Starting a conversation with a stranger can be hard, and is sometimes even taboo.
A shared complaint about bad traffic, weather, or a delay on public transportation can be an in in a big city.
In smaller towns or more remote places, asking where someone went to high school or goes to church is more common.
But the way that people strike up conversations with strangers varies widely based on region and culture -- what may be normal and okay for one group or place would seem odd somewhere else.
Asking “who’s your mother?” or offering up a casual, unprompted “how are you?” is a regional pleasure. The ways Americans speak to each other fall on a broad spectrum of intimacy.
How do people across the country strike up conversations? How do you talk to strangers, if at all? In what ways does our language indicate the place we come from?
Carmen Fought, Ph.D, professor of linguistics at Pitzer College