The Dos & Don’ts of Making Chinese Friends
Getting to know and becoming friends with Chinese people has been enormously helpful during your Chinese language learning journey. A Chinese friend can help you speak Chinese more confidently, learn local words and phrases, and have a better understanding of the culture.
How do I "make a Chinese friend?" You can get to know someone while in China, befriend an international Chinese student at school, or meet a Chinese friend online.
This article will dive into the difficulties when dealing with Chinese friends, other ways to meet new Chinese people, useful apps and tips, phrases to use, and activities you can do with your Chinese friends.
Let's get started!
The keys to making Chinese friends
Depending on the type of person you or the Chinese person are, different life experiences creates different people.
For example, talking to someone who has never left their home country has a different view than those who have traveled to multiple countries in their lifespan.
1. Don't make your friends "lose face."
Reputation, also called 面子, is very important to Chinese people.
In a hierarchical and collectivist society like China, everyone has a reputation and prestige in work, school, and family. It can be gained, lost, and given. For example, criticizing others, refusing to take a gift, interrupting someone, directly challenging him, or pointing out others' mistakes can have someone "lose face" or change how others perceive them.
For these reasons, teasing may be less accepted than in other cultures, so you should only do it with close friends in informal contexts. And remember not to criticize your friends or colleagues in front of others openly, as it would make them lose part of their 面子.
2. Do avoid sensitive topics
First impression counts, so avoid any sensitive topics such as politics.
This topic may be part of small talk in some cultures, but this does not apply to China, especially considering many Chinese people are very loyal to their country.
3. Be aware of the difference in pop culture
While this block does not mean that young Chinese people are cut off from the rest of the world, they are less familiar with American pop culture, celebrities, memes, viral videos, and Western trends.
4. Consider your fashion choice
Some Chinese people might be intimidated by more exposed clothing seen as normal in many Western countries.
While you can dress however you want, many Chinese people might feel more comfortable in more modest clothing.
How to meet Chinese friends in real life
Finding and making Chinese friends is easy if you know where to look. There are various WeChat groups about different hobbies, so try one of these groups out. Additionally, some organizations create group activities such as hiking up a mountain, visiting a nearby city, etc. Many large cities are full of these groups.
You can also start talking to someone in a shop, at a bar or restaurant, or on the subway. They will certainly be happy to meet someone like you and be surprised that you're learning Chinese.
In China, I often had someone compliment me about something I wore and ask for my WeChat contact. Chinese people are outgoing, kind, friendly, and curious to learn about western culture. They will likely be looking for you rather than you looking for them.
You can find out more and practice your listening skills with this video:
In your home country
There are many second or third-generation Chinese immigrants who were born and raised in your home country. Despite being born in a different country from their parents, they will still have a Chinese cultural background and can often speak Chinese fluently but not so in writing.
You may see these people at the local Chinese cultural centers, restaurants, stores, or simply at school or work.
Humans naturally desire to form friendships and make connections with people. Even though you might be practicing your Chinese, you will naturally form a genuine friendship bond with these people.
In many Confucius Institutes worldwide, you can meet many young Chinese adults as volunteer teachers. As young adults, they are more approachable and it’s easier to become friends with them.
Getting to know any of these people will be a wonderful experience for everyone: you can introduce them to the city and your culture, and they can do the same for you.
What are some ways to meet Chinese friends online?
There are plenty of alternative ways to make Chinese friends. The most common is digitally online, through websites or apps.
1. Install Chinese social media.
Since most western social media is blocked in China, using any Chinese social media platform will help you engage with contemporary Chinese culture, the latest news, and trends, read comments in Chinese, reply, and meet some new friends.
WeChat: a messaging app.
Weibo: is similar to Twitter in usage and Facebook in interface.
Douyin: a Chinese equivalent to TikTok. While mostly used by young people, it is open to all age groups.
Tencent Video: the Chinese equivalent to YouTube.
Zhihu: a forum similar to Quora.
2. Use a language app with language partners
There are plenty of apps that are specifically designed to help you find a language partner with whom you can practice Chinese. A language partner can easily become a friend, and you can meet them when you visit their country or if they visit your country.
On these platforms, you can find Chinese people learning other languages. Depending on your learning style, writing and talking in another language is a great way to practice Chinese. So when you become language partners, you help them out in their learning language while they help out with yours. During these exchanges, you learn a lot about each other's cultures.
This app allows you to find friends based on their native language or current location. This feature is very useful as you can get to know native Chinese speakers who live in your city or country. You can also write posts about your life, interests, and other topics.
Another interesting feature allows you to correct messages you receive or comment on them. This way, you can pay attention to each other's mistakes by focusing on the linguistic aspect.
HelloTalk is an app similar to Tandem. You can share and comment on other people's posts.
Additionally, you can find Chinese lessons and materials while looking for a Chinese language partner.
On the Pandanese forum, you can create your own thread or reply to one. You can meet Chinese friends or friends who are learning Chinese. Having a language partner be helpful as you two can push each other to be better at Chinese.
Phrases to use to make Chinese friends
There are certain phrases to use when connecting with someone on WeChat or asking for their QR code.Keywords and phrases to use to exchange/add friends in Chinese
Otherwise, there are no particular phrases to use to make Chinese friends; just be yourself! Try to go beyond the usual 你好, show interest in the person with their hobbies, or suggest an activity together.
For example, you want to try a Chinese dish at a restaurant or hike up a mountain. Chinese people are happy to introduce their culture to those who are interested.
Activities you can do with your Chinese friends
If you have made friends in China, they will most likely be the ones to create group activities as they want to share their experiences, free time, and local attractions in their city or country. They might even show you how to prepare their favorite dishes.
An activity you can suggest to your Chinese friends could be eating at a restaurant, drinking at a bar, or doing some KTV or karaoke, where you and your friends rent a private room and sing to your heart's content.
Chinese people don't usually like clubbing, but everyone is different, so ask about their hobbies!
Frequently asked questions
How to make Chinese friends online?
If you are learning Chinese, you can download language exchange apps such as Tandem, HelloTalk to talk to Chinese native speakers. By talking about your hobbies and interest, you can start making a connection and learn more about each other.
How to find Chinese friends online?
If you are learning Chinese, you can download language learning apps or go on Chinese forums. On these forums, you can post your hobbies and interests for other to comment and connect with. From there, you can private DM each other and slowly start a friendship.
At the end of the day, meeting a Chinese friend is just like meeting any other friend:
Be friends with people who share similar hobbies and values.
Respect each other's culture, space, and opinions.
Elisa Felici has been studying Chinese since 2014. She started her language-learning journey at Italian universities and lived in Beijing while attending Beijing’s Confucius Institute. Elisa passed HSK 4 and 5 and finally, in 2020, HSK 6. She now has a Master’s degree in translation and interpreting and has experience not only as a language learner but also as a Chinese teacher and translator.