There’s an old Chinese proverb, 黄金万两容易得，一个知心最难寻。(huáng jīn wàn liăng róng yì dé, yí gè zhī xīn zuì nán xún.) – Gold is easy to obtain, but a great friend is the hardest to find.
Chinese culture places a lot of importance on building and maintaining good relationships.
So when we travel in China, we’ll have the best experience possible if we strive to make as many friends as possible.
And it’s not hard to make friends in China. In fact, it can be just as easy as finding gold!
What Kinds of Friends Should We Make in China?
China has over a billion people living within its border.
The vast majority of those people are Chinese nationals, living and working in their homeland. But there are many foreigners there as well, living and working alongside the locals.
Making friends with both locals and other foreigners offers invaluable experiences.
Make Friends in China with Locals
Being friends with the locals will offer you a firsthand look at what Chinese society is all about.
They’ll be able to introduce you to Chinese customs and traditions, help you learn how to speak Chinese, tell you where all the best restaurants are and show you the non-touristy spots that only the locals know about.
And if you’re really skilled at making local friends, they may even invite you into their home, cook you delicious food and make you part of their family!
Make Friends in China with Foreigners
Fellow foreigners will be able to commiserate with you about your experiences in China.
They’ve either been where you’ve been or they’re going through it with you at the same time. They are great resources of empathy when you’re struggling to fit in.
They’ll be able to help you travel around with the perspective of a foreigner, navigate the strange Chinese system as an outsider and give you insight into their own diverse culture and how it relates to traveling in China.
Make Friends in China: 5 Fun Ways to Put Yourself out There
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1. Join WeChat Groups
WeChat is the most used social media and texting platform in China. It’s kind of like a mix between Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
It also contains a mobile wallet, allows you to order taxis and lets you buy any number of things ranging from food to plane tickets.
WeChat is an essential app to have if you’re spending any amount of time in China.
One of the great features of WeChat is the “Groups” function. This helps you mingle with people who share similar interests. There are groups for everything, from people trying to find language partners to wine-tasting meetups to expats who share funny videos.
From the moment you sign onto WeChat, you can text and send pictures, audio and video with almost everyone in China.
If you want to make friends with people in China, join as many WeChat groups as you can, and be proactive in those groups.
2. Find an Activity
China has countless activities to try, many of which are unique to Chinese culture.
There are sports like badminton and tennis, martial arts like kung fu and tai chi and traditional art forms like calligraphy and Chinese tea.
When I first came to China, I took a course in Chinese tea. Not only did I quickly become great friends with the teacher, I used my knowledge and skills of brewing Chinese tea to make friends with people all over China. China considers many of these cultural activities essential parts of daily life, so when foreigners take interest, they’re excited to participate with you!
You can also look into learning about traditional Chinese music. Consider learning to play one of China’s traditional musical instruments, such as guzheng or guqin, or take a class on singing traditional Chinese opera.
There are tons of athletic clubs, hiking clubs, adventure clubs, business clubs, food clubs and culture clubs you can join.
When you take an interest in Chinese activities, you put yourself out into the world and mingle with people who like the same things you do. This not only helps you build a strong social network, but you also allow yourself the opportunity to plant roots in Chinese society.
Because China is such a unique place, there are tons of unique activities that you can participate in if you’re not afraid to try!
China is a big country with a lot of things to see and do.
When you travel around China, you’ll find lots of new friends in new places.
Traveling in general is a great way to make friends. You can stay in hostels where you’ll meet curious travelers like yourself, and you can invite them to go out exploring with you.
The experience of being new and in exploration mode is fun and exciting, so you’ll naturally attract others who want to go exploring with you.
China has an endless list of great travel destinations, from the Great Wall to the Terracotta Warriors to the Yunnan Rice Terraces.
And new friends in China are at each one of those spots! You just have to travel around to find them.
I’ve met new local and foreigner friends riding on buses, hanging out in coffee shops, walking around villages, staying in hostels and exploring caves! There’s no shortage of people looking to be your friend when you travel around China.
4. Learn Mandarin
Not many people in China speak English. So if you really want to make friends, you should strive to learn the local language.
This will help you relate with locals and build strong connections with them in their native language.
And when you do find some Chinese people who speak English, you can ask them to become your language partner. That means that you’ll help them with your language while they help you with yours.
A language partner is an invaluable resource as they’ll take you around the city, show you the ins and outs of the culture and help you gain fluency in Mandarin.
My Chinese language partners and I went to museums and local music shows. We traveled to different cities together and an endless number of plates of authentic Chinese food.
The language is such an important piece of a culture’s identity, and China is no different.
Learning to speak Mandarin will instantly help you engage with 1 billion more people!
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5. Check Local Platforms
In most major cities around China, there are local platforms designed to give people information about events and happenings.
These platforms often feature some kind of bulletin board or community forum where residents can interact with one another. For instance, if you’re looking to meet new friends in Beijing, check out the Beijinger. If you’re in Shanghai, check out Shanghaiist.
There are lots of other local platforms that help people find like-minded friends through various meetups and social gatherings.
For instance, the international professional networking group InterNations has many local chapters throughout China.
Find the local resources for your area and aim to check out those platforms daily for opportunities to find and make new friends.
China is a huge country with huge opportunities for all who go there.
All you have to do is be open to new experiences and brave enough to actually go out there and try them.
From learning the language to trying a new activity, these five ways to make friends in China are sure to help you build your Chinese social network!
Eric Michelson is a nomadic, philosophizing, peace-minded pluralist. He hopes to help bridge the divide between the diverse factions of the world by exploring various perspectives brought on by personal experience. You can follow Perspective Earth to learn more about him and his work.
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