The initial exchanges people have when they have just met are known as small talk. These include non-risk topics such as:

  • the weather
  • the town or country where you are now
  • the hotel where you are staying
  • how you traveled to where you are now

Typical questions that people ask while making small talk are:

  • It’s a bit cloudy, isn’t it?
  • Do you think it’s going to rain later on?
  • Did you have to travel far to get here?
  • Which hotel are you staying in?
  • Have you been here before?

Cultures differ considerably in the way they attempt to establish a relationship using small talk. In much of Europe and North America, initial conversations often focus on the person’s job, and in Japan on the organization they work for. Whereas Arabs may initially attempt to find out about each other’s family identity.

Such exchanges enable you and your partner to:

  •  get used to each other’s accents and style of speaking. You are not giving each other essential information, so it does not matter at this point if you do not understand everything you say to each other
  • find your voice in English
  • make a connection with each other
  • learn a little personal information that you might be able to refer to in future conversations
  • make some positive comments about each other.

This positive feeling will then be useful if any negative comments need to be made later on (for example in a technical discussion).