Module 1: The Three Pillars of ASEAN

Language Focus

Language Focus 3: Social English: Greeting and small talk

English has some expressions which are used on particular social occasions.


Social English

Emilie: Hi Josh, how was your business trip?
Josh:   Not too bad. I’ve made some successful contracts.
Emilie: By the way, I like that picture that you put on the wall.
Josh:  Oh, thank you. It’s a photograph that I took on my business trip last week. They are The Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest building in South East Asia. It was a clear day I could see all the way across Kuala Lumpur.
Emilie:   You took it yourself?  I didn’t know you were a photographer.
Josh:   I have been taking picture for years.
Emilie: Really? All the other buildings looks much smaller, don’t they?
Josh:   Well, there are a great deal higher up than they are. Here is one, The Menara Telekom Tower which is the second tallest building there.  Its shape represents a sprouting "bamboo shoot".
Emilie: Wow!  It looks smaller than a toy, doesn’t it?
Josh: You know, they’ve already put up some tall buildings in Southeast Asia.
Emilie: What are they?
Josh: Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Baiyok Tower II in Bangkok and One Raffles Place in Singapore.
Emilie:   Very interesting!


The Petronas Twin Towers


Baiyok Tower II


The Menara Telekom Tower


One Raffles Place


Landmark 72




It’s important to know some expressions used in some informal situations, for example when you talk to your colleague or go out with your clients.

For people you already know:

Conversation starters Conversation closers

How are things?
How's it going?
Lovely weather!
How is work?

See you later.
I must be going.
I'll be in touch.
See you soon.


For people you have not met before:

Conversation starters Conversation closer

Have you been here long?
Have you been here before?
How long have you been with the firm?

I'm glad to have met you.
It's been really interesting talking to you.
I’m pleased to have met you.


Small talk

Small talk is an essential part of business communication for social and professional purposes, for example negotiation, rapport management, culture disciplines, etc. These create a comfort zone between people as there may be awkward silences when you meet new people. Encountering this situation is so uncomfortable that it can even force avoiding them in the first place.  There are two strategies that are commonly used:

Back-channeling Echo responses

Back-channeling involves short rhetorical questions (did you?, are you?) or some other useful expressions ( Really?, Is that right?)

Echo responses involve echoing something that a speaker said. (You went to Myanmar? You like to eat squid?)


 Here are some topics you may talk about:

Topics Examples

Popular culture

Who was your favorite singer on last night’s episode of The Voice Thailand?

What did you think of the new Garrett Popcorn Shop in Paragon?

Family and friends

Did you enjoy growing up in central Thailand?
Do you have to travel far to visit your family?

Leisure time and hobbies

How long have you been playing tennis?
Do you have any plans for the summer break?

Shared interests

What did you think of our annual sales report yesterday?
We are having a meeting in Vientiane next Monday. What are your suggestions?

Upcoming events

Who do you think will win the Grammy for Best Supporting Actor?
What are you planning to dress up as for the office Christmas Party this year?

NOTE: When meeting someone new, you should generally avoid questions about money, what someone earns, age, weight, race, and religion. These topics are considered impolite for first meeting.