Why Is It Hard To Make Western Friends?

by Doug Bernard - Posts (17). Posted Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Today’s post comes to us from Jemince, (or in Mandarin ‘如馨 贾’)  from Beijing, China. She was studying English Chinese translation in Beijing International Studies University for her Master’s Degree until she arrived at Binghamton University together several month ago. She’s currently majoring in Comparative Literature and studying law on her own so as to get her Bachelor’s Degree once she returns to China.

Today, she offers some thoughts on a question she recently asked herself: “Why Can’t Chinese Students Make Friends With Westerners? Some of her thoughts below.

 

Since there is a growing trend for Chinese students to study abroad, many youngsters start to live their lives completely differently from their families or friends in China. At the same time, the different life experience doubtlessly triggers the vast curiosity of those who intend to study or live abroad. But curiously, the opinions about living in foreign countries, especially western countries often come up with similarities such as: It is great to see the world and it definitely broadens your view and deepens your knowledge; Everything is great but I just cannot bear the loneliness, it is so hard to make friends and assimilate in their society; There is always a distance between me and those foreigners.

I was about to study in the US together with other three Chinese students from Beijing, and both the positive and negative sayings about the country and its people just made me so curious but meanwhile anxious about the unknown life that was approaching me. My questions were simple: Will I face the same problems in getting well with locals or other foreign people? Will I be lonely and have no friends to spend time with and finally die because of loneliness? Why did many Chinese feel so helpless in getting friends abroad?

With all the questions and the burning curiosity, I stepped my feet on the land of the US! It was late summer, everything looked just perfectly green and beautiful, and our semester hadn’t got on track yet, but unfortunately my other three Chinese group mates (housemates as well) and I almost spent the whole first month dwelling at our small house, which made me feel helplessly lonely and anxious about staying at home, because I didn’t know anyone here and none of my housemates or any of my Chinese friends would go to bars or any party with me. They seemed to have a natural fear of bars and were scared of going there, because in Chinese culture, there is no tradition or custom of going to bars or staying up night at parties. And in the eyes of many Chinese, drinking at bars and dancing with a lot of unknown people in a dim light at night somewhat indicates an unhealthy and lazy life. Meanwhile, due to the effect of some Hollywood movies, bars become shelters of drugs, easy sex or violence in their mind. Thus, Chinese were rarely seen in bars here.

Not caring about the traditional bias, I was desperate to experience the real American life including meeting a lot of new people and going to parties and bars. And luckily, a group of wonderful students who came from the US, Germany and other European countries finally ended my dull life and later on became my best friends. We enjoyed our weekends in going out, doing potlucks or visiting different bars and parties drinking, dancing and talking about our life, study, ambitions and all other interesting things.

On the contrary, when talking about how interesting and fun to enjoy weekends like this to my Chinese friends, I often received comments as: “I heard people use drugs there!” “There are many drunkerds, isn’t it dangerous?” “No…I’d better not go there.” “Oh, I can’t drink! It’s not healthy!” About going to bars, parties or other stuffs that I call as “outgoing activities”, Chinese students usually behave cautiously, shyly and conservatively, which is completely opposite from western students. Instead of hesitating, the westerners consider it as a tradition or a sort of must-do to go to noisy places, enjoy the relaxation of drinking, talking to friends and meeting new people. As in my case, after a week of exhausting study, my western friends would say: ”Oh, we need to relax!” and normally it led to a good drink somewhere in a bar or at a home party. But my Chinese friends would like to spend a whole weekend on watching movies at home or having a nice shopping with other Chinese.

And the reason of the differences might be: first of all, Chinese people are naturally more introverted. Places such as bars and parties are mainly for getting tipsy or drunk, relaxing, chatting and knowing new people, which is completely different from the Chinese way and would make them feel nervous and uneasy. Secondly, the communication among Chinese people is mostly very euphemistic, for example, the discussion about how to pay for a meal can go like this: “Maybe I pay for it?” “Uh, I don’t know, maybe we go dutch?” “I don’t know…Maybe?” And the discussion may last over ten minutes. Instead, westerners would ask directly: ”Hey guys, we’ll pay separately right?” “Yes.”

