Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you ever talk to coworkers about what you ate for lunch?

This is a popular topic at work in the U.S.

You want to be able to ask what they ate and why!

Today’s episode teaches you how to engage in a conversation with your coworkers during a lunch break.

Chatting at work

Today’s episode is inspired by a listener question regarding lunch breaks at work.

Aubrey asks Lindsay if she ever asks a coworker what they are having for lunch.

Lindsay responds that she would definitely ask this, especially when she used to work in an office.

This is an interesting conversation starter.

If you’re working in an office and chatting with coworkers on a lunch break, this can spark a conversation.

You can ask what someone is eating or if they prepared their own lunch.

Listener question

Hey there, Lindsay and Michelle, I was listening to one of your old episodes about food, and in that episode, Lindsay mentioned that in America, we don’t typically eat hot lunches. That struck me as a bit odd because in our country (Iran), having a hot lunch is a big deal and quite important here. I’d love to hear more about American culture and food. I know Lindsay enjoys salads and isn’t really into cooking. So, how do you usually prepare your meals? I’m really curious to learn more about American culture. Thanks a bunch. Keep shining!

This is an interesting cultural conversation and a great way to connect with coworkers.

Lindsay and Aubrey will share more about how this works in American culture.

They will teach phrases you can use to start the conversation.

Cold lunch

When you are starting a conversation, it’s best to understand the context of the situation.

If someone just got back from lunch before you started a meeting, it’s common to ask what they had for lunch.

Food is always a good conversation starter or ice breaker.

Aubrey shares about cold and hot lunches.

In the U.S., sandwiches and salads are popular lunch items.

These are considered a cold lunch.

Do you prefer a hot lunch?

Many people prefer a hot lunch which is hot, cooked food such as pasta, pizza, or a hamburger.

Aubrey shares that she definitely prefers a hot meal over a salad or sandwich.

Americans have many different tastes and preferences.

Lindsay shares that she was a cold lunch kid when she was still in school.

She took a brown bag to school with her sandwich.

She’d often swap her lunch for a Twinkie which is a sweet treat.

Aubrey shares that she was a hot lunch kid.

Their school lunch ladies served them food in a cafeteria.

Lunch around the world

Here are some conversation starters to find out how this is different in other cultures.

  • Is lunch different where you grew up?
  • Do you eat a different lunch if you work from home or in an office?
  • What type of restaurant do business lunches happen at where you live?

Americans and lunch

Here are some phrases you can use to talk about food with a co-worker.

It’s always a good idea to compliment their lunch.

However, make sure you’re sincere!

#1: That looks delicious! Did you make it?

This only works if their lunch looks homemade.

You shouldn’t use this phrase if you can see that they bought their lunch from a restaurant.

Once they answer, you can ask follow up questions:

  • Do you cook a lot?
  • Do you prefer to cook at home or eat out?

#2: That smells so good! I should really bring a hot lunch more often!

This is a good way to compliment someone’s lunch.

Here are some suggested follow-up questions:

  • What’s your favorite thing to eat?
  • Do you eat the same thing now for lunch that you ate as a child?

#3: Where did you get that? It looks amazing!

This is a great conversation starter if your coworker picked up food from a restaurant.

You can connect about what they ordered and learn about a new place to try for lunch as well.

Here are a few follow-up questions you can ask:

  • What are the best places around here to get take out?
  • What’s your favorite thing to order there?

Lunch when working remotely

The work setup has changed a lot since the last few years.

This shouldn’t be a hindrance to connecting with your co-workers, even if you’re miles apart.

You can still build that connection online.

The conversations you have can also involve discussions that are not work-related.

If you’re working remotely, you can still ask about lunch breaks with your colleagues.

Here are some examples:

  • What’s your plan for lunch today?
  • I’m starving. What are you doing for lunch?


Lindsay and Aubrey share a roleplay with an example of how to start a conversation with a colleague about their lunch.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey are eating lunch in the breakroom at work.

Aubrey: Wow, that smells so good! I should bring a hot lunch more often.
Lindsay: Thanks! Yeah, I get tired of sandwiches and salads.
Aubrey: I try to make extra when I cook to bring leftovers to work. What about you? Do you cook a lot?
Lindsay: Not really. I prefer to eat out. You?
Aubrey: Same. I just don’t have time, you know? What’s the best place you’ve found nearby to get takeout?


Talking about food is a great way to connect in English.

Use today’s phrases to ask a coworker about their lunch preferences and strike up a conversation.

This is not restricted to in-office conversations.

You can still start a conversation online with your colleagues if you’re working remotely.

What other things do you bring up on a lunch break with coworkers?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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