6 Things for Chinese People to Avoid When Making Friends with Foreigners

6 Things for Chinese People to Avoid When Making Friends with Foreigners
Feb 21, 2019 By Andrea Hunt , eChinacities.com

We often post articles about how foreigners can make friends with their Chinese neighbours, their colleagues and make small talk at work. But how can Chinese people go about making friends with foreigners? Here’s my list of important things that Chinese people should NOT do if they want to make friends with random laowai.

Photo: Vaibhav Sharan

1. Don’t ask if you can be friends

This kind of directness when applied to friendship seems weird to foreigners and is too much of an initial commitment before we get to know you. That kind of candor can scare the laowai away, as friendship to us is not something that you vocally agree on, but rather something that is built over time.

2. Don’t ask if you can practice your English with us

This kind of transactional-like approach can simply make your target feel like they’re being used. Remember that foreigners in China can make good money giving simple conversation classes, so most will see no benefit in chatting with you simply so you can improve your English. Ask if they want to have a coffee or a drink sometime instead. You’ll still get to practice your English, but you might make a genuine friend, too!

3. Don’t ask us about money 

While it’s very common to talk about money in China, this is a big no-no in Western cultures. We feel quite uncomfortable when asked about our salaries or how much we paid for something, unless we got an amazing deal, of course. To most of us, our salaries and how much rent we pay are private matters, so we will either refuse to answer or lie, probably quoting a lower figure. It’s embarrassing for us if a Chinese person thinks we’re overpaid, rich or being ripped off.

4. Don’t tell girls they're beautiful when you first meet them 

While this is obviously a compliment, most foreign girls will find it a bit odd/creepy if you tell them they’re beautiful straight away. They’ll assume you’re coming onto them (or just weird/being false) and will therefore be unwilling to pursue a friendship with you.

5. Don't call or text too much 

Send a text to your foreign friends only when you have something to say. Texting 20 times a day just to say “hi” can seem invasive, as we usually only text to make plans or if we’re sharing a story or some news. Texts like “What’s up?” are usually used to see if the person is available to hang out. If the laowai replies, “not much, you?”, do not reply, “nothing”. The laowai will become confused (and maybe annoyed) about why you text in the first place.

6. Don’t say “I miss you” too soon

In addition, most foreigners don’t feel comfortable with messages from people they hardly know that say, “I miss you”. This is a phrase usually reserved for our closest friends and relatives. Saying it to someone we met once in a coffee shop is not commonplace.

I hope these simple tips will help clear up some of the cultural differences and language barriers that arise when Chinese people are seeking to make friends with foreigners. Good luck and don’t be a stranger!

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Keywords: Making friends with foreigners living in China


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And don't judge people based on stereotypes from movies...

Mar 20, 2019 13:46 Report Abuse



Hello, I do not agree with you, although you write interesting things in your article, not all foreigners are the same and contrary to your writing we like to teach, make friends, share. I do not want to make comparisons so as not to hurt anyone, but at least Latinos are different in everything they write here.

Mar 14, 2019 00:41 Report Abuse