Culture(s) / Start a conversation

A1 Breakthrough
What are the first topics to address when talking to someone for the first time? Neighborhood, work, habits, for example.
In your country, in your culture, what are the conversation starter topics? Are they the same, regardless of whether you know or don’t know very well your interlocutor? Do we discuss the details in the first conversations? Are there any taboo topics? Is eye-contact important?

We don’t engage in conversation with people we know in the same way we do with people we meet for the first or second time. The “tu” (“te”, “ton”, “ta”, “tes”) is easily used by people under the age of 30, but in formal situations the “vous” (“votre”, “vos”) is required.
In addition, with older people, the “vous” is customary, whereas with younger ones or people of the same age, we can use “tu”, even if we don’t know each other well. Eye-contact, gestures, a greater or a lesser distance between people give information as well (sympathy, shyness, fear).
How we start a conversation or talk about a new topic depends entirely on our relationship with the interlocutor and the situation. There are no ready-made formulas.

When meeting for the first time, we can ask someone if they live in the neighborhood, if they work and, if so, in what field. We can talk about the neighborhood atmosphere, the place of work, their habits when in a store, café or restaurant. In a public place, we can ask questions about what is going on, talk about the habit of frequenting that place, express a general feeling. We don’t ask excessively specific questions if we see that the speaker answers briefly. We don’t ask questions about salary; we don’t talk about religion, politics, sex.

At a later time or during another meeting, we can ask the person how they are doing, talk about the weather and ask them for information or advice.

To learn more:

Practical exercises

Femme affichant une pétition

Culture(s): Striking up a conversation

4 exercises
Look • Listen • Intercultural (communication / initial contacts)