Culture Question:

If you are speaking with Western people that you don’t know him before and how to start talking with him or her in polite way?

(posted: Oct. 1,2010)

If you want to start a conversation with a Western person you do not know be sure to keep to very general, impersonal topics initially. Neutral topics include things like:

  • commenting on the weather (“It certainly has rained a lot lately, hasn’t it?”)
  • commenting about something in the immediate surroundings (“I really like the new garden over there, don’t you?”)
  • commenting positively on something the person is carrying or wearing (“I really like your hairstyle. It is very cool.”)
  • asking a situation appropriate question (At a train station: “Where are you going?” In line at a fast food place: “Do you know what is good to eat here?” If the person is walking a dog: “What kind of dog is that? Is it friendly?”)

If the person does not answer your question, or does not seem interested in talking with you then you don’t need to say anything more.

If the Westerner answers your question, or returns your comment and seems open to continuing to talk you can then continue the conversation. Fairly safe topics to continue a conversation include asking about where s/he is from or you could ask about her/his job.

If you are in a place that sells tickets (a bus station, train station, tourist attraction) and the Western person looks like they are trying to read the signs, you have a good opportunity to go up to the person and ask if s/he needs any help. This may lead to an extended conversation. But, even if s/he does not need help, the offer is usually appreciated.

In the end, remember that a Westerner is a person just like you, so think about the ways that you like people to talk with you, the kinds of topics you like to discuss, and use this as a guide. Be attentive to the person you are talking to and be prepared to close off the conversation when it has run its course. Conversations with strangers are usually not that long.

Return to Culture Questions page

   -  top of page -


A conversation


Further Reading:

Starting a Conversation: Advice for when and how to start a conversation with a stranger

How to Start a Conversation with a Stranger