Are you doing the ‘Small Talk Dance’ too? Julia Mathur, UC Merced (Sep-Dec 2019)

Hello, hello to you all! My name is Julia, I am from the University of California Merced, and this is my first installment of my existence in London. As it so happens on a college campus, every day I meet new people; which means that several times a day I am doing the ‘Small Talk Dance’. You know what I’m talking about.

First, you don the upbeat customer service voice, you shake their hand, and off you go! Next, you sway back and forth between the same three questions that you’ll undoubtedly forget yet hope to remember: Name, year, course of study. Finally, you wave and say “nice to meet you,” regardless if that is true. It is possible to freestyle with more or fewer questions – or even actual dancing. They certainly won’t forget someone dancing upon first encounter. Then, congratulations! Achievement unlocked! Plus one to friendship stats!

When I see them again, it is quite common for them to ask, “You alright?” which is “Hi, how are you today?” and “Lovely to see you again,” all in one go. I have learned that the expected response back is “You alright?” as well, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but thems the rules. I’ve also noticed that a “thank you” welcomes almost exclusively “that’s alright” and queues are very serious business. At least the ‘Small Talk Dance’ is the same the world over. I’ll get the hang of the other social rules one of these days….

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