27 February 2011

New classmates from China

Dear TCG,

Hope you had a nice holiday. I was talking with my history teacher today and he mentioned that two students had just moved into the district from Fujian, China. I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a new set of friends. He introduced me to them and they were quite friendly but totally helpless. Their English was very poor and they have had trouble adapting to an American school. They were a boy and a girl, my age, and were cousins. The boy was more outgoing but a bit of a goofball who might not be too sharp, the girl was more reserved and looked constantly exhausted. I am hoping to get to know them better and do whatever I can to help them adapt while at the same time making Chinese friends of my age.

My question is, what is the best way of helping them and getting to know them? Language barrier is one thing, they can speak simple english words slowly in addition to their native Min as well as Putonghua, but my Chinese is nowhere near good enough to carry out a full conversation. What would be the best way of communicating with them? How can I understand where they're coming from and what would be the best way to help them?

tl;dr: New classmates from China, how can I befriend them and help them assimilate?


This is a tough nut to crack because most non Chinese people find that Chinese people are incredibly insular and stick to their own rather than integrating and mixing in. Koreans OTOH TCG made a ton of Korean buddies in Seoul by virtue of extreme amounts of alcohol. If they were born overseas these traits STILL show through but not to such an extent. If they were born in China as you say they will have this sort of thing honed into them.

The crappy 1990s film Dragon the Bruce Lee story lampshades this. Where Bruce opens up a school and he is berated by the community elders for teaching the enemy Chinese secrets. Also a lot of my peers tend to say they were the weird nerdy children at school who did not mix because of their perceived differences.

Oddly enough I know quite a few laowai who teach in China (proper teachers not flip floppers) who have incredible troubles in making friends. Due to this insular nature when they do corner somebody to talk to often the response is mono syllabic. While conversations make Conan the Barbarian in the film appear to be a chatter box

(Arnold playing Conan mentions his first word 23 minutes into the film and says little over 80 words for the whole movie). And such people walk away pretty damned quickly.

To get to know them it is the usual stuff. Talk to them using questions which cannot be answered with a yes and a no or simple answers! Ask them out to do things in groups so it seems less threatening.But plan ahead, spontaneity is rare in China even in overseas types I am a huge exception but this is more to do with my mental state more than cultural things. Although it sounds like advertising tripe. I do attempt to do something amazing now and again.

Anyway back on track I'm sure your university will have lots of clubs and associations sports has an excellent equalising effect I find. TCG is an ELITE badminton played (hidden underneath this beer belly I returned with) you can tell because I wear jeans to play badminton. Whereby doing a sport of some kind removes the need to communicate with words and afterwards you can laugh about how good or bad you were. Beer of course always appears to work all around the world. Except this maybe a problem in the US what with the drinking age being 21.


1 comment:

  1. They dont really have many Chinese to stick to, Chinese are a small minority here and most are highly westernized, while Korean's OTOH are the dominate Asians in the school