Small Talk

As an English teacher, one of the things my students have asked me over and over is how to make small talk, for example before or after a business meeting or during a business lunch. What is so hard for them is not finding the right words or using correct grammar, rather they are worried about not knowing what to say to begin with. They are all German, and that is the difficulty: not the (lack of) language skills, but the cultural differences make small talk an uncomfortable topic for many people.
I found an interesting blog post and video on about precisely this issue, which offers a great and easy-to-remember comparison between German and American small talk. (For the full article and video, click on the link below.)
Basically, Germans are like coconuts when it comes to small talk: they are focused on the job and things relating to it and hard to crack – personal things are only revealed after a time of working together and getting to know one another better.
Americans, on the other hand, are like peaches: they carry their soft (personal) parts on the outside and don’t feel any inhibition to ask about all sorts of personal things right from the start.
This is just an example of how two cultures affect the way we approach small talk, and there are of course as many more as there are cultures. Naturally, without any consideration for the other person’s small talk style, things are bound to get a bit awkward. The best strategy is therefore to remember what your own style is and what type of small talker you are faced with and adjust both your thinking and your conversation. This may mean that you have to leave your comfort zone a bit, but would you rather let yourself get bothered or even upset by another person who is, after all, only making small talk? – © & Business Spotlight

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