6 Ways for Foreigners to Make Friends in the Chinese Workplace

6 Ways for Foreigners to Make Friends in the Chinese Workplace
Oct 25, 2018 By Degen Hill , eChinacities.com

Like most foreigners in China, you probably spend the majority of your time with a group of predominantly Chinese coworkers. Making friends in the Chinese workplace can be a challenge, but with a little effort and a determination to step out of your comfort zone, you’ll soon have more Chinese friends at the office than you’ll know what to do with. Here’s how:

Photo: Kai Hendry

Participate in work-related activities

In addition to the weekly work meetings, many offices arrange activities for their employees to get together and build camaraderie. These might be cleverly disguised as team-building exercises, casual after work dinners or the infamous KTV night.

For most foreigners, the initial instinct will be to say “no”, especially to the latter. But just as we learnt from the movie Yes Man, saying “yes" can lead to unexpected opportunities.

These out of office activities provide a more relaxed atmosphere, and perhaps alcohol, which in turn will loosen people up and hopefully lead them to talk more about non-work-related things. The more you get to know your colleagues outside of their work personas, the more genuine your relationships with them will be.

Show/feign interest

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget that, like it or not, we work with other people and that our relationships with those people are important. By simply showing an interest in what another coworker says, does or thinks, you can create opportunities for a deeper and more genuine relationship than simply knowing them as “that programmer guy who sits next to me”.

Let’s say you’re talking to Steve, who loves Chinese football. You, on the other hand, aren’t particularly interested in it, but this doesn’t matter. Engage Steve, listen to his stories about football in China and, who knows, maybe you guys will see a game together sometime. You might not enjoy the match itself, but you’re sure to get something out of your closer friendship with Steve.

Step out of your comfort zone

Cultural differences between Western countries and China exist, and anyone who says they don’t is a liar. Perhaps you don’t want to spend your Friday night listening to Chinese people sing love ballads badly or your Saturday afternoon in a mall, and having those feelings is perfectly okay. But if you want to fit in and, who knows, maybe even make some friends during the process, you must be willing to give new things a try.

Relationships, even platonic, are about give and take. Sure, you didn’t want to go to KTV, but was it better than staying at home alone? Probably.

Create opportunities

The previous suggestions are a bit passive, as you have to wait for the opportunity to come to you. Although this might seem obvious, don’t forget that you too can create opportunities for you and your Chinese colleagues to hang out.

Maybe they don’t drink or aren’t interested in playing poker, but there are lots of other things you can invite them to do that both of you will enjoy. Check out event listings, pick something and throw out the invitation. It doesn’t need to be expensive, time-consuming or 100 percent suited to everyone’s interests. Sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination.

For example, art galleries aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea, but when you think back on that time you and some colleagues checked out the weird new exhibition in your hood, you’ll likely remember the funny comments they made and the silly pictures you took. Sure it was awkward at times, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. 

Just like anything, making friends in the Chinese workplace takes time and effort. In today’s world, where most people are caught up in social media and online games, it pays to have personal interactions.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there are chat someone up at the water machine today!

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Keywords: Chinese Workplace


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Firstly, I am commenting WITHOUT having read the article... There's a GOOD point in this: To 'Degen' Hill, the author, and whatever your nationality is (sounds like a Chinese using half a Western name)... Mr Hill, I am not a 'foreigner', I am a 'person'. You can call me a 'migrant', call me a 'visitor' or even call me an 'overseas person'... But never call anybody from Australia/NZ (and the UK, I believe) a 'foreigner'... The linguistic anthropologic and social-linguistic connotations of the word 'foreigner', and how they relate to ethnocentrism and xenophobia, are appalling. When I read the title of your story, my immediate reaction is: GO TO HELL, You are not talking to me, because I am a person, not a 'foreigner'... Anyone who really knows China will get what I mean, at a very deep level.

Nov 10, 2018 13:02 Report Abuse



Thank you for your reply! We appreciate both domestic and foreign comments.

Nov 13, 2018 14:33 Report Abuse



What happened to the article?

Nov 05, 2018 15:02 Report Abuse



Life goes on no matter how

Oct 27, 2018 01:16 Report Abuse