Published on March 22, 2016 in The Wall Street Journal: Expat:
When living abroad, your ability at small talk needs to be rebuilt from scratch, along with your knowledge of which topics and comments qualify as casual or intimate. It’s not called an art for nothing.
For instance, in the U.S., directly asking a new acquaintance how much they paid for something is akin to a needle scratch (unless you preface the statement with an apology and the excuse that you’re shopping around for the same item). In the Republic of Ireland, the U.K. and Japan, it’s doubtful that even that qualifier would be enough to stymie the awkwardness. But in China, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries with large Chinese descendant populations, money isn’t tinged with the same shyness. A casual conversation on which neighborhood you live in can readily lead to the question of how much rent you pay. It’s a question I still stumble to answer graciously.
Read the rest HERE!