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How to start a topic with foreigners?

I'm working in a foreign company,there are two many foreigners who speak English. So I always meet my foreign colleagues in the electrical lift,or on the road to the canteen,to the meeting room etc,at anywhere.I used to just say "Hi", but the next several minutes we are immersed in the embarrassed situation. I really don't know how to start a topic with foreigners.Have you ever meet this problem? Your kindly suggestion is very appreciate.Thanks in advance.

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Talking to people is the same in any language. Do it the same as you would in Chinese. Foreigners are people too. Just make it natural. If you make them feel like you are just using them to practice English, they probably wont feel like talking to you. 

I suppose you will have to read some books about their culture.

as far as I know, in China, when meeting new people, Chinese like to ask the questions concerning name, age, salary and state of marriage, etc, while the Western countries’ conversation doesn't involve the private questions such as, age, salary and state of marriage.

so, try to avoid talking those topics.


alternatives:

weather, social life, weekend activities, places of interest, favourite TV programm, music, etc

 

If I'm stuck in a lift with someone, and feel inclined to make polite conversation, I would say, Hello/Goodmorning/etc, then perhaps ask if they are visiting the company on business. They'll probably say yes. Then I would not ask for more details (as that might be nosey/impolite/none of my business!) but I might ask if they'd been to China before. If they say yes I might ask what parts of China they visited. If they say no... I might make a suggestion... "Oh, well I can recommend visiting the.... "

 

I wouldn't say "Hi" unless they look my own age group/casual types etc. Not everybody likes a casual "Hi!" Older people, or superiors, might think it too informal. Nobody can complain about a polite Hello/Good morning etc.

 

Never ask anything personal. Never be too informal. Ask if they like the weather/been to China before. Polite and neutral.

Thanks for all of you kindly suggestion,I learnt more from them. But I want clarify that I mean the person we meet in the lift,or wherever we meet, who is my colleague.Even we work in the same department, or we have met each other once/twice due to some biz reason. So I mean we know each other, but we are not too familiar to start any topic, such as life/work. 

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