Living in a new country and building a community can seem a bit daunting, even if it is only for one year. When we connect, have some fun, make friends, or even be of service to others, it makes for a more fulfilling stay in any country. So, what can we do to plug-in where we're at right now? Here are 4 ideas to make your year in China a fulfilling one!
Many foreigners find it great fun to find the local watering holes, where locals and expats alike, belly up to the bar, play the offhanded dice game, darts, or just chew the fat with each other. This is a fun and good way to meet expats from other industries. And come on, it's just plain old fun!
How about plugging-in as a volunteer? Once you have found your connections within the expat community in your city, you can learn of opportunities to be of service to those in need and get your new friends involved, too. Coordinating a food/clothing/bedding drive for the homeless or an elder home is an idea, or collecting toys for a local orphanage. If you live near the beach or have parks nearby, coordinating a cleanup day is another idea.
Are you up for a good old fashioned movie or game night? Why not host movie nights once a week and stream your favorite movie while noshing on some yummy food! Or plan gatherings (around your culture's holidays or festivals) and extend the invites to the larger community (expats and local alike) which will give everyone something to enjoy.
Try renting bikes as a group and riding through your city. When you get to China, make sure you download the APPs for MoBike or OFO, the largest bike sharing companies in China. Renting a bike is as easy as the click of a button and as cheap as 1 RMB for an hour (0.15 USD per hour!) You can also plan a fun picnic or BBQ at your local park. Entry fees for parks are either free or very minimal.
Here in Taizhou, I've been on a mission to connect more with my local community. While judging an English speaking competition in a neighboring district, I met several ‘local' English teachers and we decided to create a reading group! We meet the first and third Tuesday's each month, in our homes or in a restaurant or cafe. We're into our 6th month now and this month we're reading “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The possibilities are endless on how to help others and our environment, or just on how to have some plain old fun with new friends in our home-away-from-home. Have fun, try some new things, and make some new friends!