Some things I think I know about small talk

Regarding professions and names:

  • If you are in a college or university setting, asking someone what their major is is considered an acceptable small talk question, and it can lead to actual conversation.
  • Asking someone what they do (for work) is socially acceptable in some crowds, but not others. It’s acceptable if it’s perceived as similar to asking about a major, and rude if it’s perceived as an attempt to determine how much money someone has or how much social status they have
  • Making jokes or disparaging comments about someone’s job or major is considered boorish unless you have the same job/major and it is also self-mockery. It’s not nice to insult people you just met.
  • Similarly, don’t make jokes about people’s names upon being introduced. They’ve heard them all before.
Regarding sports:
  • A lot of people like to talk about sports as a primary form of small talk. I don’t really understand this. Maybe some of y’all can chime in?
  • In the US, outside of New York, people are likely to dislike the Yankees, and some people find Yankees fans annoying, and some get really angry about Yankees fans. (This is especially true in Boston).
  • Many areas, particularly college towns, have intense and scary sports fandoms. If you don’t understand the sports fandom in your area, it’s probably better to avoid wearing sports logo clothing, and this is especially true if there is a game on.