the peak of these situations would be being stuck in a car with no radio on, leaving you only to chuckle at the jokes of the present company.
due to moving around a lot, starting at new schools, and working at an assortment of places, i have been at the short end of the stick in this situation many a time, so i definitely have a sensitivity when i know someone is feeling a bit weird. BUT when on the other (and preferred) end of the stick, i often find it to be no easier. you acknowledge, you inquire, you set a comfortable atmosphere... and people be awkward anyway.
sometimes this just seems like a lose-lose situation.
i think, what it really comes down to, is a personality issue. some people just have problems with adjusting to new situations and adapting to a different environment. we just need to little patience and kindness, followed with the right amount of persistence.
but really, nothing beats a good time hanging out with friends you love.