Apart from the differences of having “outgoing activities”, Chinese students have impressed a lot of westerners by the shyness. For example, in a party with my western friends, my Chinese friends usually stayed quiet and finally became very good listeners. And later, they would say: “OMG, I felt so nervous that everybody was so active, and I just looked at all you guys talking but had absolutely no idea about what to talk about!” “Your western friends are very nice, but I still feel there is a distance between us.”

Why so? The westerners also got very curious about why my Chinese friends weren’t talking with them or later on even totally stopped showing up. The reason might be the euphemism of Chinese nation again. If you have been to a Chinese party, you might find that Chinese often begin to know each without a word but a quiet smile, and it would take time to discover someone interesting by observing quietly and secretly. And if that goes well, there would be several rounds of slow and tentative conversations such as “Hi!” “Oh, is it your first time of being here?” “It’s cold outside…” and then they might start to penetrate in knowing names or other further information.

Obviously, the habit has successfully slowed down the speed of Chinese in making friends and made a party more like a meeting for introverts. But oppositely, westerners usually begin with direct self-introductions including their names and piles of questions, answers and laughter. And after a short communication, people would decide if they are really interested in each and want to continue the conversation. Such a difference between Chinese and westerners builds a natural barrier to the two people in getting to know each other.

Often Chinese think westerners are too blunt and fast in conversations and that makes them nervous. As a result, they would stay silent and enjoy listening to the words shooting among the westerners. And for westerners, Chinese are reacting way too slow and sometimes a bit weird, because they don’t have any idea that Chinese are actually slow in the regard. Anyways, I may describe the Chinese communication as a game of Tai Chi that takes both time and brain to discover, and western one as shooting a ball: direct and simple.

Apart from all the differences above, something bigger seemed to irk several of my western friends once. It was a home party for Chinese hotpot hosted by a Chinese girl who invited three of my German friends and I and about fifteen other Chinese students. And the weird thing was that there was almost no Chinese talking to the Germans or even me during the whole party, except a few that we had known for a long time.

My friends were so unhappy that all the Chinese seemed to enjoy the party closely but excluded them from their big group. It was really a bit embarrassing and hard to explain. But the reasons that I may come up with are firstly, Chinese are really kind hearted but sometimes very conservative in mingling with foreigners. Because in the eyes of a Chinese, foreigners are someone distinctively different and cannot be regarded as the same. Secondly, Chinese are rather modest in social communications, and rarely take steps first to approach others.

During the semester in the US, I found it rather interesting and challenging to discover the differences that hinder the communication between Chinese and western students. But while doing this, I do realize that it is almost impossible to list all the differences and reasons for we share completely different cultures and backgrounds. Furthermore, as a Chinese, I would recommend my fellows to be more daring and direct in social activities so as to make more friends and fully enjoy the life in the US.

39 Responses to “Why Is It Hard To Make Western Friends?”

  1. Jeff says:

    I can only speak from the Western view, but it seems to me that the issue of closed and open personalities isn’t necessarily right or wrong, but two very different ways of looking at and interacting with the world. If one is conservative, in the Eastern way, it seems to me that, that is because one cherishes or protects oneself from vulnerability. Westerners, on the whole, do take more personal risks and do not feel shy doing so. This doesn’t always work out, but on the whole, Westerners cannot change their openness and would not want to. In the same way, Eastern people would not feel comfortable opening themselves up to strangers. It seems as though this will change if both sides are willing to move from their ways, which is hard. Westerners should slow it down; perhaps it would be possible for Easterners to initiate conversation so that Westerners don’t feel as though they’re doing all the work to start the relationship. There needs to be some equality, otherwise, it’s uncomfortable for all.
    This piece is very well written both in English content and in its correctness. I teach high school English, by the way!

