How to Win Friends in Asia

Contributed by Asia Expat Guides, 26 September, 2013

Asia has recently emerged as an exciting place to be in. Many expat surveys and polls have found that foreigners have increasingly begun to look to Asia as the place to settle down in for various reasons – a better quality of life and learning about newer cultures being some of them.

However, despite being a great hub of social life and activity, Asia is often seen as a place where socializing isn’t easy, often due to a lack of understanding of the local customs and traditions.

New entrant

For someone who has just moved to an Asian country, it can be quite a daunting task to figure out how to go about making new friends. Asia is seen as one entity when it comes to social life, and the common view in the West is that it is difficult to make friends with Asians.

While there’s no consensus about how much truth there is to this claim, the fact remains that both sides find it difficult to mix and mingle with each other. This is especially the case amongst students, who tend to stick to groups of same ethnicities and/or backgrounds, and fail to befriend those outside their set social circles.

Similarly, adults, too, do the same. Expats who relocate to Asia find themselves at their wits’ end with regards finding ways of getting to know the locals better.

Go where the Romans go

The reason for paraphrasing this popular saying is simple enough – if you don’t visit the places where you are likely to meet locals, you won’t make any new local friends! Do a bit of research and source out bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants and community centers that the locals favor, and head down to those. Leave the ‘expat-friendly’ bars for later.

Much as we’d like to deny it, it is true that sometimes, Asians come across as being inward-looking and introverted; that they aren’t open to making friends besides the ones they already have. However, this view works both ways. To the Asians, it seems as if foreigners would not appreciate their advances of friendship and thus, they maintain distance from them.

Owing to these (unfounded) doubts about the ‘other’, both sides miss out on making good friends. But as the newcomer, it is your prerogative to make the first move, to let the locals know that you are an open-minded person who is looking to make new friends.

Cultural awareness

However, while making new friends, it is also important to keep in mind that there are some cultural differences between the way people socialize in the East and the West. While in the West it may be perfectly okay for one to introduce themselves to a bunch of people and start joking about all sorts of things with them straight away, it may be better to first find out how open the locals are to jokes of certain kinds as they may be uncomfortable around some topics. Thus, take your time getting to know people before jumping to any sort of assumptions about them.

Change in social scenery

And whatever you do, remember not to fall into the rut of making friends with other expats alone. While it’s great to meet foreigners in a country that is as new to them as it is to you, you will not be able to gain real experiences out of such associations. So make friends with expats for a feeling of belongingness with home, but to learn more about the Asian culture and to immerse yourself in the local scene, make friends with the locals. But of course, keep in mind that if you befriend locals with the purpose of ‘learning new things’ alone, it might displease them. After all, friends are made for much more than just that. So just go out with a view to making new friends; the experiences and learning will follow suit!

And if you find it difficult to do so, just give a shout out to Asia Expat Guides. With our services, you are sure to have a great time – whether it is through the food, finding your way around your neighborhood, or meeting other expats and locals.

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