Due to recent intensification in international mobility in Europe, its citizens are exposed to a much wider range of lifestyles and competing attitudes towards difference. Individuals are, therefore, increasingly likely to encounter ‘strangers’ and are, therefore, required to negotiate discontinuities and contradictions between the values that are transmitted through different sites. In response, the article explores the concept of the ‘stranger’ through original data collected in the UK and Poland. The article highlights that the construction of who is a stranger depends on national historical contexts, core values and related visions of the society. The UK and Poland have very different histories and experiences with social diversity, impacting on the ways in which individuals negotiate strange encounters. In both countries, the ‘stranger’ is often seen in a negative way and in relation to the minority groups that are perceived to be visibly different, distinct or ‘unknown’ in contemporary times. In Poland, this is now largely articulated through sexual prejudice (homophobia), whilst in the UK, attitudes towards the ‘stranger’ are largely conveyed through religious prejudice (Islamophobia). As such, the article offers a means of understanding how encounters with difference ‘produce’ strangers in different contexts.