    • Jem says:

      Hi Jeff,
      Thank you for the reply!
      I don’t really agree with that easterners are shy because they want to protect themselves from vulnerability. To me, it has more complicated reasons, for instance, the tradition, education, and possibly even gene:) Chinese or many easterners are often taught in the way that a person or a nice person should know how to show his or her modesty and turn the sharpness into softness while communicating with others. At the same time, due to the horrible pressure of studying, working and other factors in the modern society, it is no wonder that lots of easterners are shy, passive and staying put in social activities.
      But i do agree with you that both westerners and easterners should take steps to firstly understand the differences between each other and allow the differences to exist, and then try to use a better way or at least be more considering of the other part while communicating.
      Furthermore, there’s a thing i’d like to point out, sometimes, westerners are more arrogant than easterners in the way of understanding or tolerating the existence of differences.

      • Jeff says:

        Thank you for your response. It is well thought out, and I agree with several points, especially “sharpness” for which I am guilty.

        “Modesty” and “arrogance” are what we call loaded terms. True, extrovertedness might be seen in this way. However, the Western culture expresses its curiosity for others in words, in a way that shows friendliness. To not do so is seen as arrogance or standoffishness. Should we then view cultures who hold back from communication as arrogant? I don’t think this is the case either.

        As far as intolerance goes, a multicultural society, such as the United States, which has its problems, did elect a black president, is moving toward the acceptance of homosexuality, and is becoming increasingly tolerant. At least this is my view.

        Western culture has greater difficulty due to the incredible coexistence of very different cultural and religious views. This clash sometimes looks like intolerance because it is!

  2. Samee Daris says:

    Hi ,
    Good effort by large. I am from Pakistan. I have been discussing this issue with my friends and even employers (USA,South Africa,Saudi Arabia,Australia, England). During my observation I have come to know the cultures of eastern and western are almost as opposite.
    The way of life and cultural value are difference. For example At one side if you don’t talk in argument it is disrespect but other side it is respect.
    I think we should not try to Mix both cultures. We should accept it and try to understand it and behave accordingly.
    My boss is American and sometimes I am telling boss that is considered here (In Pakistan) rude :) you don’t need to pay back for any favor.
    some times he says that you people don’t say Thanks too much :)
    We always try to understand and adapt each other values. that’s it.

    • Jem says:

      Hi Samee,
      I totally agree with you about the opposite characteristics of westerners and easterners. As an easterner, i can clearly sense the difference.
      Indeed, for example, Chinese are very euphemistic in the way of thanking someone, maybe just a smile or even an eye expression, but later on, Chinese may do a much bigger favor to thank you. Oppositely, westerners will directly and immediately say thanks.
      But the thing that makes me think is lots of people don not want to pay any effort, and instead, only like and choose to have communication with the people that share similarities with them, which obviously sticks out as a big barrier for both westerners and easterners in getting to know foreigners.
      And curiously, perhaps it is because of the inclusiveness and open-mindedness that makes New York City always so attractive to people around the world.

  3. David says:

    Hi, I am would like to comment that it is very strange to me (as a westerner) that our culture or even yours can be so generalized. You state that westerners like to all go to parties and stay out late and be drunk and lazy, or that we are all outspoken and never shy. Not true, in every culture you will find every personality from both extremes.I would argue that behavior is only one of many in America, many more of us are not lazy or like to be drunk and party all night. We have just as many people who love libraries or museums and parks and are very shy. Furthermore, I see many foreigners from the east who simply do not want to meet Americans and just want to stay with others like themselves. Lastly, it hard for me to believe that with all of the elderly dancing with strangers in the streets in China that you can hardly be called a shy people.

    • Jeff says:

      Generalities have some merit, but then, so do your observations that they are not always meaningful.

