets a first impression of the people passing by.

Authors sometimes use it to make up characters in their stories. Artists with a vivid imagination might observe a crowd of people then paint them from memory in a style that is not too detailed.

As the word 'pastime' suggests: this particular pastime is a way to pass the time, rather than feeling bored.

An Absorbing Pastime

Observing people can be an enjoyable way to pass the time while waiting in places like shopping malls, airports or parks.

This is a completely non judgmental pastime and is not in any way obtrusive.

It can be done while having coffee in an outside area of a coffee shop or anywhere where lots of people pass by.

If I'm waiting for someone in a shopping mall I sometimes sit and observe people as they go about their daily business, it beats getting bored or restless.

Interesting People

Observing life going by usually occurs when I have some time on my hands, when I'm in a place where lot's of people pass by.

When I sit somewhere and observe people I don't stare at them if they happen to catch my eye; I look away and then observe them as they walk by. There are so many interesting people around; one can observe: how they dress, the expression on their faces, the pace they walk at, if they're alone or with others, whether they're eating while they're walking or not, if they're pushing supermarket trolly's, talking on their cellphones, doing window shopping, or whatever.

Stories from Life

For the author looking for an interesting story to write, perhaps seeing the beggar with no legs sitting on the pavement, day after day, in the city centre might be potential material for his writing quest. Finding out more about the unfortunate man by talking to him will complement the story.

This could then become a mini-biography or short story. It might attract the media to investigating the mans situation and to finding organisations who could help him financially so that he doesn't have to spend his days on the street waiting for passers-by to fill his cup with coins.

One can create a story by imagining who a person is and what they are doing. A backpacker travelling around a country could be fuel for a story about his experiences along the way.

I can't tell what a person does for a living just by looking at them, unless they're wearing a uniform such as a security guard, but I can at least look at the expression on a persons face and notice whether they're feeling sad, mad or glad.

Oh and there's the children, the teenagers, the business people, the middle aged, the ancient, the waitresses; the tall, the short and all types of people that make up our wonderful world.

Observing passers-by can be an enjoyable pastime, sometimes when I've had enough of it, I just have to go and browse through the books in the bookstore.


People Passing By

While sitting in a busy place do you enjoy observing people passing by?

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Guestbook Comments

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    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      4 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comments DANCINGCOWGIRLDESIGN, I'm sure you come up with some interesting ideas about the people you observe.

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      4 years ago from Texas

      I do love people watching and often make up my own ideas of what they are doing or thinking.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      4 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @Colin323: Thanks Colin for your comment. Every persons life has a story to it, we would probably be surprised to find out what some have experienced in their lives.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I write short stories, so people watching is a great source of ideas, particularly when you also catch fragments of their conversation. It's like finding a piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle - a vague shape or colour - and you try to imagine the other pieces!

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @TheCozyDinosaur: Thanks for your comment, yes it's enjoyable to think of stories about the people we see in various public places

    • TheCozyDinosaur profile image


      5 years ago

      I tend to make back stories for people when I am people watching.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @aesta1: Thanks for your comment!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is one of my favourite pastimes. Just fascinating.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      People watching is a great pastime. It's calm and relaxing. Enjoy your day!

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @DebMartin: Thanks for the comment and visiting my lens

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I too am a people watcher. Started at a young age when I shopped with my Mom.

    • Dave Lynch profile imageAUTHOR

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      @nick-white-kcmo: Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my lens, people can be fascinating.


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