September 4, 2015

Small Talk Conversation Starters for Labor Day (USA)

According to Wikipedia, Labor Day is a public holiday or day of festivities held in honor of working people, in the US and Canada on the first Monday in September, in many other countries on May 1. If you are wondering why Labor Day is important to your North Americans and what to talk about to build rapport, read on....  

Why is Labor Day Important?  
For most people, Labor Day has lost it's true meaning, and now a days people look at as a day off work to relax, travel, or spend time with friends and family. While the Memorial Day holiday marks the official start of summer, Labor Day marks the official end of summer. During this time of the year, schools and colleges start back up after their summer vacations which started back in mid May to late June.  

Why is Labor Day on a Monday in September? 
When setting Labor Day as a national holiday in the US policy makers probably chose the day from a practical standpoint. The holiday previous to Labor Day is 4th of July or Independence Day while the next would be Thanksgiving (the last Thursday of November). Since there would almost six months until the next holiday, they probably thought it would be good to add the holiday in at this point. Probably another reason for this holiday falling at this time is that the weather is still good and families would be more apt to travel and spend money. 

When is Labor Day in....
While Labor Day always falls on the first Monday of September, the date changes every year. 
  • When is Labor Day 2016?  Labor Day 2016 is on Monday, September 5 
  • When is Labor Day 2017?  Labor Day 2017 is on Monday, September 4 
  • When is Labor Day 2018?  Labor Day 2018 is on Monday, September 3 
  • When is Labor Day 2019?  Labor Day 2019 is on Monday, September 2 
  • When is Labor Day 2020?  Labor Day 2020 is on Monday, September 7
What Days Do People "Take Leave"? 
"Taking leave" is the Indian way of saying "days off" or "time off." Your US and Canadian counterparts probably won't use this Indian English idiom. Instead, they will be more apt to say "day off" or "time off." 

As Labor Day is a national holiday, the first Monday of every September most companies and all government offices are officially closed. In addition to having a vacation day on Monday, many others opt to take off extra days; either day or days the week before or the day or days of the week Labor Day falls on. Colleagues with children starting school the day after Labor Day or two days after Labor Day may take off days to help their kids get ready for their first day of school.  

What topics or questions can I ask to make small talk?  
The following topics are fair game to ask your colleagues about:  
  • Weekend Plans (bar-be-ques, cookouts, picnics, etc.) 
  • Vacation Plans (Are they going out of town?) 
  • Travel Plans (Going by car or plane, complain about traffic or high gas prices, etc.)
  • Last time to do summer activities (Those listed above plus swimming, beach visits, camping, hiking, biking, etc.)
  • Back to School (Only ask about this if you know they have kids or if your colleague is attending college.)
  • Summer Sports (baseball, volleyball and other outdoor or beach sports)
  • Home Repairs or Yard Work
Questions:
  1. Do you have anything planned for the long weekend?
  2. Anything fun planned for the Labor Day Weekend?
  3. Going on any road trips over the long weekend?
  4. Any last minute back to school preparations for your kids? 
  5. How was your child's/your first day back at school? 
  6. More information on these topics at this post.
(Only use #4 or #5 if you know about their kids.)
(In #5, use names when you know them. Among many in the US "school" is used to mean school and college.)


Video Pictures of Labor Day Celebrations 

A father and his sons talking about the history of Labor Day and planning how to spend the holiday. Watch this video to hear some more natural conversation with some idioms, slangs and local phrases (from Sacramento, California).

As a side note, Indians in the US, especially Malayalees, may use the Labor Day weekend to celebrate Onam or prepare for their Onam festivities that may happen on the following weekend. If you work with Indians living in Kerala, read this post to learn more about Onam and how it's celebrated at work.


Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar helps Indians to build rapport with their North American counterparts to promote productive and friendly working relationships. For more on cross cultural training for Indians in India or foreign expats working in the US, contact Jennifer today!

Related Posts:  
Strange Ways Americans Spend their Vacations  
Introducing Yourself to Your Professor on the First Day of School (College/University)  
Compare American idioms, phrases, and slangs used on college campuses

Networked blogs link: http://nblo.gs/Zvh5C

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