Extrovert or introvert: the following three insider’s secrets will allow you to effectively find new connections and touchpoints. “Sometimes a fire built on a hill will bring interested people to your campfire” (Alder, S.). Therefore implement these three insights, and be ready to greet the individuals you are supposed to meet among the 1.3B Chinese to form friendships and meaningful relationships – 关系.
1. Get Involved on Campus
Join a student professional organization, club, and or association. Go attend the semester’s student associations fair to interview or “speed date” prospective organizations and its members. Doing so allows international students to connect with local scholars with similar goals, interests, and hobbies. Participating in association activities allows you to: do what you love; experiment with something new; and cross-pollenate skills and capabilities with new teammates. If you already uphold membership in an organization at home, see if your hosts also run a local chapter or branch. For instance, thankfully I joined the Tsinghua Student English Debate Association and Lacrosse team and met with Beijing’s Net Impact Chapter; however I wish I dabbled with the fencing club. And so, find a new or existing hobby in another playground, and share it with others.
2. Network through External Groups
Join an off-line networking group of professionals and expatriates for one or more social outing(s). Local citizens like to mingle with foreign nationals and vice versa at prime venues. An official event that is causal in nature offers quality entertainment and opportunities to socialize at your own leisure. Plus a relaxed environment and stellar ambiance facilitates stimulating interactions, especially when complementary drinks are available. For the right mix of business and pleasure, I suggest FCGroup or InterNations.
3. If Possible, Dine with Others
Food fuels and nourishes its people as a cornerstone of culture. Do not eat alone, unless you really want solitude or you really need to hurry up – scuffing down food can be embarrassing or hazardous. Don’t be shy to ask to join others for lunch or dinner, because certain restaurants combine seating anyways. Additionally, it adds an intriguing spice to each bite of your meal; for instance, if you enjoy your company you’ll wish the morsels of food lasted longer, and if you don’t enjoy your company it will amplify the flavors of your culinary dish much like salt. Think back to freshmen year’s dining hall suppers. Eating with locals can add dish education, food appreciation, eating etiquettes and table manners with multitude.