Sunday, 17 June 2012

Hot Topic: Making Friends with the Locals

One way of assimulating to another culture and country is to have friends who aren't just expats.  The problem with this is that friendship may mean different things to different people. In some countries, friendship may be very different than what you're used to as it can mean making connections and owing each other favours. In others it might be closer to what you normally think of when you think of friendship.

I remember one night in China when I went out to eat with my Chinese friends. They had invited me to dinner and throughout the dinner proceeded to quiz me on all things English. They even brought notebooks with questions. By the end of the meal, they had written down the names of all the ingredients, dishes, and useful phrases when going out to eat and I had promised myself never to get into this situation again. Though you could just as easily turn this to your advantage and ask them how to say everything say everything in their language. Use them to get free language lessons.

While many locals are sincere and want to be your friend for who you are, others see you as a walking English dictionary or a free English tutor. I've had people approach me at the store, bank, and on the street saying, "I want to be your friend because my English is poor." Even if you speak the language perfectly, they might still want to practice their English on your. Or will still view you as an outsider no matter how long you've lived in the country. My advice: choose your friends carefully, just like you would if you were back home.

What do you think?
Have you been used as a free English tutor? Do you have many friends that are locals?

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