By Grant Barker
You have recently moved to Hong Kong. It is exciting, overwhelming, and isolating, all at the same time. Suddenly, you find yourself in a place where you need to make friends quickly. However, you have not employed this skill in years, and frankly, you feel nervous and anxious.
Forming friendships is one of the quickest ways to adapt to new surroundings. However, making new friends in a foreign place can be an obstacle in itself for many who are already having trouble adjusting to their new life. Here are a few tips to help you find your tribe in Hong Kong:
First, don’t be afraid. Know that your friendship advances will be reciprocated. Most people are kind and good, and are always looking for people that they can relate to and connect with. Do not be afraid to open up and pursue lasting connections with people.
Connect with friends of friends. Ask around to current friends, relatives, and colleagues if they know anyone in the area. Connecting with people this way is not only appropriate, it is a very easy way to expand your friend network.
“Cold-start” a conversation. Do you notice a watch or necklace someone next to you is wearing? Did you enjoy reading the book they’re currently reading? While still minding obvious cultural norms, “cold-starting” conversations with people next to you at a show, in line for coffee, or on the tram is a great way to get to know someone.
Join a local, social activity. There are opportunities throughout the city to find people with whom you have common interests. Go to an arts event, join a sports league, sign up for a yoga membership, or find a photography group. You will immediately be introduced to people with a passion for the things you enjoy as well.
Use your kids to find friends. If your child has friends that they like hang out with, invite their parents over for coffee while the kids play. It is also a great way to form friend groups with your spouse, which can lead to better relationships with your significant other and your family altogether.
Volunteer for a good cause. Distribute food to the needy, read to underprivileged children, care for abandoned animals, or join the PTA at your child’s school. Hong Kong has a volunteer opportunity for everyone. Giving back is a great way to make new friends, because everyone is already in an open and social mood.
Go to happy hour. After work, loosen up and grab a few drinks. Invite your coworkers or just simply go alone and meet someone at the bar. It’s natural place to meet and mingle.
Be patient and keep trying. Making friends can take time. But take heart, as research shows just spending time with people makes them feel more fond of you. So be sure to keep showing up and saying hello at work, your regular coffee shop, the gym, your kids’ bus stop, birthday parties, and other events where you feel your future friends are congregating.
If you live in Hong Kong, and you think you and/or anyone in your family may be struggling to make friends, please contact us. We offer individual and family group sessions to assist individuals struggling to form friendships in a new place.
Grant is a undergraduate visiting for the summer from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He has experienced first-hand the challenge of forming friendships abroad. Grant works as a Communications and Marketing intern at BFDC and plans to study Psychology in graduate school.