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Hey, you're not James Bond!

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Sich zu begrüßen und ein bisschen Smalltalk zu machen - das hat jeder schon in den ersten Englischstunden gelernt. Wirklich? Auch hier lauern Fallen. Und wer schon bei der Begrüßung unbeholfen wirkt, der hinterlässt einen schlechten Eindruck.
Don't say, "My name is ..." This may be OK for James Bond - "My name is Bond, James Bond" - but for normal mortals, this form of introducing yourself sounds weak and unprofessional. It's much better simply to say your first name and family name as you greet someone: "Hello! Ian McMaster. Nice to meet you." If you say only your family name, it will sound very formal to native speakers. Also, saying "I'm Ian McMaster" can sound too self-important. But you can use "I'm" to describe your job: "Good morning. Ian McMaster. I'm the editor-in-chief of Business Spotlight."

How do you do? There's no answer to that. It simply means "Nice to meet you". It is not a question about how you are and therefore should not be answered with comments like "I'm well" or "Fine, thanks". The correct response is something like "Nice/pleased to meet you" or "Nice/pleased to meet you, too". It is also possible for both people to say "How do you do" but normally only if they do so at more or less the same time.

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How are you? The phrase is more like a question about your state of well-being, but it does not require a long answer. Nobody wants a long description of your health problems, sleeping difficulties or financial situation. The correct answer is short and sweet: "Fine thanks. And you?" - even if you are not feeling well. Don't think, just react automatically, with your voice rising at the end. The answer to your question is then "Fine, thank you". And remember: "Thanks" or "Thank you" comes after "Fine", not before as in German.

Introductions: Keep it simple. There are no 100 per cent rules any more, although many men still think it is polite to introduce or greet a woman first. You are better off spending your energy on getting simple introductions right: "John, I'd like to introduce you to Susan Peters. She's our marketing manager. Susan, this is John Holt from ABC motors" or "Catherine, I'd like you to meet ...".

Small talk - what's the problem? Making small talk - not "having a small talk" - is the most natural thing in the world. If someone has arrived by plane, of course you ask "Did you have a good flight?" or "Did you have a good journey?" or "When did your plane arrive?". The weather, although a cliché, is also a good topic: "How has the weather been in California/London recently?" And don't forget the hotel: "Is your hotel OK?" or "When did you get to your hotel?"

Keep it going. In general, when continuing small talk, it is better to ask open questions that cannot be answered with yes or no. For example, "What have you seen of Berlin so far?" is better than "Have you looked round Berlin?". Also, try not to answer with yes or no yourself. Another good technique for keeping the conversation going is to show interest in what your partner is saying, either by replying "I see" or "right" or with sounds such as "aha" or "mhmm". Another technique is to echo comments using different adjectives. For example, if someone says to you: "Did you see the latest Will Smith film? I thought it was so funny", you could reply: "Yes, it was hilarious."

Sex and politics. It is often said that you should avoid topics such as sex and politics when making small talk. Really? Aren't these among the most interesting things to talk about? Clearly you have to consider each case separately, but it would be absurd in principle to rule out such topics. For example, if there has recently been a big political scandal in your partner's country, you could clearly ask about it if you do so tactfully, without any suggestion of criticism. Also, learn a few key words to talk about the political developments in your own country. For example, how would you translate "Maul- und Klauenseuche" or "Länder"? Well, it's "foot-and-mouth disease" and "(Federal) states".

Time to go. Saying goodbye can be as awkward as saying hello. Once again, keep it simple, but polite. For example: "It was very nice to meet you", or "It was nice seeing you again". The answer to such comments is simple: "You, too." Key Phrases

How do you do?
Pleased to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to see you again.
I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.
How are you?
Fine, thanks. And you?
Fine, thank you.
I'd like you to meet ...
Let me introduce you to ...
This is ... Have you met ...?
How was your flight/journey/trip?
Is your hotel OK?
Did you have any problems finding us?
I'm sorry I'm late. The traffic was terrible.
It was very nice to meet you.
It was nice seeing you again.
I look forward to meeting you again.
It was good doing business with you.
You, too. Take care.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 21.01.2002