    • Jem says:

      Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment:)
      Perhaps it is the shortage of articles, i can’t clearly or very accurately explain or state every point of my view.
      First of all, i’d like to clarify that the people i mentioned who drank and danced in bars are not even a bit of lazy at all, and you might have misinterpreted it. At least as know, my friends are all super hard working and sometimes i would even define them as library worms;)), but at weekends or when they were free, they would leave all troubles behind to just have fun so as to relax and get energy for the fights of the following week(lots of American students do so), which is one of the most things i really admire and appreciate about them. And i do believe this is one of the best ways to study and relax efficiently.
      I didn’t and won’t deny that there are lots of shy and introverted people in both eastern and western countries, but to show the main comparison, i had to generalize somehow. And as a person who sees both China and the US, i do realize there’re more introverted people in China compared with that in the US, which has no right or wrong.
      Haha, and about the dancing elderly, well yes, it is really something awesome, special and interesting in China, and i can’t explain now, maybe next time in another of my article?;))

  4. Samuel Prime says:

    There is also a difference in the two cultures (Chinese and, say, American) regarding how people make friends within each of them. For example, Americans (and many westerners) tend to be more individualistic and independent, so perhaps less attached in friendship relationships (more casual) than people in the east, like in China. I think that may be a factor – but I would not generalize. About the parties/drinking aspect of culture, that mostly applies to the younger generation, not generally representative of most other Americans in, say, the 30s or 40 and up. Further, I would say that Christian groups in America/Canada (such as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship) are easier to make friends with than many or most other groups. It is a complex subject, since people have different methods (e.g., degrees of attachments) of making friends.

    • grintch says:

      Yeah, because the christians are out to convert the “poor heathens”.
      Every group I’ve ever seen with the word christian in its name had a proselytising string attached to it.
      I speak as an american born Jewish convert, raised as a catholic.

  5. Jem says:

    In China, a word is always emphasized and a bit of worshiped, it’s “collectivism”. It encourages people to better do what the vast majority do instead of always showing how special and different they are. But oppositely, “Independence” is way more frequently emphasized in, for example the US, and people more like to let others hear their different voice. And this might be a factor indeed for Chinese people to be more attached to friends or big groups.

  6. Keith says:

    I found it very interesting to look through the eyes of one from China and to feel your loneliness and seeking upon arrival. I am from US and experienced the same thing when I moved across the country for university studies. In the same country, but even regional differences and having no friends was quite lonely for several months. I dived into my studies and felt like I was isolating myself from life. Eventually I made new friends in that area, and life suddenly was easier…which made studies easier.

    I made the effort to meet and welcome the differences of people from other cultures. It is an opportunity to learn and grow for me and has always been. I find that being open to food from other places is an easy way to demonstrate curiosity.

    I have made true friends in other places of the world, and from other places of the world. I know that we are somehow all connected, and that being open and kind to others is the bridge to meeting and knowing them. I really liked the aspect of the Chinese being quiet and perhaps letting their spirits connect softly and kindly first before words are spoken. So many of the complications in communication involve the interpretation of words and meanings of others. I have been involved in discussion groups for communication for several years, and find it amazing how complicated things become when we start to speak.

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience, it will affect me and allow me to understand…..and relate kindly.

    • Jem says:

      Thx Keith for the reply))
      Yes, being without friends in a strange place is so hard. At the beginning I felt lonely and even helpless, and got almost no energy to discover the place or to do anything. It was like, i saw all people around, but i got no access to know or to have any connection with them.
      And i feel making friends in the place where you stay is so important, which brings you not only joys, knowledge, but also a feeling of stability and safety during your stay.

      • Trae says:

        .l am a Chinese student.l think cultrure shock may be result in misunderstanding each other.every people from around the world have their own character,even though genius are not perfect at all.In fact,Chinese people are not only modesty but also generous and friendly.If you contact Chinese culture,you will discover Chinese are wised , creative,and great.Do you know Bruce Lee.? you can search for his story and learn more Chinese Kunfu.in my opinion,it is easy to make friends with Chinese people,but you shouldn’t complain them only due to their shyness .maybe you will play better with them if you can be active to communicat with them
        .last l want to make a friend with you.

        • Jem says:

          Hi Trae!Thx)
          I know Bruce Lee of course. Indeed, it’s very complicated to explain why it’s always harder to make foreign friends than domestic friends. But in the case of Chinese students, the modesty and quietness are actually sometimes perplexing the western students when they don’t know much about the characteristics of Chinese people.
          And there’s nothing to complain about someone’s character, what i wrote in the article are only some advices and suggestions;))

          • Shelly says:

            Good for you for making new awesome friends, I like your cool musings on cultural sharing. It has obviously paid off, your written English is outstanding. Reading your comments, I would take you for a native speaker of the language.

