Today, my manager introduced me to an employee who's visiting us from a different geographical location. The person is visiting our office for 2 weeks. I don't know anything about him and I don't have any working relationship with him either. Being an non-native English speaker, I couldn't think of more than 2 sentences to say and there is an awkward silence that followed. All this while, my manager was observing me, which makes me even more nervous. I would like to know how to engage a stranger casually, without thinking too much?

The conversation went something like below.

Manager : Hi Peter, this is Mr.X visiting us from UK regarding project-Z.

Me(Peter): Hi Mr.X, how are you? welcome to our office.

Mr.X: I am good, thanks.

Me: Couldn't think of anything else to say!!!

closed as off-topic by MrHen, Bradd Szonye, choster, MetaEd, Kris Oct 30 '13 at 6:28

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    Ahh the art of chitchat. Just ask if Mr X is enjoying his stay in the US and if he needs any help or advice with local restaurants to be sure to ask you. Smile, and if Mr X wants to engage in casual conversation he will. – Mari-Lou A Oct 29 '13 at 21:28
  • Which English football team do you support? – WS2 Oct 29 '13 at 21:34
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    This should be migrated to English Language Learners. – J.R. Oct 29 '13 at 21:34
  • Disagree about ELL, @J.R. The questioner clearly knows English well enough to live and work in the US, but is less than expert in a more advanced topic in English and the US/UK culture: conversation with strangers. – Cyberherbalist Oct 29 '13 at 22:24
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    This question has already been moved to TheWorkplace.SE. – choster Oct 29 '13 at 23:24

Given that the person is from a rather distant place, the best first thing to chit chat about would be where this person is from in the UK -- if you know anything about the UK that might help the person relate to you (ever visited there? have long wanted to visit some attraction there?), and vice versa, then bring it up. Since the person is in your location in support of a project you're involved with, you could also ask about the status of the project in his location, or what he hopes to learn/accomplish in his visit to the US in relation to the project.

I don't know if your difficulty stems from a cultural inhibition, or is it unique to your person? If you find it awkward talking with such a new acquaintance because of cultural differences in you, it seems like it might be acceptable to apologize for your awkwardness. In such a case, it would be likely for this person to compensate for your difficulty by reducing his expectations, or taking the lead in the conversation.

The key is to let what you know already be the starting point to engage in an exchange of information about each other. Ask questions. Questions suggest interest. Volunteer similarities in yourself.

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