Elevator Small Talk…. In German

Ever feel awkward in elevators? Do you feel pressured to say something, anything? You’re not alone.

Especially at the office, people feel compelled to speak in elevators for fear of coming off as rude. You also don’t want to walk in too close because you want to invade their personal space. It feels particularly worse when it’s just you and one other person.

So, what do people talk about when they know they have only 30 seconds on the elevator? The 30 seconds could feel like a life time if you are silent, but it is actually too short for a real conversation. I’m amazed how good American people are with small talk. This is something that you would typically hear in an elevator:

Na, wie war dein Wochenede?( And how was your weekend?)
Wart ihr dieses Wochende beim Spiel?  (Did you go to the games this weekend?)
Ja, das Spiel war sehr spannend. Bis zum ende wussten wir nicht, ob sie es schaffen. Doch am ende war wieder alles gut. (Yes, the game was pretty exciting. We didn’t know until the end, if they were going to make it or not. But in the end, my team won!)
Das ist prima–ok hab noch einen schönen Tag. (That is awesome–alright, have a good day)

The biggest difference between Americans and Germans when it comes to elevator chatter is that in Germany, you would not hold a mini conversation. You would talk about things briefly in the here and now and it’s not expected that you pursue a whole dialogue. It’s more like a Q & A, whereas Americans try to entertain by continuing their monologue about their weekend or the project they are working on.

Small talk in Germany includes a question or statement and an affirmation or confirmation from the other person.

Here is some useful vocabulary for when you ride the elevator in Germany;

  • Danke fürs Warten (Thanks for holding). Gerngeschehen (You are welcome)
  • Wissen Sie auf welchem Stockwerk der Zahnarzt ist? (Do you know on which floor the dentist is). (Ja, auf dem dritten Stockwerk.) (Yes, on the third floor)
  • Wissen Sie auf welchem Stockwerk die Toiletten sind? ( Do you know on which floor the restroom is? ( Die Toiletten sind im Erdgeschoss) The restroom is on the first floor.
  • Macht der Fahrstuhl komische Geräusche? (Is the elevator making some weird noise?). Ja, hoffen wir mal das alles ok ist (Yeah, let’s hope that everything is ok.)

Well, should you ever be stuck in an elevator, the conversation would be totally different of course, but let’s keep that event for another blog topic.