Making small talk is something that makes a lot of people anxious, but it is such an important topic to cover before your travels because most of the interactions you will have with the people you meet will be small talk. So make sure you take the time to learn and practice these phrases to do it right.
Small talk is pretty much the same everywhere in the world. In Mexico, people making small talk may ask you basic information about yourself, your favorite things about your trip so far, the food you have tried, your hobbies, etc. Here are some of the most common topics for small talk and some phrases that will have you making small talk in Spanish in no time.
You don’t have to share anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing. Your name, occupation, and where you come from are probably the only things people are going to ask you.
- ¿Cómo te llamas? - “What’s your name?”
- ¿Eres de por aquí? - “Are you from around here?”
- ¿Estás aquí de vacaciones? - “Are you here on vacation?”
A common favorite to start a conversation. Talking about the weather is great because that’s something we can all see or feel. We all have an opinion on it and nobody gets offended if you think it’s too cold or hot and they don’t.
- ¡Qué calor, ¿verdad?! - It’s hot out today, right?. You can change “calor” for “frío” when it’s cold.
- Parece que va a llover - It looks like it’s going to rain.
- ¿Llueve mucho por aquí? - Does it rain a lot here?
Asking about someone’s “pasatiempos” is also a great way to make small talk.
- ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tu tiempo libre? - “What do you like doing in your free time?”
- ¿Tienes algún pasatiempo? - “Do you have any hobbies?”
- Me gusta leer - I like to read. “Me gusta” followed by a verb is a great phrase to use when talking about your hobbies.
When you have a hard time starting a conversation you can give a compliment about the person’s shoes or their house to show interest and to be friendly. Make sure your compliments are genuine and stick to a maximum of two complements. You have to be careful with complements, at least in Mexico, a compliment to a stranger or someone you just met can seem like flirting. If you don’t want to send a wrong signal, stick to compliments about an object and not so much about the person.
- ¡Qué padre está tu mochila! - Your backpack is really cool! “¡Qué padre!” is a very Mexican phrase to show that you like something or that you think something is cool. “Chido” is also “cool” but it is only used among young people.
- ¿Dónde la compraste? - Where did you buy it? Use “¿Dónde LO compraste?” when you are referring to a masculine noun. For example, a cellphone = un celular.
Knowing someone’s occupation is another topic for small talk. When warranted, you can start by telling the person about what you do and then ask them about their occupation. This makes for a great small talk in any language.
- ¿En qué trabajas? or ¿A qué te dedicas? - They both mean “What do you do for a living?” and are both very common.
- ¿Te gusta tu trabajo? - “Do you like your job?” Different answers to this question can be:
Sí, me encanta. = Yes, I love it.
Más o menos. = So, so.
Lo odio. = I hate it.
Everywhere in Latin America, people love food. Talk about a new dish you just tried, or ask the person what are some of the most typical dishes of the region. Give your opinion on the ones you have tried and compare them to what you usually eat back home in your country.
- ¿Qué lugar vende los mejores tacos de por aquí? - Where do they have the best tacos around here?
- ¿Cuál es tu platillo mexicano favorito? - What’s your favorite Mexican dish?
- ¿Qué es el pozole? - What is pozole?
Remember that with more practice it's less likely that you’ll get nervous or anxious every time you need to speak Spanish. So get out there and practice! Let us know in the comments if you have ever been in any awkward situations for not knowing how to chat in Spanish.