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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, coaching, effective communication and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free food and good movies.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

That dreaded, absolutely useless question that people ask over and over again while thinking that they are doing small-talk - I

The girl with the long, wonderful brown hair - from now on, "she" - sits near me, and smiles.
I'm talking to someone else, and yet I can notice that she is listening to our conversation without actually being part of it - hello, privacy! - and without missing a single word of it. As soon as my interlocutor excuses himself for a minute, she's all in.

She is curious. She wants to be nice. She is hoping to get to know me better or to know me at all since so far she has no idea whatsoever about me, who I am and what I am doing at the venue...

[If I have to choose between bad small-talk and nonsense, 
I will go for nonsense every single time: 
Mad Hatter's tea party by John Tenniel]

And so she strikes up a conversation with a stranger and she does that in a way that, in her mind, should be pleasant and welcoming and safe, but... it is not the case.

She (smiling): Hi!
Me (smiling back): Hi!
S: How are you doing?
M: I'm great, thanks, how about you?
S: I'm ok, thanks. What's your name?
M: Azzurra. Nice to meet you. And yours?
S: My name is XY. Where are you from?
M (smiling, without replying): Why?
S (surprised, a little bit insecure): Since your name is so unusual.
M (quiet, still smiling): Thanks, this is a nice compliment. It means light-blue.
S (puzzled, and a little bit disappointed): Oh, I see. I got it.

She was expecting another kind of answer and wants me to play along with it. And yet, I don't want to go there.
In her mind, this is the standard way to go. In my mind, I can't help but just be thinking that there we are again, with that dreaded, absolutely useless question that people ask over and over again, usually as the very first question, while getting to know strangers and thinking that they are doing small-talk. And yet, they are not.

More on this subject in another blog post, but for now I've decided to create a brand-new blog posts series, with the most representative interactions that happen day in and day out for this matter. How great. Yippie Yippie Yeah.

[Light-blue, azure, azul, hellblau, azzurro, mavi...
call it like you want to. 
But don't ask me where I am from just because of it!]

Nope, I guess she didn't get it. 
And yet, I keep calm and resist the urge to reply with "Thanks, this is a nice compliment. Then you should ask about the name and the stories that could be related to it and not about my passport. The two things could be totally not related and therefore you would still have no clue about the name anyway".

Stay tuned for the next one on this subject. 
As this tends to happen to me on a daily basis since I started to live in Berlin as an expat about seven years ago, I will be back soon with the next annoying conversation. I know that you are looking forward to it just as much as I do. 

Tags: Small-talk, Where are you from, Light-blue, What not to ask first, Names, Azzurra, Colors, Strange names

What to read next:
A-Z-Z-U-R-R-A... with two Z and two R, bitte!