How can I be a party star?

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Jun 20, 2011 05:25
I attended several buffet parties in the UK, US, and Canada. I knew I was meant to mingle with other attendees. But generally my attempts were not very successful. I've found it more difficult than giving a official presentation in English.

When I attended international meetings, Western people soon became intermingled with each other in parties no matter what country they're originally from. However, I found that Japanese attendees often tended to form a small groups separate from Western people and spent hours speaking in Japanese. So there was certainly a language/cultural barrier between two groups, which was rather shocking to me.

Anyway, I need to improve my party skills. Actually, I'm not so good at mingling with people at parties even in Japan. Some of the following questions may have nothing to do with English language or Western culture. But still, parties held in English is a lot harder than those in Japanese in general. I wonder whether I'm still lacking basic knowledge about codes of practise at parties in Western traditions.

Below I'll put as many questions as I can come up with. Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

How to join a group?
Can I jump into a small group while they're already talking to each other, even if they're all strangers to me? I often hesitate at this very beginning.

How to start conversations?
I often start conversations by asking people where they are from. It's OK, when they are from the place I have been to, they've been to Japan, or they're interested in Japanese culture. Another good one is about their work. When we are in closely related fields, we can have a fruitful conversation. But when none of them doesn't apply, I can't maintain the conversation very well. Basically, I need to find a topic which the person I'm talking to and I are both interested in. If you have good suggestions about topics, could you let me know?

How to keep conversation running?
What would be a versatile popular topic among strangers? This is important, especially when they're not interested in my country.

What's taboo in general?
What would be a sort of thing I should avoid to ask? Age and body weight should be avoided, right? What else? If I have a better knowledge about taboos, I could be more flexible about choice of topics.

How to leave a group?
How can I escape from a group when topics have run out and I'm bored? Especially if there are only two of us, how could I move to other groups? Or when I feel tired, how can I politely leave the place?