Oftentimes the best worldbuilding is done using the smallest elements. Tiny details about your fictional world can convey immense amounts of information. While worldbuilders often become enraptured creating new countries, religions, histories, and other elements of equal enormity, minor elements can tell someone more about your world than you might first expect.
1. How People say Hello and Goodbye
How people of your fictional world greet one another can be a minor matter but can add a great deal of depth to your setting. Do they shout ‘ho there!,’ or do they calmly offer a sign of peace? A person saying, ‘may the gods walk with you,’ tells a story of a world in which faith may be important (or at least to that character), while a ‘calm winds and fair waters,’ hints at a seafaring culture. Greetings may be verbal, or they may physical like a handwave. Also consider the formality of the greeting, as a hug, a handshake, and a bow may all be used in different situations. Don’t forget that different cultures may have different ways of greeting one another and that members of secret societies or other organizations may have their own methods of saying hello.
Also consider how farewells are said in your world. Like greetings, there may be both informal and formal versions to this that depend on either ceremony (goodbye to a king or a commoner) or length of expected absence (will these people see each other tomorrow or never again?).
How might someone greet a stranger versus a dear friend?
“She’s as sly as a hobgoblin, that one.” World specific expressions, especially proverbs, can pack a lot of worldbuilding into them. They not only say something about what elements might exist in your world, but also how people react or may think of those elements. “Never try to out-swindle a Dathrene,” tells you several pieces of information, even without knowing the entire context. Creating new expressions also reduces the risk of using sayings that may only make sense in the real world (people may not say ‘Geez’ unless your world has a Jesus).
3. Food & Food Etiquette
Food is important, not only as a necessity for life, but also as an integral part of a culture. Inventing new foods, dishes, or etiquette associated with eating can be a minor detail that adds a lot of worldbuilding flavor. Fictional foods (fire radish stew, yeti and potatoes, seacakes and cream) offer a chance to showcase imaginary dishes and provides an avenue to explore how that food makes it to the market or table. Meanwhile, etiquette can highlight the social pecking order or be used to demonstrate novel customs. Who sits first at the table, who gets served last, how are guests treated, and is a grace or a toast said? Food is one of the central components to our own society, yet worldbuilders often ignore exploring it in their own fictional worlds.
Also consider the spices used to flavor your foods!
4. Local Names for Places & Things
While you may have spent a great deal of time inventing the best names for all your world’s locations, having the locals call them something else can help age your world and make it feel lived in. In a similar vein, having pet names for things like often used pieces of machinery can also make your world feel more real.
Gold, gil, ebucks, jangle. The currency used in your fictional world can go beyond serving as a means to an economic end. Curious coin shapes can highlight the uniqueness of your world, the materials they are made of conveys what may be valued, and the designs that adorn them can speak of the history of this place. Certain currencies may only be accepted in certain locations, others may not be accepted at all, and others may come from civilizations that long ago declined.
Graffiti can be a minor detail that is barely noticed in your world, or it can act as an important system of communication for those that know the symbols. Either way, graffiti tells a story and including it can act both to age your world as well as make an impact. Graffiti is often rebellious in nature, so from it one may learn who or what is despised, or you may learn a few new curse words. Different artists or groups of peoples may have distinct styles. Graffiti can be used as a form of protest, to mark territory, to intimidate, or to inspire.