Culture File 10:
People often start with an ice-breaker. The weather is a good topic (unless you’re somewhere like the desert where it never changes!) because it’s neutral. People comment on the weather to be friendly and to see if the other person wants to speak.
If you’re traveling, the ice-breaker is usually to talk about the journey. (It looks like we’re going to be late / on time / early.) At a reception or party, the food or drink is a good topic for an ice-breaker.
Be careful with question intonation. Sound as if you’re interested and making friendly conversation. Don’t sound like a police detective! If you do, «Why are you here?» may sound rude.