Small talk exists in every culture. It serves several important functions. Small talk closes distances, prevents silence, facilitates politeness within social exchange. Small talk serves as a bridge when two or more parties are willing and able to communicate and are also expected to do so, yet not about substantial topics. Small talk fills gaps in a personal and pleasant way.
To break the ice is an American idiom meaning to get beyond the first uncomfortable, unpleasant or embarrassing feelings when people meet for the first time. One breaks the ice usually through light-hearted conversation or playful action.