I haven’t had a fulltime job since the end of 2022, which stresses me the f..k out. The need to find a job haunts me in every waking moment.
If I’m not scouring Seek for new postings, I’m pumping out cover letters and impatiently waiting to hear back from employers. My lack of stable income has become an insecurity and a downright pain in my ass.
I figured going out to events and socialising would provide me reprieve from the anxiety. But, it turns out that being asked, “so, what do you do?” multiple times at a party feels worse than actually being unemployed.
Now that Aotearoa is officially in a recession, more people are going to experience job insecurity and financial stress. We need to dismantle the idea that our identities are synonymous with our jobs and, more importantly, we need to get good chat.
Here are 10 conversation starters for your next party that have absolutely nothing to do with work, in order from least chaotic to most chaotic.
1. What are you currently most excited about?
It’s like ‘how are you?’, but elevated. People light up when they talk about what excites them, and you look like a good person for asking in the first place.
2. What is something you’ve recently learned?
Whether the person you’re speaking to has taken up a new language or has finally figured out how to keep plants alive, it’s nice to give them an opportunity to celebrate their small wins.
3. What are you watching/reading/listening to at the moment?
Asking a stranger at a party about the media they consume is a surefire way to bond since you almost always find something in common. You can dissect character arcs, criticise plot holes, and argue over your favourite ships.
This is probably my favourite question on this list, as I will jump at any opportunity to inform you what fantasy novel I’m currently devouring. I will also try to convince you that any smut present in the novel does not take away from its literary merit. A losing battle, mostly.
4. What little treats do you regularly get yourself that give you the will to live?
Don’t listen to the toxic financial advice videos that tell you purchasing a $6 latte daily is what’s stopping you from affording your first home. Little treats aren’t just a want, they’re a need.
Hearing about other people’s favourite treats also gives me ideas for what to put on my rotation. With the recession here, you can also ask which ‘unnecessary’ expenses people will still be factoring into their budgets.
5. Who are you going to vote for in this year’s Bird of the Year competition?
You don’t need to be a full blown ornithophile to participate in the most important democratic election this country has to offer. Te Manu Rongonui o te Tau Bird of the Year is an annual competition which raises awareness for our native manu and the threats they face. You can pull up the contestant profiles here and pick your five favourites to vote for later this year. If in doubt, a vote for the mighty albatross never goes astray.
6. What do you think about the quiet luxury and stealth wealth trends?
For those in the dark, quiet luxury is a fashion trend where the rich don clothes and accessories that have a high price mark but lack visible logos. Quiet luxury is often favoured by the obscenely rich who come from ‘old money’ and find it unnecessary to flaunt their net worth through sporting recognisable fashion houses. The entire aesthetic plays into the “if you know, you know” exclusivity of wealth.
Stealth wealth is much more extreme in its understatedness. Think: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and every other CEO who wears nondescript basics that cost hundreds of dollars. The aim is to splurge on the highest quality materials but still appear as a man of the people.
Like this unassuming Estuary Half Zip from New Zealand brand Untouched World, which was spotted on Barack Obama and retails for $489. If quiet luxury is “if you know, you know”, then stealth wealth is “I don’t want you to know, stop looking”.
Do the people you’ve met at this party believe these trends are harmless and superficial? Or do they think quiet luxury and stealth wealth are yet another way the rich manipulate their image to their benefit? Succession fans, now is your time to shine.
7. Pull out your phones, open up Instagram and take turns explaining what your Explore pages say about you.
Read the room before suggesting this, as it can be the social media equivalent of a trust fall. No one knows you better than your algorithm, making this exercise very revealing and entertaining.
My Explore page is: 30% food, 30% Taylor Swift, 20% books, 15% lifestyle, and 5% wholesome frog memes. It says I’m a romantic homebody who counts crying as a hobby.
8. What’s the most controversial thing you’ve done recently?
This is a goody because it shows you how much of a pot-stirrer the other person is, and what they consider to be controversial. If anyone answers with “I put pineapple on my pizza”, find a way to excuse yourself from that conversation immediately.
9. What is your answer to ‘the trolley problem’?
A famous dilemma designed to spark moral and philosophical debates, it's an audacious way to cut the chit-chat and look into someone's soul.
An unstoppable trolley is zooming down a track en route to running over five people. You are a bystander watching. Nearby there is a lever which you could pull to divert the trolley to another track with only one person on it. If you do nothing, five people die. If you pull the lever, you kill one person.
Intention is key: would you rather be actively responsible for one death, or a passive spectator to five? Context is also crucial. Would you let five elderly people die to save one child? Would you kill one arsonist to spare five murderers? Discuss.
10. Who do you have beef with?
Is it your arch-nemesis from intermediate who is now a famous food blogger? The guy who makes weird noises at your gym? Your flatmate’s girlfriend who comes around a lot but never does her dishes?
We all have beef — even those of us who don’t eat it. And there’s something really therapeutic about confessing your beef to a stranger. I won’t judge you for being the hater that you are, since I don’t have the context. But I will lean back and enjoy the show.