In Spanish, the word for…: Conversation starters

Odds are, you know at least part of a foreign language. Whether you’re bi- or tri-lingual, a regular polyglot, or only remember the basics from a high school French class, you most likely remember something, and more often than not that word means “poop.”

The  words people remember from languages they don’t use much are the fun words. Swear words, strange idioms, words that are plain fun to say: these are the words that we remember best.

Beyond some greetings and counting to ten, all I remember from my middle school Spanish class is how to say pencil sharpeners: Las sacapuntas. Why? Because it’s so much fun to say! Sacapuntas, sacapuntas. The fun rhythm made me smile then, and still makes me smile today.

When I moved on to American Sign Language, you can bet your bottom dollar that when showing friends what I’ve learned, I went straight to “horny,” “whore,” “bullshit.” It’s fun to know how to swear in secret—and in this case, in silence.

The first sentence I learned in German was Ich bin Blau: I am drunk. My friend taught me at a high school lunch one day.

My friend’s sister who studied abroad in Italy once told us of an Italian idiom that is equivalent “rose tinted glasses:” “Avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto.” It’s funny because it is literally translated as “to have your eyes wrapped in ham.”

Language is not just important and brain-expanding; it can be a load of fun, too. Bringing up tongue twisters, swear words, and fun phrases in foreign languages can be a light-hearted conversation starter that leads into a linguistic parade. Bring your dictionaries!

Can you do this?: Conversation Starters

I love showing off my weird left thumb. It’s such a funny thing that people find interesting. I don’t know if it’s double jointed or what, but I can move it in ways my other thumb can’t, and make it look rather short and unnaturally bent. It’s a detail about me that serves as nothing more than a conversation point—and perhaps a slight advantage at video games.

Weird body part talents are a strangely common subject of conversation, probably because everyone has at least one. We all know someone with a hyper-extended knee or double jointed arms or eyes that can cross to the center one at a time. Maybe you can crack every joint in your body, or curl your tongue like an accordion, or lick your elbow. Maybe you can hook your foot behind your head or bend your fingers back to touch your wrist or wiggle your ears and nose. Or do whatever this is:

human-pretzel.jpg

Bringing these talents up in the right context can lead to tons of fun. One person mentions that they can raise their eyebrows independently and then the whole group is full of unsuccessful, hilarious attempts to replicate it. It can lead to tons of other fun body topics, like spot on Kermit the Frog impressions and weird freckle formations.

The best part about weird body talents is that it has nothing to do with skill. One cannot teach their shoulders to be double jointed; you can either do it or you can’t. It doesn’t make anyone feel bad.

More of a talent show than a competition, this conversation starter hinges on the importance of independence. It celebrates weirdness and encourages individuality! Do keep in mind, however, that this is best suited for an informal gathering of family or friends. Probably don’t whip this out at a business cocktail party.

The best way I’ve found to start this conversation is asking a kid to replicate your funny. Whether they can do it or not, it gets everyone laughing and allows you to participate without being the center of attention for too long.

Best of luck, and feel free to share your weird talents below. I know you have them!

Top 5 fashion tips for the female introvert

Hello, beautiful ladies! I’m a strong proponent of the idea that just because someone is introverted doesn’t mean they don’t like people. It just means that they enjoy and require some time alone, and being surrounded by people for too long can be tiring.

Our personal style tells the world what kind of person we are. For an introvert who wants to feel good about how she looks but also might want to fade into the background to recharge after awhile, the best outfit is one that is stylish, but not too loud or bright. Something flexible, that allows you to both stand out and hide away when you want to.

These are my top five fashion choices for the female introvert! And don’t worry, boys, I have a post for male fashion choices too—click here!

For anyone who doesn’t identify as either gender, don’t fret! The tips are pretty gender neutral. Read both and apply them as you see fit, picking some from each and creating a fashion collage just for you:).

