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유닛 1: The Experiment

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  1. 1 The Experiment

세션 11

The Experiment is a collection of short series that are a little different to our usual programmes - but still help you improve your English.

Our third series, Small Talk, lets you know which subjects it's best to avoid when chatting to British people.

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Small Talk

Subjects to avoid in British small talk: Salary

They're the conversations we have by the lifts, at bus stops and over garden fences. We call it small talk - but that doesn't mean it's of little importance. In this episode we tackle another big conversational no-no - salary.

See what happens when Neil tries to ask Callum some financial details. BBC Learning English Producers Kee and Sam then explain what's wrong with Neil's small talk and how he could make it better in future.

 

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Neil voiceover
I've been working at the BBC for a long time now. I've met lots of people. And I sometimes bump into them… and make small talk. They call it small talk, but that doesn't mean it's of little importance.

Neil
Hey Callum!

Callum
Hey! Hey Neil, how's it going? Haven't seen you in ages…

Neil
It's been a while.

Callum
Yeah, yeah. How's the kids? How's the family?

Neil
Yeah, yeah. They're good, they're good. And you… I heard you've got a new job.

Callum
Yes I have, yes. Started a few weeks ago, yeah, yeah…

Neil
So… What's the salary?

Callum
Um… It's OK. I've got to go…

Neil
How much exactly? How much do they pay you?

Callum
Um… some. Enough.

Neil
What's the figure?

Callum
Sorry, I've got to run. See ya. Bye bye.

Neil
OK. Nice to see you. Bye. See ya.

Neil voiceover
Let's see what our experts have to say about that.

Sam
They seem to know each other; seem to have a little bit of knowledge of each other.

Kee
Absolutely. He's obviously found out that he's changed jobs.

Sam
Yeah, yeah. And he reacted really nicely to it.

Kee
Yeah, absolutely. Until he decided to ask how much he's earning.

Sam/Kee
Yeah. His salary.

Kee
Why would you not ask that question?

Sam
It's just not a common question. It's considered very rude to talk about money generally…

Kee
It is, isn't it?

Sam
But specifically money you make.

Kee
Right.

Sam/Kee
It's just not done. No, you wouldn't ask that, would you?

Sam
So, what do you think he could have done instead?

Kee
I think the obvious question is, 'How are you finding your new job?'

Sam
Yeah.

Kee
Are you enjoying it? You know, like, what are your colleagues like?

Sam
Yeah

Kee
Or even just asking about the job itself. 'What are you doing in your new job?' I think that's a standard thing to do rather than… 'So, what's your salary?'

Sam
Exactly.

Kee
And I think most people will want to talk about their new job.

Sam
Yeah definitely.

Kee
They'll want to tell the other person about what they enjoy and what they're not enjoying. But not this guy. Money.

Neil voiceover
Thanks for the tips, guys. I'll try harder next time.

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Small tips for making small talk:

Subjects to avoid in British small talk: sex, salary, politics

These are examples of the topics it's best not to ask about when you are making conversation with people you don't have a very close relationship with. They can make people feel awkward and the conversation may end suddenly!

Do: ask general questions about work

Use the information you have about someone as a place to start a conversation. You might ask how their job or college course is going. Then you could tell them something about your experience at work or college. If you know they have family, you could ask how they are and say something about your own family.

Don't: ask how much someone earns

British people tend to avoid discussing how much money they earn or have during small talk. And asking someone about their salary will probably make them feel very awkward and want to avoid you!

To do

Try our quiz to see what you've learnt about British small talk:

The Small Talk Quiz

3 Questions

See how much you've learnt about British small talk

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Downloads

You can download the PDF document for this episode here.

End of Session 11

Join us in Session 12 of The Experiment for Small Talk - a short series about subjects to avoid when chatting to people you don't know very well.