I sometimes have the problem that I cannot break the ice starting a conversation. However, if the other person helps, then I usually do not have problems to fit in.
Here are some things that I did / do:
- listen to the other person;
- make acquaintance;
- tell about yourself (choose the comfortable level of details): family, studies, work experience;
- tell about your country;
- tell about your hobbies;
- ask the other person about (some) personal details, studies, hobbies, travel experiences...
- ask the other person what he / she wants to know about;
While the other person might be curious to know about you, he / she might need to talk to somebody. Sometimes, receptionists are bored beyond imagination. Do not "cannibalize" all the talking time.
As an example of what not to do, once I served a short prank to a girl (that I had met before) in another country. She asked me about interesting things in my country.
I pretended I did not understand her intent, and started to give overviews about:
- (national) celebrities: writers, musicians, inventors...
I had some fun watching her face falling and falling. I only went on for 1-2 minutes, and then I candidly asked: "But you are probably not interested in these details. Maybe you want to know more about national specific clothes, dishes? Or something else?" She could not be happier to start asking questions about what was interesting for her, and listen to the answers.