5. Anything that gives you confidence

This may be rather vague, but it’s one of the best tips I can give. While you want your clothing to look nice, you do not want to have to think about it all night. Your clothing should not be a source of anxiety. If this dress looks nice from the front but not from the side, if you can kind of see through it in the right light, if you can barely walk in those heels, if you have to keep tugging the dress up or down, if you’re not sure about this top with that skirt, if you’re not sure if this is too dressy or too casual or if you like it at all—don’t wear it. If you expect yourself to want to hide away for a portion of the night, save the brighter, flashier clothes for a different occasion. You’ll look and feel better in an old classic than in a new, risky dress that you’re not sure about.

4. Pockets!

I know when I’m at a party, I never know what to do with my hands. With pockets, you can hide your hands and remain looking casual and collected. Dresses with pockets are all the rage now, and it reduces the need for a handbag you might lose. Pockets are versatile, and allow you to be versatile as well. They can comfort you when you’re in the spotlight, and anchor you when you begin to feel worn out. Plus, they’re just so darn cute.

3. Statement earrings

Earrings are a great place to put the focal point of your outfit. They draw the eye up to your face but also allow you to look off to the side when people admire them. No awkward smile as they gush about your shirt—you can fiddle with your earrings or tilt your head to let them see better, remaining poised and confident. Also, you can rest assured that they’re complimenting your earrings and not making a comment about your body (“Nice skirt” can sometimes get uncomfortable). The best thing about statement earrings is that they’re like a superhero costume. You can wear them when you want to be in the spotlight, and then quickly and easily remove them when you want to blend into the crowd. Even easier, if you have long hair you can just let it fall over your ears when you’re getting tired of attention. Keeping the energy in an easily disposable accessory can help you feel comfortable and in control.

2. Layers

When I begin feeling weary of company, covering my body usually makes me feel better. It’s also a way to choose whether you want to be “on” or “off.” Cardigans, sweaters, and jackets don’t make your outfit worse, it just makes your body less visible, and that can help you feel more confident. The most important thing to remember is that fashion isn’t about what others think, but it’s about how you feel, and the jacket lets you project how you feel while your feelings change over time. Feel open and happy and free? No jacket tells that to people. Want to get out of the spotlight? Jacket on tells that to people. The jacket gives you a choice, which keeps you in control of your night.

1. Scarves

Well, I’m biased. I love scarves, and wearing them makes me feel both stylish and comfortable. Wearing a scarf is sort of like having a security blanket for me. I like it because it acts like a layer while keeping things light and easy, and I can also fiddle with it, giving my hands something to do, but mostly I like wearing scarves because it’s just something that I’m used to. That’s the true #1. If you usually keep your hair up, then wear your hair up. If you usually wear a watch, wear a watch. Keep a little security blanket on you, to keep you calm when things get stressful. A little normalcy to a unique outfit can keep your personality front and center, no matter what you’re wearing.

Meeting the family: Conversation Starters

Your new significant other is amazing. They’re everything you’ve ever wanted, and the last few weeks or months have been like walking on air. They met your friends recently, and got along swimmingly. Now, they want you to meet their friends—or worse, their family.

Naturally you comply, though when they pick you up you’re shaking like a leaf. The night starts out fine, quick introductions, you talk about your job a bit. By the time the appetizer arrives you’re feeling pretty relaxed. It’s halfway through the appetizer that you realize you hadn’t said a word since you ordered, and that was nearly ten minutes ago. They’re all chatting up a storm, and you can barely get a word in edgewise. The topics are changing fast, and inside jokes keep coming up to inexplicable laughter.

How do you deal with meeting a group of people who are already close to one another?

Whenever this sort of scenario happened to me, I found myself being quiet, just observing the family. Whoever was introducing me would later tell me that their friends thought I was “nice, but quiet.” They would say I could talk more. I would be astonished, thinking I had done quite well.

Surviving an evening is different from enjoying one. While it might be beneficial and easier to sit back and observe, these people want to get to know you. They can’t do that if you don’t talk to them.

My suggestion is to act like a predator and go for the weak! Just kidding. Kinda. What I mean by this is to talk to someone who isn’t talking much. Maybe it’s the kid sister, or the father, or one of their quieter friends. I wouldn’t try to strike up a conversation with the person commanding the room, because then everyone will be watching your response. Instead, wait until the table separates into smaller conversations, and talk to a calmer person, to start.

