5 German Conversation Starters
While the Germans have a reputation for being cold and unapproachable, they are in fact quite friendly and talkative with foreigners… provided you lend them some interesting conversation fodder. True to form, Germans are less apt to spend time indulging in “small talk” when there are more enlivening topics to share their opinions on. So, if you’re living or traveling in Germany and eager to expand your conversational skills, here are the top five topics sure to catalyze an engaging chat.
1. The Economic Crisis. As it stands, the survival of various European countries and consequently the EU as a whole is thanks to bailouts from Germany. German people, who have achieved their status as Europe’s strongest economy through high taxes and strict austerity measures, understandably have very strong opinions on this. People may feel different measures of resentment, but most will agree that it was their duty to help their neighbors; at any rate, mention of the crisis or the economy is sure to launch a long, intense, and detailed conversation about the situation. Anything to do with taxes or the current government is also fair game.
2. Beer. As stereotypical as this may sound, Germany is the heartland of some of the world’s finest, strongest, most diverse beers, and they are very proud of that fact. If you are not well-initiated into the world of good brews, ask a German to recommend their favorite beer to you. If you are more knowledgeable, you can start a conversation about the beer-making process, comparing the tastes of different classes of beers, and so on.
3. Soccer. If you’re talking with a German man, chances are he can go for hours on this subject. Ask which team he supports, or how he thinks Germany will do in the World Cup this year. If you have no knowledge about soccer (or, as they call it, Fußball,) ask them to explain the rules to you and they will with gusto.
4. German Cars. Another area where Germany excels is in making well-engineered, fuel-efficient cars. From luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz and BMW to more populist-style cars like the Audi and the Volkswagen, German cars are as popular on their home turf as they are overseas and most people you talk to are bound to have some sort of an opinion on that.
5. How Terrible Everything Is. Paradoxically, given Germany’s high standard of living, clockwork infrastructure, reliable public transportation, and position of leadership in Europe, one of the country’s fondest pastimes is complaining. So if you’ve run out of conversation topics, just mention how the country’s youth is going downhill, or how high taxes are, or how depressing the weather has been. It’s sure to spark hours of indignant kvetching about the state of things.
To get the most out of these five conversation starters, it’s imperative that you learn a decent amount of German so you can meet your counterpart (who almost certainly speaks at least some English) on equal footing. Send us a query, or take our free online German language level test to see for yourself where you can start.