One of the most common questions I get from foreign professionals working here in the Bay Area is “how can I make small talk with my American co-workers? I can talk about professional stuff but the casual conversation is very difficult. I never know what they’re talking about!” It’s true. It’s harder that it seems. And not being able to do it well can impact your relationships with team members and supervisors.
Here are some useful tips:
- Become more familiar with American pop culture. Movies. TV shows. Netflix series. Music. Find out what people in your office are watching and start watching it! If you spend more than half your time with people from your own national group, you might not be learning enough about the US.
- Watch sports. Americans love basketball, football, baseball and hockey. Learn about the local teams, the players, some of their rivals, and their background. Find out how they’ve done the past few seasons. Go to the games in the local stadium if possible.
- Learn about local culture – the restaurants, bars, cafes and neighborhood hang outs (ok this is pre-Coronavirus advice obviously, but we’re counting on normality coming back!) If you live in a city like San Francisco or LA, learn more about the different neighborhoods. Americans tend to enjoy talking about their cities, the unique differences between different parts of town and so on.