German All-in-One For Dummies, with CD
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Making small talk in German is just the same as in English. Touch on familiar topics like jobs, sports, children — just say it in German! Small talk describes the brief conversations that you have with people you don't know well. Small talk is where friendships are made. If you know how to make small talk in German you'll be able to "break the ice" and get to know some of the people you meet during your trip.

Small talk generally consists of greetings and introductions and descriptions of personal information and interests. If you are able to hold your own in each of these areas, you'll be able to handle most small talk situations.

Greetings and introductions

Although German people are often more formal than folks in the United States, you usually don't need to wait around to be introduced to someone. Take the initiative to walk up to someone and say hello.

The most common ways to greet someone is to simply say hello (Hallo or Guten Tag). If you're in Southern Germany, the most common hello is Grüß Gott. Next, just introduce yourself and ask the other person their name. The following phrases are all you need to get a conversation started.

  • Ich heiße . . . (My name is . . .)

  • Wie heißen Sie? (What’s your name? [Formal])

  • Kann ich meine Frau, Fabienne einführen? (May I introduce my wife, Fabienne?).

Greetings and introductions are usually accompanied by a Wie geht es Ihnen? (How are you? [Formal]) There are many possible responses, but the most common would be to say Gut, danke. (I'm fine, thank you.) or Nicht schlecht. (Not bad.)

Because the German's are more socially formal, they follow a strict sense of etiquette at work. In business settings, introductions are only made by those in authority. So, if you’re at an office, let the boss make the introductions to the other people in the office.

Personal information

After the necessary introductions, small talk is really just a question of sharing information about yourself and asking the other person questions. The following phrases will come in handy when you're chitchatting with someone new.

When giving your occupation in German, there’s no need to use the word a (ein, eine) as in “I am a doctor.” Instead, just say Ich bin Arzt (I’m a doctor) or Ich bin Lehrerin (I’m a teacher), for example.

  • Ich komme aus . . . (I am from . . .)

  • Ich komme aus Österreich. (I'm from Austria.)

  • Woher kommen Sie? (Where are you from?)

  • Was bist du von Beruf? (What is your profession?)

  • Wie alt bist du? (How old are you?)

  • Wo wohnst du? (Where do you live?)

  • Ich bin Student /Studentin. [M/F] (I’m a student.)

  • Ich bin Lehrerin [F] (I’m a teacher.)

Personal interests

Many friendships are forged on the bond of common interests. You can use the following phrases to compare interests when making small talk.

  • Was machen Sie in Ihrer Freizeit? [Formal] (What do you do for fun?)

  • Ich spiele Golf. (I play golf.)

  • Ich spiele Fußball. (I play soccer.)

  • Ich spiele Tennis. (I play tennis.)

  • Ich sammle Briefmarken. (I collect stamps.)

  • Ich wandere gern. (I like hiking.)

  • Ich treibe viel Sport. (I play a lot of sports.)

  • Ich koche gern. (I like to cook.)

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