I remember my first trip to China about fourteen years ago. Although I was there for only two weeks, I made friends, real friends. I still communicate with those same friends today! Some of them were college students at the time, and some were professionals at the university I visited. When I returned to the university the following year to teach, I was stunned by how easily I made friends with the local shop owners―and I didn’t speak Chinese―and how quickly I made friends with the students on campus, the ones I taught or met at the English Corner.
The guys would allow me to play basketball with them. We had a group that always played on Thursday afternoon at 3:30. We’d go out to eat or hang out in my apartment watching movies in English. The girls would translate for me, tell me where to shop, and show me how to do some of my everyday chores. They were so kind to show me where the laundry room was on campus and to take me to a seamstress to repair a torn pocket on my coat.
What was incredible about my spending time with these students is that I was probably twenty-two years older than they were; yet they accepted me and let me be their friend. They received me with my lack of knowledge of their culture, geography, and language, and they taught me. To this day, I am still amazed by how well an old bald guy was accepted and befriended by college-aged students from another culture. So, if you want to make some new friends, may I suggest China!
Learn more by reading my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.