Swedish Girl In London

London Life: Bright Lights, Big City. Now what's on TV?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mingle with the Pringles

A mingling event is coming up on my not-so-crammed social calendar. Now, I realise that this should make me dive joyfully into my wardrobe and emerge Holly Golightly-like in a black shift dress, suckling a diamantee cigarette holder. Instead, I fear it will be another opportunity to ponder my general social ineptitude.

I just have not mastered the art of small talk, particularly not in combination with canapés. You would think only Indian deities could handle shaking hands & exchanging business cards while holding a glass of wine and a plate with mini-quiche. However, I know for a fact that this feat has been performed by normal, two-armed people at many mingling events I have attended in the past. What I don’t know is how.

Even more difficult is actually finding something to talk about. Nothing is emptier than my brain after being introduced to a suited business contact. Nothing! Not even an East German supermarket during communism! And we all know how situations like that end, don’t we? That’s right – with a bad joke.

But this time I’ll come prepared. I have listed my Top Five Small-Talk Subjects, so ubiquitous that they can’t fail to please:

1. Mobile phones. They are the new plumbers – everybody has got a horror story. A particularly popular strand is to complain about other people using theirs inappropriately. Of course, I shamelessly play along in this and shudder at the thought of people conversing loudly on the bus. (In truth, I can’t bear to be parted from my wee Ericsson. After all, there is something so reassuring about it. Whenever you’re in the pub and your mate has gone to the loo, you get your phone up and start fiddling around with it. It’s sort of like signalling: I might look like Norman No-Mates at the moment, but see, at the tiniest click of my finger I could be in direct satellite contact with… Prince Harry. Or someone.)

2. Hmm, I’m already struggling, and that’s only the first subject polished off. Wait, I’ve got it – religion, politics and sexual orientation! No? You spoil-sports. Well, what about transport? If the mingling event is in any large city, there will surely be a deep well of pent-up tube-rage to tap into. I feel that this subject should be approached with some caution, though. Things can get nasty when free champagne is involved.

3. On a similar theme - the congestion charge. I still don’t know how it works, but you seem to be able to get great mileage out of it.

4. "Tell me about yourself". In theory this one should be unbeatable, because I have yet to meet somebody who doesn’t like to talk about their own pretty self (see this blog for evidence). It’s a little bit harder to pull off in real life, however. The risk is that you come across as a slightly creepy, US-style shrink, and we wouldn’t want that now, would we? So I’ll have to work on that one.

5. Empty. Empty. Empty! Wo sind die Grünsachen?


At 4:42 PM, Blogger shellz said...

I know how you feel...I am TERRIBLE at small talk. Somehow, it just feels so meaningless to me, like why bother? Let's talk about the important stuff, I say, or not at all!

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Lucky said...

A few tips:

1. Avoid quoting Tom Waits. "You know Charles, 'The higher that the monkey can climb, the more he shows his tail.'" From my experience, this generally comes off as weird.

2. "So tell me about yourself." (creepy american indeed) If I were you, I'd skip this and shoot straight for "so, how did your parents die?" or "how do you feel about your mother." As a swedish girl you may not have figured this out yet, but BELIEVE ME, people love this.

3. And finally, if you start feeling intimidated, just remember this old advice from Grandma-- imagine them all in their underwear. Boy, Grandma sure was weird.

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Irene Done said...

Mobile phones = the new plumbers is a very clever thing to say. I may steal it for my own conversational purposes. Then I'll confess that it's really the observation of A Swedish Girl In London and THAT should start a whole new line of small talk. About Sweden, girls, London or blogs, I don't know. Oh wait, this is about you, not me. So: don't forget your house-hunting adventure, another topic which inspires everyone to share their own tale of woe. I think you'll do fine!

At 9:47 AM, Blogger michael the tubthumper said...

sorry to be a bit off topic but i wanted to know which artist did the picture you have? i think it was a danish person but i don't know the name?


At 10:59 AM, Blogger Swedish Girl said...

Hey! Thanks for giving me some mingling armour. I'll defo check Not Billable for fun marketing facts to drop casually in conversation as well... and I'll stop saying Tom Wait-sy things like "I'm Better Off Without A Wife" (that just confuses people).

Michael - the picture is painted by Vilhelm Hammershoi... and you're right, he's Danish!

At 11:11 AM, Blogger michael the tubthumper said...



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