It’s December, you know what that means – time to spend with your loved ones , be merry and rejoice BUT also time to rub shoulders with people, distant relatives, friends-of-friends, in-laws whom you don’t really know - let alone like.

You will invariably find yourself in a situation where you have to come up with some kind of ‘small-talk’ so what happens when you have run out of the perfunctory ‘So how’s the family/dog/plant?’ and ‘Any plans for the new year?’.

Uncle John* is on his sixth whisky and starting to shout lewd remarks at the TV, cousin Mary* once removed (insert generic name from your home country here) is still wondering and questioning why you are not married yet … you slip outside for a gulp of air to regain some sanity before once again entering the fray.

Then you have the festive parties with the hangers-on - you’ve almost certainly been one yourself at some point in life and hopefully also the hang-ee. You know the drill, you’re at a festive event where you don’t really know anyone super well and so you strike up a conversation early on with a fellow unknown party-attender – the conversation starts off enthusiastically enough but inevitably begins to dwindle but you just can’t seem to find an exit point. The hanger-on is clinging to you as tightly as that flimsy plate of cheese crackers in his hand and it slowly dawns on you that you’re stuck here for the rest of the evening.

As the uncomfortable silence settles and slowly spreads across your conversation sparring partners, you wonder how you can extract yourself from socialising with people you would gladly ignore the other eleven months of the year.

According to urban myth there was once a Christmas party conversation that ended with mutual consent and a firm handshake, but if this is too much to hope for, Girl in Luxembourg has you covered on how to gracefully escape.

  1. Get a buddy – have a codeword. If you are lucky enough to have a spouse, partner, best friend – anyone who know you really well at the event - you can kind of set up an arrangement in advance for the ‘emergency stop’ situation so they know when to rescue you. As an example, your codeword is ‘Mariah Carey’ - “If they play that Mariah Carey song one more time…”
  2. Another escape is: ‘Sorry I’m just going to grab another drink’. Of course your companion could easily accompany you, and in that case you will have to deliver the desperate double whammy of ‘AND I have to go to the toilet’. If they offer to accompany you there too – you’re in serious trouble, my friend.
  3. Bring others into the fold, it’s likely that there is a better conversation happening somewhere in your vicinity. Use your periphery vision and try to edge your way towards them.  Pick up on a stray-line of overheard dialogue and use that as means to interject ‘What’s that about Brexit?’  – you can easily slip away undetected after a successful merger of groups.  * Please note this may not work in Luxembourg as unfortunately due to the multi-lingual nature of the country, you just gotta settle for whoever you can find speaking your language at a decent level. 
  4. Be such dreadfully poor banter that they actually abandon you. Admittedly, this is more of a last resort, whereby you kind of freeze up like that badly defrosted King Prawn ring in the corner until your acquaintance gradually backs away.
  5. If the conversation really cannot end, here are some universally boring topics that may help you : start talking about your job – preferably in finance or tax, start talking about what time your kids to go to sleep, cricket, your workout schedule, what you dreamt of the night before, or complain about Luxembourg, minor medical ailments and the average price of a carton of milk.
Happy Holidays!

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Christelle McKillen works in communications for RTL Group and in her spare time writes about expat life, like many a millennial she considers herself a budding Instagram aficionado @girlinluxembourg