CulturallyOurs Lifestyle Cross-Cultural Conversation tips-4

Cross-Cultural Conversation Starter Tips

10.05.18
CulturallyOurs Lifestyle Cross-Cultural Conversation tips-4

According to the World Economic Forum, 1 in every 30 people globally is an immigrant.

Movement of people to different parts of the world or even internally within their own country is not a new phenomenon. In fact scientists have traced the first human migration patterns to have taken place almost 60,000 years ago. Of course life then looked vastly different from what we experience today. But regardless, it is not easy to leave one’s homeland and start a new life.

Behind every migrant family and community, there is a story. These stories may be positive or negative, but we cannot hope to understand the issues of migration without hearing them. And being a migrant does not always mean moving across countries. Sometimes people even move within the country for a new life and a fresh start.

Overall, especially in today’s world, there is an urgent need to move from a segmented perspective to a more common understanding.

After all, getting to know people from the inside out is one of the core missions of CulturallyOurs. To that end, we have created a conversation tips cheat sheet to help you come from a place of understanding and empathy the next time you meet someone who doesn’t look like you or talk like you or dress like you or even behave like you.CulturallyOurs Lifestyle Cross-Cultural Conversation tips-1Here are some cross-cultural conversation starter tips to help you.

#1 Share a little bit about you and your personal story

Who are you and where are you from? What you enjoy? Use these as a way to start the conversation. Share anecdotes from your own personal life that you are proud to share, not from a place of bragging, but from a place of trying to find a connection.

#2 Compliment freely

Compliment people about something that you noticed and appreciated. Then tie it to a question. Using the approach of ‘positivity’, you can change a person’s mindset from closed to more open about sharing their background.

#3 Ask open ended questions that prompt a dialogue

Questions that are open-ended facilitate dialogue and discussion. For example: Where did you grow up and what is most memorable about it? Or how was it like when you went to college? Or what sports do you like to watch? Such questions give the other person a chance to express themselves in a non-threatening manner which leads to positive communication.

#4 Watch your body language

Body language often dictates how others see us. So be aware of your own body language and use body language cues to indicate you are friendly and open to making friends. Avoid crossed arms, hands in your pocket, playing with keys or even checking your phone as they can be taken as signs of disinterest.

CulturallyOurs Lifestyle Cross-Cultural Conversation tips-3

Use the S.O.F.T.E.N. technique to help create a great non-verbal impression.

  • (S)mile
  • (O)pen up your posture
  • (F)orward lean
  • (T)ouch by shaking hands
  • (E)ye contact
  • (N)od when the other person talks

#5 Be genuine

Be genuine about your intention of getting to know the other person. People are generally very perceptive and can often spot insincerity a mile away. Remember to always be honest and sincere in your effort to get to know the other person. Ask questions that you really want to know answers for and build on them to carry the conversation forward and to help you understand better. This facilitates conversation. For example.

  • My knowledge about X is very limited I am afraid, would you be open to talking and sharing about what it was like for you?
  • I have never met someone from A and I have always been interested in knowing more about A – can you point me to a good resource to learn? Would you be open to sharing about your life in A?

One of the worse things we often do in our fear of saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question is to completely ignore the person/issue. This often times makes people feel more alienated and isolated. People, by nature, are social creatures who want and crave company and camaraderie.

And sometime all it takes is an non-verbal acknowledgement and a smile to make someone else’s day.

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Leave your comments below

  1. Very positive and helpful article. This should be taught everywhere so that people would be more accepting when they encounter some differences. I think all the differences make the traveling more exciting and I love to experience other cultures.

  2. These are wonderful tips, thank you for sharing – I think they are relevant for so many interactions as we meet people around the world, thank you!

  3. Anna says:

    It is so true that the immigration and migration process is nothing new. Human beings moved across lands and waters for ages.
    I like all your tips for holding and conducting a conversation. Very helpful info!
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Anna says:

    Hello!
    It is so true that the immigration and migration process is nothing new. Human beings moved across lands and waters for ages.
    I like all your tips for holding and conducting a conversation. Very helpful info!
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Karen says:

    One of the many things I’ve learnt in our full-time travels is about cultural diversity. Being able to see things from other people’s perspective and understand their world is something I think we all need to be better at. We were only talking today about; if as a traveller I could be given a super power what would it be – and mine would be being able to converse in every language so a greater connection can be made. I love your tips for connection. Kx

  6. Leah says:

    Wonderful tips! I love your tip to be genuine. This is so important. Even when there is a struggle with a language barrier or a mix-up with body language, people are often tell when people are genuine. That is so important!

  7. Sinjana Ghosh says:

    Amazing tips. I’m not very good with striking conversations so this is a good starter kit for me.

  8. Sharon says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post! I like the tip about complimenting someone. I do that with people I know but not so often with “strangers.” That’s a great icebreaker, at home or on a trip!

  9. Wendy Lee says:

    I really like this tips–I wish more people would read them. Getting to know people from other parts of the world is always educational and informative for everyone involved.

  10. Erin Foster says:

    These are great tips! I always have trouble broaching the subject of certain things in a culture for fear of insulting someone or touching on a sensitive topic. I think if more people approached things in this way, we could learn a lot from each other!

  11. Great tips for any social interaction! I’ve used many to break the ice and have learned a few new ones here. Pin-worthy.

  12. Yukti Agrawal says:

    I loved your tips about cross cultural conversation as it is very important how we talk and present ourselves when we talk to people from different origin. While talking, I also hate to others looking at their phones, or playing with keys as for me also it shows the signs of disinterest.

  13. Jay Artale says:

    Asking open ended questions is a great way to encourage a conversation, and can even prompt a person who is initially reluctant to converse, into being open to conversing with you. The easiest is to rely on their local knowledge and ask them to share some tips or advice about seeing their city. It’s neutral ground, but gives them an opportunity to give their personal input, and you a chance to hear about something that maybe is missing from your guidebook or travel research.