      • Jeff says:

        One thing is nice. Just reach out to friendly people and you will most likely gain instant acceptance, which is one great aspect of extrovertedness. Grocery stores, concerts, classes, libraries, anywhere people meet.

      • Peter says:

        Jem:

        You might try taking a trip to Vancouver, B.C. one day. I think you may find that you are more comfortable there.

  7. David says:

    As a westerner living in Japan, I’d have to say the only hostilities I’ve received since living here; has come from the Chinese community.

  8. winston.wu says:

    I think the key thing is that human being isnot merely a man, but one with different cultures make the world different, maybe some difficult to get understanding one another.

    Just because this,the word is wonderful and the people have a wonderful life and different life experience. That does exist in the past, but at present and even for ever.

  9. nick says:

    Dear Jemince,

    Thanks for your interesting article.

    As a “Westerner” married to a Chinese I must say I much prefer being with Chinese people.
    There are huge number of people like me in Western countries who simply cannot deal with clubs, pubs, bars, drunks, drug addicts, and violent drunken people. I am much happier with a large extended family, interesting discussions, and meals at restaurants with all the family (and all the children) around huge tables! The most visible part of “Western” culture, the part that you concentrate on, is very transitory and shallow, the hidden part you have not seen yet is much more like the Chinese than you may expect.

    I am from England. The first time I went to the the USA I was rather worried that they would all be brash, arrogant, uneducated, opinionated people with no morals, as they were the sort of Americans I encountered here in London. How wrong I was! America has the whole spectrum of people and I left the USA with a very good opinion of Americans. I only went in 2 bars (I couldn’t get out of invitations without appearing rude) in the whole time I was there but that was just fine for me!

    Remember it is only a small percentage of “Westerners” who actually behave like the stereotypical advertised “Westerners”!

  10. Sharon says:

    I really like this article. It at least gives Americans a basis upon which to understand why Chinese students when they come to America are so insular and introverted. It also serves to contrast our conversational styles and social ettiquette and provides readers with a means to understand the hesitation to interract that most people get when they invite Chinese nationals to a social event or they are thrown into a Western social occassions such as student mixers, meetings, or conventions and conferences. The writer has a very “when in Rome” mindset, he is adventurous and curious so he attempts to expose himself to social interaction and social situations with an attention to better understanding why more Chinese students are reluctant to sally forth into the American social scene.

    It may be a good topic of study for him to expound upon. While he is in America he can socialize with the underlying purpose of writing a book for Chinese students who plan to come to America and study in the future. His peers might find such a book extremely helpful and it might make them more comfortable with American social style and less likely to cling to social relations among Chinese students exclusively. Studying abroad is a fantastic way to “see the world” but it seems that many Chinese people miss the underlying context of that activity which is not just to go and take in the sites but to interact with the people abroad and have new experiences. Attempt to see the places of the world through the eyes of its people. I bet the effort of this writer to integrate into a multicultural student body for a richer life experience, broadened his thinking and his understanding of interpersonal relations between Chinese and American people.

    • Keith says:

      As a follow message on to Sharon….

      The experience of international students being part of the “landscape” by reaching out and connecting on a true human level….makes the experience of studying and living abroad much more rich.

      If you meet the right people, you make true friends which go beyond physical miles between and connects people on a much deeper level of humanity. I tend to find to real aspects of unlikely friendships…..made and maintained over time and distance…..truly special and worthy of making the effort. It enables us to make human connections which truly matter.

    • Jem says:

      Hi Sharon!

      Thx for the advice of writing a book! I really find it such a great idea to do something like this, and i’ll probably start to do it, coz there’re a lot of Chinese students intend to come to the US but are so confused with how to fit into the environment.

      • James says:

        When we have a overall view of Chinese culcture, we will have a better understanding why Chinese students are so insular and intrverted.

