One of the scariest parts of teaching English in China is thinking about fighting alone. Even if you are an outgoing person, starting to be on your own is intimidating. Thinking that you don’t know who will celebrate your next birthday, or even just hanging out with you on the weekend, this may make you feel very strange.
But on the other hand, the friendships you make in China maybe some of the richest and most rewarding aspects of your time there. You will meet people you never thought of, and expand your social network beyond your imagination. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? So, where do you start?
You never know who has friends or family in China. Maybe your cousin has a friend in Beijing or your colleague has a brother in Shanghai.
It is great to build a new relationship from an established relationship because you already have a little connection with the people you are about to meet and have a recommendation from someone you already know and like. So, ask around, or write a status update on your social media to see who found you!
Know your colleagues
When you arrive at your new company, know your colleagues. Most of them are Chinese, they will certainly be able to provide you with useful insights into what life in China is like.
Try to say "yes" to any work social events. Get involved with the new company and colleagues. Or you can arrange dinner appointments with your colleagues individually and try to get to know them one-on-one. In China, when you go out and have dinner with someone, you will start to get a closer relationship with them.
Get out there IRL
After getting to know your colleagues, another good place to start to know people is by knowing your neighbors. Say hello to your neighbors, and try to make a connection with them, and ask about the interesting places nearby.
Follow your interests
If you ever wanted to join a sports league or engage in a new hobby, now is the time to do it! You will meet people who have similar interests to you, and it would be much easier to talk to them with shared interests.
If you don’t like joining groups, try to participate in activities that seem interesting to you. Anyone you meet there obviously has common interests with you, so it’s not too difficult to start talking to strangers.
Engage in the expat community
In most cases, there will definitely be other expats in China who understand the feeling of moving abroad and are open to starting friendships. Bars and restaurants based on a specific culture may be a good place to meet people from your hometown culture. You can even find some online platforms or groups.
For the gathering, there is a very popular tea party every weekend at Qianhai in Shenzhen. It is definitely a good place to start to engage in your expat community.
Finally, finding social groups online is a great way to connect with people in China. Searching for expat groups or groups based on common interests on Meet-Up, but you need to be aware that you cannot log into Facebook or even Instagram in China, you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access these social media platforms.
And there are many local online platforms in different cities in China. If you are in Shenzhen, you can find many ex-pat as well as much useful information about living in China. If you are in Beijing, Beijinger is a very popular website.
Final Tips for the social network in China:
Be open minded
When you are in China, you will get to know Chinese culture which is completely different from yours. When you meet new friends that you cannot understand right away, keep an open mind, because they may teach you more than you might expect.
Not everyone you meet will become your new best friend. You might encounter several awkward dates before you find someone you can actually connect with. Accept the fact that it takes time to make new friends and keep putting yourself there. You never know who you will meet next time.
Take the initiative
If you meet someone who clicked with you, ask their number and contact them. At first, this may make you feel very embarrassed, but normally many people, especially Chinese, are very willing to make new friends with you.
Even when you meet someone you feel connected with, it still takes time to change from an acquaintance to a friend. Invest time in people, leave some space for friendship, and let them move forward at their own pace.
Remember, when they move to China, everyone feels afraid of being alone. But with a little time and effort, you will definitely build lasting friendships in your overseas adventures. And I am pretty sure that you can do it like how I did it.