Culture(s) / Striking up a conversation

A1 Breakthrough

In your country and culture, what subjects are typically used to strike up conversations? Do they change depending on how well you know the person you are talking to? Do you go into details in your first conversations with someone? Are any subjects taboo? Is eye-contact important?

Depending on whether you know someone or are speaking to them for the first or second time, you will strike up a conversation differently. The "tu" form ("te," "ton," "ta," "tes") is quickly brought into play among people who are less than 30 years of age, but in formal situations, the "vous" form ("votre", "vos") is called for. Moreover, when speaking to older people, you must use the "vous" form, whereas with people your age or younger, you can use the "tu" form. Other elements convey information about people's emotions (affection, shyness, fear, a sense of complicity) when they speak: eye-contact, gestures, and the space there is between them.
The way in which you strike up a conversation or broach a new subject depends entirely on the situation and the kind of relationship the people have. There are no ready-made answers.

During a first meeting, you can ask someone if they live in the neighbourhood, whether they work and if so, in what field. You can talk about what the neighbourhood is like, where you work, and which shops, cafes, or restaurants you like to go to. When you're in a public place, you can ask questions on what's happening, talk about the people who regularly come to that place, or express a general opinion. You do not ask questions requiring detailed answers if the person you are speaking to is giving you short answers. You don't ask questions about income; you don't talk about religion, politics, or sex.

Perhaps later, or the next time you meet, you can ask the person how they are doing, talk about the weather, and ask for information or advice.


Find out more: