You might have taken-on a job away from an active expat community, or you might have consciously decided to go native and make the most of getting the chance to live in China. Sooner or later you will want to make Chinese friends and enjoy socializing with them for a change.

If you have students of a near-peer age-group, you will often find that they would love to spend extra time with you. Many are just wanting to improve their spoken language skills and others are full-on enthralled with everything foreign. Students are always forgiving because they are fully aware of their own inadequacy in speaking your language and understanding your culture, so they are the first to empathize with your situation. On the other hand, students can be really annoying with their hungry eagerness, excessive generosity and unwillingness to expose their real selves.

Getting a local girlfriend/boyfriend is always an option. When you are a foreigner, everyone at least assesses you. This can be quite a treat for guys like me, used to being invisible or maybe even suppressed in my home country, but I can see that it can be annoying for some of the ladies (tall blondes especially) who attract quite a bit too much attention so that they have their ‘creep shield’ up all the time. There are phone apps like tantan that help you arrange dates with people from however far as you choose. Another way I found to get dates is to regularly eat alone at the same food-court during quiet times. After people get comfortable with you, they will start to want to know more about you. After they feel they know what you are about, they will start setting you up with eligible people they work with or relatives.

Frequenting an establishment appropriate to your class will quickly identify new potential friends. Here in Jinzhou the local Starbucks has prices to high for 90% of the locals to tolerate as a daily choice, so it’s only really the upper middle-class who have both the money and free time to be seen there often. After becoming a regular, you can quickly identify regulars with friendly smiles. After that they might approach you or you can approach them and start a conversation. I always found that asking advice is a great conversation starter e.g “Do you think going to Dandong on the fast train during New Year is a good idea?”

Whatever the case, it is a very good idea to get a bunch of local friends during the first and second month in China. Firstly because friends are good, and their drama enriches your life. Secondly, you need a bunch of good friends for when the culture shock and the sickness sets in during the third month. Some good friends will help you power through the troubles and be successful long-term in China.

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