As an immigrant in China, it is often easier to gravitate towards peers who find themselves equally new to this land. The immigrant community in Beijing is vast and vibrant, and there are frequently events allowing you to meet new people. However, there is one significant issue with this network – it’s transient. The immigrant community is in constant flux and if you are looking at spending longer than a year in China, it is wise to make some Chinese friends.
Prior to coming to China, I had a number of Chinese friends from when I studied abroad. I am lucky that some of these are based in Beijing and we meet frequently. Through this network, I have met some new people, who have helped me to settle into life here.
Chinese people are in general very warm and friendly towards outsiders. While some pessimists will say they are merely interested in either improving their English or having a “token” foreign friend for those all important WeChat moments, you will face this dilemma wherever you meet new people.
Food and conversation
Food is key. The Chinese love nothing better than to sit around a hot pot and complain about the cost of living in Beijing. Cost of living, food and sport are safe topics of conversation. The sharing of political or economic views is best avoided.
While this is something that I tend to avoid, the Chinese have a great affinity for singing and giving their best rendition of “小苹果”. You will inevitably be forced to perform a cheesy 2000s song by some artist who should have long been forgotten.
Chinese guys love everything basketball. I had little interest in basketball before coming to China, and while I still don’t care too much for it, I have to acknowledge its existence and importance. An affinity for basketball will go a long way towards making local friends.
While it is certainly easier to gravitate towards the immigrant community, I would encourage anyone who is hoping to spend longer than a year in China to challenge yourself to make Chinese friends. I promise you, you will be glad of it in the long term.