Well, you’ve found your target. Now what? They’re quiet, seem friendly, and are close enough so you can speak at a low-to-moderate volume, but what on earth are you going to say to them?

Think. Didn’t your significant other talk about them before? A great way to start up a conversation is the good old, “So, Sam tells me you’re into [insert hobby here].”

People love talking about their hobbies, especially to new people. It’s also more fun to listen to than a flat description of their job. If you’re lucky, someone has the same hobby as you do, and you can bond over that.

Did your significant other not prepare you at all? Well, you’ll have to be quick…like a predator, again! Follow the conversation and don’t be afraid to jump in. Chances are, they want you to speak, and are waiting to hear you contribute. So, join in. I know, easier said than done (rather, easier said than said in front of other people). But if they’re talking about movies, a simple “Oh, I haven’t seen it yet, is it good?” could get you points.

I find that you don’t have to be a super talkative person on the first group adventure, but you do have to talk. Think of it like a class participation grade.

If it’s truly painful, try to get through the evening mathematically. There are a few different formulas I’ve used to make sure I’m talking enough. One is to try to talk again once I’m the last person to have spoken. Meaning, if everyone in the table has said something since I’ve spoken last, I try to participate again.

Another tactic is to use time and simply try to talk once every five minutes or so.

If you still feel like you aren’t talking enough, remember that a huge amount of language is in the eyes. Make eye contact, even if you aren’t talking. It will make you look engaged and participatory.

Finally, remember: even if your relationship is new, your significant other likes you. They care about you, and want you to have a good time with their family/friends. Ask your significant other for help, if need be. Tell them you get nervous around big groups of new people. Ask them to make space in the conversation to you. Ask them not to leave you alone in a room with them. Ask what so-and-so likes to talk about, and if there are any sensitive topics not to bring up. Ask them to do whatever you want, and they’ll likely do anything to make you more comfortable. After all, they’re probably about as nervous as you are.

If all else fails, just make sure you say something, at some point. It’s okay if they think you’re quiet, because, well, you’re quiet. Things will get easier the more time you spend with them, so just bite the bullet until it becomes second nature. Until then, best of luck. May the flow of conversation be ever in your favor.

Where you from?: Conversation Starters

It’s the first day in a new class, or at a new job. You don’t know anybody, and have two choices: either hide in the back-left corner, take out your laptop, and pretend you can’t see or hear anyone, or strike up a conversation with someone nearby.

You know the class/job will likely be easier if you have someone to talk to. And look! There’s someone who doesn’t seem so loud or annoying. You start talking a bit, and it’s going well, but you realize you’re running out of things to say. You can only discuss classes and majors and previous jobs for so long, and you don’t know anything else about this person. Where’s the best place to go from here?

Place…that’s it!

It may sound lame, but asking where someone’s from is one of the oldest and best tricks in the book. No matter where they’re from, it can inform and further the conversation.

Are they from your hometown? What a coincidence! Ask about their high school experience, if they ever went to that great Indian restaurant, if they know so-and-so.

Are they from your home state? Great! You can talk about how you have/have not been to their town. You can talk about your ventures to the capital city, or the other big attractions. You can talk about how you’ve always wanted to go there.

Are they from a well-known place, like New York City? Now you can ask if it’s really like how it is in the movies. Is it as crowded/expensive? What stereotypes are true? You can ask this about really any place you don’t know well. They’re from England/Morocco/Alabama/Kuwait? What’s it like there? I’ve heard this, is that true? What’s the best part about it? This is a great way to learn about them and a new place at the same time.

Are they from a place you’ve never heard of? Like a strange farming town or a country you couldn’t point to on a map? Even better. Admit that you’ve never heard of it—they probably won’t be surprised that you haven’t—and ask questions.

The best thing about this question is that it’s easy and harmless. Plus, it gets turned back to you with no pressure. Someone will almost always ask the question back to you, but you have the answer prepared. You know where you’re from, and you know plenty about it.

Much like the “weather” conversation starter, this may seem obvious and maybe even cliché. But it’s a tool you can keep in your tool belt when conversation begins to run dry. You can always find another question to ask after you know where someone’s from.

However! This only really works with people you just met. Don’t ask it if you already know the answer! That would just be awkward. Good luck!