Bored of the same old conventional conversations? We recently spoke with Dominika Weissabel who organises No-Small Talk events in Bratislava about her initiative, her efforts to rid social events of boring small-talk, and life in the Slovak capital in general.
Hi Dominika. So, since when have you been organising these No-Small Talks events in Bratislava? How did they come about?
It all started after my return from Erasmus in Berlin, that was approximately 5 years ago. I realised all the meetings and events we have here are heavily concentrated on one language and dont usually have any theme or topic. So I decided to make a group where people can actually avoid going to such events and find their language learning partner online. They would then arrange a meeting privately and exchange their language skills – language for language. However, by that time, people started begging me to make an event of my own to get to know each other… and so I did. The first ones were just regular meetings and, with time, I realised that the same small-talk conversations had been happening on repeat and it got really annoying. So it got me thinking. How can I avoid this from happening? Long story short, one day I got the idea of writing interesting questions on small cards to help the conversations get started and voilá! No-Small Talk was born and everyone loved it, so I continued organising it.
What is the concept of these events? How do they play out?
The concept is to avoid boring small-talk topics as much as possible meaning basic information as name and country of origin are obviously allowed, but we try to concentrate on the interesting topics. Each table gets a set of cards with interesting questions and they take rounds in picking them. Every person at the table gets a chance to answer the question. They are merely inspirational topics to start an interesting conversation, its not a competition.
Most of these events are in English. Who is your main target audience? Expats?
I don’t have any target audience. My meetings are open to anyone who is bored of the conventional conversations about boring topics, who wants to meet new awesome and open-minded people (foreigners and locals) and maybe learn a thing or two. I see how the perspectives and ideas of people are being challenged, when they talk openly about it and I think that’s the most important thing for our society: to learn how to openly talk about all topics.
You recently launched No-Small Talk in German. Any plans to expand it to more languages? What about in Slovak?
Yes, it’s been my plan since the beginning, but first now I found the time and energy to sit down and write the questions in German. It doesnt look like it, but it’s actually a lot of work! I am planning to do a Spanish No-Small Talk event and maybe a Slovak one some time next year. We’ll see about other languages depending on the time I’ll have and my language learning skills, since I don’t do no-small talks in languages I don’t speak.
Of course. You say you make the cards with questions on different topics yourself. What are the favourite topics to discuss at these events? Which ones get the most people invested?
It’s more like a combination of questions from books, the internet and my own head. Everytime I see or hear an interesting question I write it down. It really depends on the group of people. Some people like spicy and taboo topics about sex and desires, others prefer to talk about funny stories that have happened to them. One thing I realised though is that at the end of the day we all just want human connection and to be heard. I’ve seen people open up about topics so personal they never talked about in their whole lives and I find it beautiful how much of ones individual personality shines through, when it doesn’t get lost in boring small-talk.
Do you stay clear of any topics or is everything allowed on the table?
Generally everything is allowed, but I obviously try to avoid offensive topics. But I must say that when people find themselves in such an open atmosphere very few topics seem taboo. It’s that rare moment when everyone gets to be exactly who they want to be.
More generally, how would you describe the social life for expats in Bratislava? Are there many similar events around?
Based on how small our city is there are actually quite many events for foreigners I would say. But there is only one No-Small Talk! I would say social life of an expat in Bratislava isn’t that difficult, but at the end of the day I can’t really judge it since I’m local.
What tips would you give to a newcomer in town?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people, especially locals. They might seem unfriendly at first, but they find foreigners and new cultures very interesting so there’s a high chance they’ll want to be friends. Plus, it’s really practical to have a local friend, since places where you would need it the most usually lack people with English speaking skills, such as at a doctors office or at the police station, so it’s always nice to know someone who can help.
So, when is the next event?
There is the german No-Small Talk coming on November 7th at 19:00 and an English one will be on the November 14th at same time. All of the information about the events is on my Language Tandem Bratislava Facebook group.
Bored of the same old conventional conversations? Check out Dominika’s future No-Small Talk events in German, on November 7th, and in English, on November 14. You can also look for more similar events on her Language Tandem Facebook page.