  11. MJ says:

    Movies? Museums? Coffee shops? None of your student friends have families? Or engage in intellectual conversations? What about conversations related to school?

    People generally find what they expect to find. If Chinese students think the party-bar culture is the only social model for making new friends, and if that is what they expect to find in the US, then that is what they will find. But any potential Chinese students thinking of coming to the US should understand that there are many, many other ways to meet people and experience new activities.

    I’d like to point out, no matter where you live, if you only communicate with shy smiles and eye glances, you will have no friends (and maybe even starve to death). I suspect this is equally true in the US as in China. Talking with people is important, even if only small conversations with random people in the course of daily activities. Genuine friendship comes only after many small encounters and conversations.

    Good luck and best wishes!

    • Jem says:

      Actually, same as me, majority of the Chinese students i met in my university were just studying in the US without families companying them. And because of shyness and the short stay in the US, they didn’t even have a chance to get some friends who can go for a movie or have an intellectual chat with them.
      So i think what they really need is to get to know someone as soon as possible when they start their life here so as to shorten the time for adapting and feeling lonely.

  12. Joe says:

    Hi Jem – wow, thanks for such an insightful article. Some time ago while studying (as a Westerner/Australian) we would try for hours to get the mostly Chinese foreign students in our dorms to join in drinking games or come out with us, usually without luck. I just assumed that they didn’t on their own because they felt unwelcome or a language barrier – I guess there was also us wanting to share our culture (or lack thereof in Aus).

    Now it makes a lot more sense and we were probably doing more harm than good in order to make friends, I can see now how we must have appeared. I did find that smaller interactions like getting tips on how to not burn all my meals at least got us to the point of waves/smiles outside the dorm – which now also makes sense.

    I must say though that those that we were able to get out with us generally made it a habit and were a lot of fun.

    Where were you 20 years ago!

    • Jem says:

      Hahaha!! Indeed, sometimes what western students do to get closer to Asian students seems really opposite from their purposesXDD…But topics about Chinese food and culture can always work well if you want a chat with Chinese students!

  13. Ross Ibrahim says:

    Hi Jem,

    Interesting article and I enjoyed reading all the postings and the reply. Do consider coming to Canada to study or visit and try Hi each time you bump into someone.

    You be surprise what ‘hi’ will lead you to…!

  14. Bitofheart says:

    Let’s face it. Cultures are different and we all grow up in different backgrounds n surroundings which shape our personalities. Born in the West with traditional Chinese values, teachings and constant immersion in both distinct cultures has affected how I behave. Quite differently amongst family, predominantly Western friends and predominantly Chinese friends. You will find that Chinese born in the West are basically Westernized by their education, friends and surroundings. So it’s not about genes or hereditary traits — it is definitely about culture where one is brought up. Of course, one can change over time to acclimate and assimilate but if is not as easy as one would think. Hence, a clash of cultures without time to mesh and share understanding will always lead to tensions. Any idea why cultures who clash over ideals and governance never know how others live? Quite simply…it is impossible to walk in others shoes. I have been most fortunate to be able to spring between my two very different cultures and to understand and be able to explain idiosyncrasies of either to those who cannot fathom the curiosities. So…take the time to understand, never assume everyone is the same as you and consider bridging the distance takes intense effort on both sides. Letting go of one’s preconceived notions, inhibitions and embracing discovery of another culture is an exercise in opening one’s mind. It requires patience and the ability to embody the unfamiliar. Would that the world could b a better place when we all take steps to understand and offer a friendly hand to a person of another culture. Acceptance of others and fighting against nationalistic insularity is a lofty goal but one that may be achieved if we all try.

  15. YF says:

    Well, I’m Chinese.

    There are so many differences between Easterners and Westerners. We think differently. We eat different food. We have different cultures. Most of the time, we don’t understand about your jokes.

    How can you have a friend with nothing in common? Even if language is not a problem, there still are communication barriers.

    Frankly speaking, to make friends with Westerners? I don’t even know where to start. The textbook tells us to talk about weather as a beginning. But, what is the next?

