Establishing Common Ground
Certainly, having a meaningful or entertaining conversation in your second language is not easy. To have a good conversation, there needs to be common ground, whether it be a shared interest, coming from the same hometown/state/country, having shared experience. The hard part is, that generally people from different cultures don’t have very much common ground, few shared interest, little knowledge of each other’s localities, and usually no shared experience.
Commonly Australians will start a new conversation by asking the name and their connection to the event. At a birthday party, “how do you know the host?”. If the connection is interesting then they continue talking about that. If not interesting, then the next question will be, “Where do you work?” or “What do you study?”. For example, if you work as a banker, then they might ask your opinion about the financial crisis. If you work for a radio station, and you have a friend who does, then you might let them know “Oh, I have a friend who works at Triple J radio station”.