Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

4 English Topics to Avoid in American Small Talk

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Thu, Jan 09, 2014 @ 01:04 PM

 4 English Topics to Avoid During American Small TalkDo you go to parties or events and often find yourself wondering what topics are ok to bring up and what topics you should avoid?

This might be very different in your home culture compared with the US.

In today's lesson, I am going to tell you what topics you should avoid during casual small talk in the United States.

The reason that you should avoid these topics is that these issues are extremely personal and people tend to feel very strongly about them.

Unless you are hoping to get kicked out of a party or get into a fist fight, or unless you know that your views are similar to other people at the party, you want to avoid these topics.

Check out the lesson!



*Disclaimer! These are general guidelines for situations where you don't know people well or at all. These are not definite rules and they could vary based on generation, region, type of party or event that you are attending, etc.



4 Topics to Avoid in Small Talk


#1) Sex


If you don't know the people that you are speaking with very well, it's a good idea to avoid the topic of sex.

It is interesting that sex and sexuality are huge themes in American movies and media, but we don't talk about it much during casual conversations.

In the workplace or when you are interacting with colleagues, sexual harassment is a major issue.

Men should be careful not to make comments regarding women that might be misinterpreted as a sexual "come-on."



#2) Religion

churchReligion can be a very "touchy" issue in the US.

Religion and religious views are personal.

if you don't know someone well enough to know what their religious views are, you should avoid making statements that might offend certain religions.

The best rule of thumb is to avoid the subject altogether or listen very carefully before you say anything if a conversation about religion is already going on.




#3) Politics


It is common to discuss politics in a place where people share the same views.

But in general, you should be very careful about what you say when you discuss any of the following:


  • Your political views
  • Other people's political views
  • Your voting history or the voting history of other people (don't directly ask someone who they voted for)
  • Hot-button issues such as: gay marriage, abortion, death penalty, war, universal healthcare, taxes



#4) Money


cashMany Americans consider money a very private issue. Try to avoid any of these topics:


  • Your income: Don't tell people how much money you make or how much you have made in the past
  • Your spending: If someone compliments you on a jacket or a new electronics item, don't tell them how much it cost. It's considered rude to do this.
  • Your savings accounts: Don't talk about how much money you have in the bank. It's not appropriate in situations where you don't know people very well.





Do you want to learn more about this topic and learn some vocabulary words to go along with it? Try our Speakative Conversation Program !

We will connect you with a native speaker of English who will practice English conversation with you about this topic and other similar topics and who will correct your mistakes.






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Topics: English Lessons, Daily Life in the US, United States Culture, English Conversation, Cross Cultural Coaching

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