They say sequels are never as good as the original. And 2021 – the follow-up to the critically and commercially panned 2020 – is no exception to the rule. Yep, for those of us in locked-down parts of the country, 2021 was somehow worse than last year. Probably because it was exactly the same as last year – with the same cast of characters and virtually the same plot – minus the novelty factor. But there’s one major advantage of having to go through basically the same year as the one you’ve just done: you already know what’s going to happen, because you were in exactly the same position a year ago.

It’s like a superpower. We know how this reopening and coming out of lockdown phase is going to play out, because we’ve been through it all before. When things were easing last year, I remember wondering whether I was ever going to be the same. Well, turns out I actually got back to being myself pretty quickly. And so will you, I reckon. After all, we’ve all had a fair bit of practice at being ourselves, a couple of pandemic years notwithstanding.

But you’ll be rusty. Especially at socialising. So, I’ve put together this little crib sheet of conversation starters: questions and talking points that, if deployed well, will make your successful reintegration into society as easy and hassle-free as travel to Western Australia.

“How much would I have to pay you to do another Zoom drinks?”

That’ll be all, Zoom. You’ve had your fun. Now go home, back to wherever it is you came from. Now that I can actually share a drink with mates (and treat them to a free six-pack, if the mood takes me) I’m not sure there’s any sum of money that could get me to jump onto a video call while I drink alone and stare at a little thumbnail of my face for two hours (and don’t get me started on Zoom trivia). But anyway, ragging on Zoom is a sure-fire party starter, friends. Highly recommend it.

“Will Delta Goodrem need a rebrand?”

I used to think – and I promise that I have genuinely thought about this to myself – that Delta Goodrem would always have an ironclad grip on the word “Delta.” I was convinced that she had that whole mononymous thing going on, à la Madonna or Beyonce or Ottolenghi, and that she would have it forever. Oh well, things change. This one’s good, too, because you can segue into an Aussie nostalgia conversation that will – if you steer it correctly – become a great chance to talk about how the Sydney Olympics were “the best ones ever”.

“What celebrities would you invite to your dream dinner party? But! You can only have 10 guests in your household, and each guest must be fully vaccinated. Who do you pick?”

I would use this conversation starter to change the subject to celebrity anti-vaxxers (much more fertile conversational ground, but harder to bring up unprompted). If you play your cards right, you’ll be talking about Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s swollen testicles in no time.

“How weird is it to see people sitting at a table together again?”

Sydney’s just opened back up, and I’ve been trying this small-talk gambit with every hospo worker I’ve come across – it really gets them going and is guaranteed to buy you at least one or two blissful minutes of conversation. Really good stuff, trust me.

“If you could be stuck on a desert island with any chief health officer, who would it be?”

This is tough, because if we’re being strictly practical, you’d probably want a Kerry Chant – she just seems like she knows how to build and maintain a robust fire. And she’d also probably have a sound understanding of shelter-building first principles. But then again, you might want to prioritise companionship, and Brett Sutton has a bit more charisma going for him? Hmm. Tough. And don’t get me started on your former deputy chief health officers – your Chengs and Coatsworths of the world – because we’ll be here forever.

“What’s one lockdown habit you can’t wait to quit for good?”

Some people have picked up a few enviable, positive life habits in lockdown and are now living their best lives. They’re on top of their taxes, they know what the term “mindfulness practice” actually means and they’ve eaten more than a single vegetable in the last three months. That’s absolutely not me, and it’s definitely not you either. Us regular ratbags have spent our lockdown taking up less virtuous routines – like only showering when you can literally tell that you don’t smell “normal” and eating toast for dinner. Use this conversational opportunity to raise a glass to the habits that got you through lockdown. Then commit to never doing them again.

“What are you up to this weekend?”

“Actually, lots!” you’ll reply triumphantly. That’s right, the best conversation starter of all time, the go-to, is back in action. I used to love this small-talk staple, but I’ve hated it for the last two years because it just reminded me of how much nothing I’d been doing. I bet you have too. But now, with normal so close we can taste it, you can finally start asking people this again, and they’ll actually have interesting answers to give you. It’s already starting. Plans are back, mates are back and things are beginning to make sense again. Stay safe and enjoy it.

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This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with BWS.