    • Jem says:

      Sometimes just try to have a small chat with your classmates about the boring homework, or look up on the website of your school if there’s any activity going on, or just go to some student groups or clubs on campus and talk to people there:)
      As in my case, i found on fb that there was a German club in my university, and i went there, then magic just happened!
      So perhaps seeking for certain clubs having activities about your interest would help a lot, since people who go there may have a lot common with you.

  16. Jim says:

    Thank you for the interesting look inside a new comer’s experience, Jem.

    As a student at a large university, I was tapped on the shoulder in class by a girl from India. She asked a question about the programming language we were learning. We became friends over time. Later she told me I was the first American she had spoken to that was not behind a desk or counter.

    After having moved to the North East and working in New York City from Phoenix, AZ and having lived all over the western US and visiting 46 states, I can tell that you would be far better off to land anywhere besides the megalopolis of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland or the DC area. A good portion of those people just have a nasty streak that simmers just below the surface. Their cities are dirty and in disrepair. The fees, stickers and passes for everything from city parks, tennis courts, golf courses, trails and beaches just drive casual users away from enjoy something once and God forbid if you’re not a resident! I had to pay $45 instead of $2.50 for 2 hours at the city pool (we only went once!) because I lived just across the line in the next town from my daughter.

    I would also suggest there are tons of things to do besides go drinking when you are in college. Touring the region, exploring the local history, cycling, and other outdoor sports are great ways to blow off steam and clear the brain for a few hours. If you lived in Binghampton, NY and didn’t get to Niagara Falls, the Adirondack and Berkshire Mountains you did yourself a disservice. They are great places to hike, kayak, raft, fish, cross country and alpine ski, nature watch and rock climb. There are festivals all over the place.

    I do hope you are enjoying your time in the US and get to travel other parts of this vast country.

  17. Phan van Hoang says:

    I think, it is just a matter of time. When we understand each other the Asian will make friend easily with the westerner. Naturally, the newcomers to the states will feel shy and lonely. This not a problems if someone have good preparation before going, you should understand it is natural and not to loose time to worry about.

  18. Juha says:

    Speaking as an American of Finnish descent, I can relate with many of the cultural differences you point out. Finns tend to be more introverted as well and often feel out of place in gatherings of Americans. A friend traveled here from Finland to attend university for a year and was disappointed at how difficult it was to make friends. A common theme I hear is that Finns tend to only speak when they truly have something to say whereas Americans talk continuously. Both are stereotypes but clearly it takes some effort for different cultures to adapt to the communication styles of others.

  19. dg says:

    I have hosted quite a number of International students in the past twenty years and I have to say that Chinese students have almost always conducted themselves in a very kind and gracious manner. I have noted that just a few seem somewhat entitled in recent years and I attribute that to being the only child.

    I was discouraged last year with a group of Asian students (mostly from a country other than China) who were invited for dinner in our home and only one made any effort to talk with us. They chatted to themselves in their own language and one closed her eyes to shut everyone out. All the positive stereotypes went out the window.

    To be honest, I have noted that few people in large urban settings have any desire to meet others of different cultures because there are so many immigrants and it is not a new experience. Also, many American students now see you as real competition because of your work ethic and study habits, so I can see that there may be some resentment. So many international students come with bad impressions that Americans are like they see in the movies and on TV.

    I travel around the world quite a bit and don’t see many folks in other countries try to be friendly, other than those in the travel industry. I am not offended because I realize we all have busy lives and have few reserves to extend a hand to a foreigner. Bless those who do make an effort- on both sides!

Leave a Reply

The Student Union is…

A place to hear stories about studying in the U.S. Our bloggers have come from all over the world to U.S. universities, and they'll be sharing their experiences, advice and more.

Learn more about this blog »

Share your own story!
Tell us about your experiences applying to the US, studying in America, or doing an exchange, and we may include it on the blog.

Explore

Glossary of Confusing Words

Find definitions of confusing words and terms about studying in the U.S. in our Glossary of Confusing Words.

All the words were submitted by YOU, so visit the glossary to see the words that have been defined already and to suggest your own.