Making friends with the locals in China is a whole different creature than it is back home. You have to approach someone, open your mouth and have words come out. Ok, so that may seem to be a gross oversimplification but it isn’t. Making friends in China might even be easier than you will find it is to make new friends back in the West. The simple truth is; here in China, you are the exotic one. The local people here WANT to know more about you. You don’t have to wow them with a great opener. Not being Chinese IS your opener. You really couldn’t have to do less work. You might even find the locals approach you. Sometimes this is for free English lessons but even then a deeper relationship is entirely possible.
All right, so making friends is easy. What are the benefits of being friends with a Chinese person? Aside from the fact that almost all of your coworkers, neighbors and people you interact with on a daily basis will be Chinese it is always a good idea to expand your circle of friends, especially when far from everything that is familiar to you. A Chinese friend is a direct link to help you navigate and understand the world in which you are now living. They are a direct conduit into learning about the culture and can help you with all the subtly different day to day issues that arise. Sure, we have a stellar support team at Aihua but you don’t want to bother them with every little issue. You want someone to help you find a good hairdresser? Ask your new friend to take you out for a makeover. Want to buy a gift for a special someone? Trick them into helping you by buying them lunch at the mega-mall and then say “oh, while we’re here…” (I actually just asked flat out but some people might prefer the sneaky route). Maybe you are just tired of dealing with your fellow teachers day in and day out.
It’s easy enough to find people too. Start with your coworkers. Talk with the guy that sits at the gate to your complex. Chat with the lady that works at the grocery store you always go to after work. Start up a conversation with someone at the coffee shop you like. It really is that simple. Don’t let the language barrier block you from an amazing relationship. One of my friends and I use conversation mode on Google translate to have long and meaningful discussions. She is even helping me sail the uncertain waters of dating a local. At the worst, you might just get some Chinese practice in, at the best you have someone to invite to your wedding one day. Making Chinese friends will just enrich the already incredible experience that is living in China. Don’t just take my word for it; go see for yourself.