A couple of weeks ago I got back to Hong Kong after several months of traveling. I quit my job back in July and I’m totally enjoying my chosen route of unemployment. However, coming back to Hong Kong has reminded me that I want to do things differently this time around in terms of meeting people. It has also reminded me of my biggest pet peeve, that is, foreigners completely blanking or even looking down upon locals. Yes, the language barrier thing can seem intimidating, but they’ll probably speak better English than you do their language. I am a reserved, shy person around new people, but I did a lot of things that surprised me and I met a lot of new people, both locals and other foreigners, in the process!
Language exchanges, whether advertised through Meetup or a flyer on the wall. In fact, learning the language is probably not going to happen, because some think “native speaker” and “teacher” mean the same thing, and much more fortunately, many come for the social experience. Some language exchanges are run like speed-dating too, so you get to meet a lot of new people in a short amount of time. And it’s a great way to ask locals about their recommendations about what to do and see, and you might even score an invite out of it.
One of best ways I met new people was during Thai New Year, which is a giant four-day water fight. Trust me, there are no better conditions than festivals to make fast friends. You can also get on the fad bandwagon. Hong Kong loves its fads, and right now ultimate frisbee is gaining popularity, so in another month or so everyone should be playing it.
One of the more embarrassing ways was by finally learning how to swim. I was the only foreigner in the pool, and even if that weren’t the case, the rest of the swimmers and lifeguards could spot me a mile away from my frantic doggy-paddling. But my coach and I are still great friends, and I got to complete something on my life to-do list. Win-win! As soon as I start getting a steady paycheck again, I plan to take a sewing class and hopefully meet a few people there, too.
Finally, I go to local bars and restaurants. They’re not as Western-trendy, but they’re cheaper, and this is a definite way to improve your grasp on the language. If nothing else, you’ll be someone they soon recognize and hopefully subject to great service. And, in what I consider a super win, if someone is acting a fool, you can tune them out way more easily.
How do you go about meeting new people?