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Small talk is something that I have trouble with. Most advice that I can find is quite US-centric, like asking people what they are looking forward to. In my country this would be quite strange. Conversely, "where are you heading?" is quite acceptable here, but may be considered suspicious elsewhere.

It seems small talk conventions are quite culture-specific. I'll soon be moving to Germany for work. In what settings is it appropriate to make small talk there? What are some topics that are acceptable without being boring? (e.g. the weather) What topics should be avoided? (besides the obvious like the nazi era) Does it make sense to broach "controversial" topics like immigration, once you've got the ball rolling?

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  • I recently learned that "the weather" is a preferred topic for small talk in Holland. I hope for your sake that Tinkeringbell doesn't see this ;)
    – apaul
    Dec 23, 2017 at 6:18
  • Will you be talking in German or English when making smalltalk? Dec 23, 2017 at 8:56
  • Although I hope to learn German, it will be in English initially.
    – user10436
    Dec 23, 2017 at 8:58
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    I'd recommend to not mention immigration in a conversation the first time you meet someone. Germany's just been through an election where immigration (and the "Obergrenze") was probably the most controversial topic. However, if you're smalltalking about traveling, you could mention your own personal experiences with getting into Germany as a foreigner because that's a perspective most Germans know very little about. If you can frame it as a personal experience rather than a political argument. Dec 23, 2017 at 16:44
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    If you don't like small talk, Germany is the perfect place for you :-) just get straight to the point, no beating around the bush (German here) Dec 24, 2017 at 11:03

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Disclaimer: I'm from Germany.

First off, small talk topics vary greatly by person. A safe one is to start off with the weather, especially if the weather is remarkable in some way. But usually, talk about something that presents itself. At a train station? Talk about where they're going and where you're going. At a bus stop? Same.

Asking people what they look forward to is probably not a good idea right away, at least I've never seen anyone do that in normal small talk with someone you don't know yet.

It's worth noting that German culture is generally very reserved towards people you don't know, the idea of just making small talk with everyone next to you is a bit alien to us.

But if you're speaking English or show signs that you come from elsewhere, you'll suddenly become very interesting. Lots of Germans learn English in school and want to practice their English, so you'll be engaged in conversation quite often. This can be a detriment too, since you won't get that much opportunity to learn German by immersion when everyone wants to practice their English on you.

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  • Bit relieved to know this -- I'm more than happy to offer Germans a chance to practice their English on me! Regarding a reserved attitude, in what settings do Germans freely socialise with strangers?
    – user10436
    Dec 23, 2017 at 17:48
  • @ziyanm Your best bet to find people willing to openly socialize would be some hobby group or meeting space, like a open boardgame bar or something like this.
    – Magisch
    Dec 23, 2017 at 19:50
  • I'd add that where in Germany you are is very important as well. Bavarians, for example, are more gregarious than northern Germans. But once you make a friend with a northerner, they're never going to forget you. Dec 24, 2017 at 23:02
  • @ziyanm Like Magisch, I'd recommend joining some sort of club or group (sports, hobby, social, etc.). You could ask colleagues or even HR at work whether there are clubs for your interests in the area. Dec 25, 2017 at 8:32
  • Thanks for all the tips everyone. Is there a German equivalent to meetup.com?
    – user10436
    Dec 25, 2017 at 18:41

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