English for Purchasing: Small Talk

Ist Ihr Small Talk auf Englisch genauso sicher wie Ihr Verhandlungsenglisch? Wenn nicht, dann ist der folgende Beitrag genau das Richtige für Sie.

Für Einkäufer: gekonnter Small Talk auf Englisch

Most people have a hard time talking to people they don’t know very well, and starting the conversation is sometimes the hardest part. Keeping the conversation going is also important if you don’t want to stand around in silence. Small talk can be an important tool for networking and getting to know people and their business.

People will be more likely to remember you if you have a conversation with them, no matter how good (or bad) your English is. Hopefully, some of the phrases in this article will help you at your next meeting. Write some of them down if you want to use them in the future, and practice small talk in German, too. It’s a skill like any other, you need to practice!

I’d like to help with some tips on starting a conversation, agreeing with someone, and ending a conversation in a polite way.

Everyone knows the uncomfortable feeling when it’s the break during the meeting, everyone is standing around, but no one is talking! Or, you’ve just been introduced to someone, and don’t know what to say next. Instead of waiting for someone else to make the first move, just go for it and break the ice.

Don’t be afraid to give your opinion about something, that makes you more interesting, and most people enjoy hearing what other people think and are happy to then add their own opinion. Go ahead and be open, but avoid making comments about other people and how they look or act.

Ice breakers

You can make an observation:

„The presentation was interesting, wasn’t it?“

„This lunch is pretty awful!“

„The coffee tastes great, doesn’t it?“

Talk about the time of year or holidays:

„Have you been on vacation yet?“

„I love the spring because the days are longer – how about you?“

„Did you make it through the Christmas holidays ok?“

Make a compliment or say something about what a person is wearing:

„I love your earrings, they are so unusual.“

„Your sweater is nice, where did you buy it?“

„Nice tie!“


Compliments are common in most English speaking countries, and are often shared by people who don’t know each other well. Americans don’t think it’s superficial to make a compliment, and it is a nice way to start a conversation.

Say something about current events or the media:

„Did you read about the Stuttgart 21 project?“

„Have you seen the new Woody Allen movie?“

Why not say something about the weather?

„It’s so hot! Do you go swimming anywhere?“

„Do you get a lot of snow in the winter?“

„It’s pretty chilly out there!“

Agreeing with someone

Agreeing with a short sentence can be said in many ways, depending on what is said. Here are some examples of agreeing with a positive statement:

I love coffee. So do I. Me too. /I do too.
I’m tired. So am I. I am too.
I can play the piano. So can I. I can too.
He’ll be there. So will I. I will too.

Agreeing to a negative sentence is with neither/either.

I don’t like green tea. Me neither. / Me either. I don’t either.
I’m not into sports. Me neither. / Me either. I’m not either.
I can’t understand him. Me neither. / Me either. I can’t either.
I won’t tell anyone. Me neither. / Me either. I won’t either.

It doesn’t really matter if you say „Me either“ or „Me neither“, they mean the same thing.

Interrupting politely

It’s possible to use the old favorites „Excuse me, but…“ or „Sorry, but…“ if you need to interrupt someone who is speaking. You could also try these alternatives:

„Well, actually…“

„Can I just say something to that?“

„Could I add that…“


It’s important that you don’t interrupt too loudly. Sometimes we may use our hands to signal that we want to say something, but don’t point!

Ending a conversation politely

You’ve had an interesting meeting or dinner and it’s time for you to go. But how to let people know without sounding rude? Here are some tips for a nice way to say that you need to leave:

„Wow, is that the time? I really should be off.“

„I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, but it’s time for me to go.“

„Well! It was nice meeting you.“

„Ok then, take care and drive carefully / safe travels!“

If you want to see the person again at a later date, you can refer to a future appointment:

„Let’s do lunch sometime.“

„Let’s continue this at another time.“

„Let’s get together soon.“

It usually isn’t customary to shake hands when leaving, unless it is a formal business meeting or other business event. It’s ok to just smile and, after you have ended the conversation, say „Bye!“. Americans sometimes give a little wave. Body contact is generally avoided, so save the European cheek kissing for another time!

Vocabulary List

practice üben
skill Fähigkeit
polite höflich
opinion Meinung
to avoid vermeiden
observation Beobachtung
awful schrecklich
vacation Urlaub
unusual ungewöhnlich
tie Krawatte
common gängig
superficial oberflächlich
current events Zeitgeschehen
chilly frisch, frostig
agreeing zustimmend
interrupting unterbrechend
to point zeigen
to be off losgehen
I’ll be off then Ich gehe dann mal los
refer to erwähnen
customary (landes-)üblich

Wir wünschen Ihnen erfolgreiche Small Talks mit Ihren englischsprachigen Verhandlungspartnern!


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Autor: Markus Lemme (Markus Lemme ist Berater und Trainer für die Bereiche Einkauf, Logistik und Verkauf.)