How to Make Friends with Locals when Traveling around China

Posted 1st Nov 2020
How to Make Friends with Locals when Traveling around China?

China has become a popular tourist destination as many foreigners are eager to see its magnificent oriental architecture. It has occurred to some tourists that it might be a good idea to make some Chinese friends when travelling in China. 

Those who are already in love with the Chinese culture, shouldn't miss the opportunity to keep in touch with a native Chinese speaker. It will certainly help them gain a better understanding of the Chinese language and their way of life. But the uniqueness of the Chinese culture makes it difficult for more westernised countries to know where to start when it comes to making friends with Chinese people. 

If you plan to visit China in the near or more distanced future (thank you COVID!) use these tips to learn how to make friends with the locals and ultimately enhance your time in this magical country.

(psst, we have another blog post you might like, all about the Cultural Differences In China - check it out here).

1. Sign up for a WeChat account

Nowadays Chinese people can’t live without WeChat. Their daily life relies on it - especially because it holds important functions such as WeChat Pay. But WeChat is mainly used as a communication tool working similarly to WhatsApp. That’s why it’s essential for you to sign up for a WeChat account. This way you will be able to chat with your future Chinese friends when you are not with them in person. 

WeChat will also enable you to order takeaways and purchase tickets using the app on your phone, making life just that little bit easier (and quicker!)

Another special feature about WeChat is that it will allow you to send “red envelopes”. This is a virtual envelope containing a certain amount of money you can send to your friends on different occasions like their birthday or wedding.

2. Learn Chinese

Being able to speak even a little Chinese is an effective way to impress your Chinese friends. At the same time, it also serves as a platform for you to establish a good relationship. Young people in China are now extremely curious about foreign cultures and are interested in making friends with people from different cultural backgrounds. 

Therefore, knowing Chinese is exactly what is needed to promote cross-cultural communication. If you’ve decided to start your exhilarating Chinese-learning journey, it will be a good idea to find yourself a language exchange partner when travelling around China. 

More and more Chinese people have realised the importance of having a good command of a second language (preferably English). They will be excited to have the opportunity to get acquainted with native speakers of other languages.  

3. Go to bars and pubs

Nowadays all kinds of fancy bars can be found in most of the major Chinese cities. And while current times make this difficult to do at the moment, when the bars are open and travel gets under way again, it is a great way to meet the locals. 

Having a drink together while gossiping about what has been going on with their friends is a primary past time for younger people in China. As has been mentioned above, Chinese people, especially college students are open to different cultures and love to explore through open communication. 

 If you are visiting China, you will find it very easy to start a casual conversation with some local people - because most of the time, they are looking for opportunities to grow their social networks with those outside of their usual social circles. Just be bold and say hi!

4. Show your interest in food

China is famous for its rich food culture. You will notice that Chinese people are fond of exploring different kinds of posh restaurants which offer impeccable western and traditional Chinese food side by side together. 

In fact, there are quite a few TV programs that are devoted to the traditional Chinese food culture (for instance, A Bite of China), which many Chinese people find fascinating. 

Bearing their passion for food in mind, you will soon discover that dilemmas like “what to eat for lunch” play a pretty important role in Chinese people’s daily lives. 

Therefore, it wouldn’t be hard for you find something in common to talk about with Chinese people if you are interested in knowing more about the quintessence of Chinese cuisine.

5. Don’t be afraid of asking them questions

Despite the fact that Chinese people are getting more and more open-minded, owing to China’s fast-growing economy that attracts a large number of foreign talents to make their contributions to the future development of China, some local people are pretty shy (but usually kind-hearted and sincere) and are often resistant to expanding their friend circles. 

It is therefore important that you to take the first step to get them engaged. It doesn’t matter what questions you ask. However, it’s still sensible to ask questions that the person you are talking to is more or less familiar with, such as some basic information about the city where he or she lives in. The main thing here is to “stimulate their interest in getting exposed to foreigners”. 

Once they feel a small connection with you, they will become more spontaneous and provide you with a lot of information that you need when travelling around China. 

Author's Notes:

That’s Mandarin is one of the oldest private Chinese schools in China. It was founded in Beijing in 2005 and has been growing ever since, with campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. That’s Mandarin has been delivering excellence in Chinese teaching for over 15 years to more than 30,000 students of different nationalities. “NihaoCafe” is an online learning platform created by That’s Mandarin to enhance students’ Mandarin learning experience. The school has plans to open more campuses in more cities soon, to share the knowledge and enthusiasm for Mandarin to more students in China and around the world.