While having some English conversation starters on hand in the grocery store may seem like something unimportant, in reality it's a great skill to be learned…and one that should be practiced.
You see, when working with Americans (at least), it's not only important that we can work with you, but that we can pass the time with you. We're interested in you and your life, and we show that through small talk.
This is super common to hear when you are leaving the office. Even if you just plan on staying home, making dinner, and watching TV, the other person is interested in hearing that! It's an important part of getting to know someone: what they like to do and how they spend their time. It also can give you one of your English conversation starters in the office the next morning, so don't be surprised when your coworker asks how your quiet evening at home was!
If you mentioned something about how your Mom had a cold, or how your brother had gotten a new job, be prepared to be asked about it! It's another part of the getting-to-know-you process. We're genuinely curious (not nosy!) about the people you care about, and that they're doing well.
This is a big one. "How are you," is a bit different in the United States than it is in Germany and Europe. Think of it more as the introduction to the conversation than an actual statement of how you're doing, which is why most people answer with "well! For Americans, it's a question that initiates the larger topic of conversation. Once that's started, feel free to discuss how you're really feeling.
A compliment is an easy way into the affections of an American. When I worked in retail in college, noticing something nice about our customers was a sure way to connect with them and get a conversation going. From my experience, nine times out of ten, your conversation partner will say thank you, and return a compliment.
When in doubt as to what to say, turn the question around and ask the other person what they like. People love talking about themselves!
Small talk is a great way to get an American to open up. Showing interest in others and what they're up to is a sign of politeness. You're putting the interests of others first, and it's a great way to get to know all different kinds of people! Just ask my Mom. She's made some lifelong friends by engaging in small talk with people next to her in line.
Looking for some ways to improve your English conversation? We've got 5 great tips!
What do you think about these English conversation starters? I'd love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and great person to have a chat with!