It’s a fun and unpredictable place to live – this city.
But how do you keep from just being another face in the crowd? Where can you find a place to find genuine friends and build relationships in a crazy mecca of shopping and tourism? Maybe some of my own experience can help.
Bustling metropolis with millions, yet I meet a friend randomly on the train. (With trains every 8 minutes and 10+ cars per train, its Humphrey Bogart type stuff that he would walk into the car that I’m on and sit across from me.) This is how I know that this crazy place is somewhere I can actually claim to have made my home (even if it took a good year before I didn’t cringe at calling it that…different can of worm.)
Asoke to Bangna there are malls as diverse as the people who use their free wifi. But sometimes its much better to gather in a ‘home’ (aka apartment) and learn new games. Its a great way to learn what truly makes your new friends tick. Its hard to spend time in a place that feels homey when most of in our 20’s-ish live in tiny studios or only have seats for one, two friends if we’re lucky. Sometimes you have to pick a place, like this shop (below) with free board games, and make it feel like a second home.
Nearly everyday I see something wacky or bizarre. One day a man carry a squirrel on his shoulder. Another, a man selling crispy, crickets and other six-legged delicacies. One never knows and rarely has time to whip out a camera phone. But share it with your friends like I did and laugh together. Sometimes its really good to know that you are not the only one who walks around trying not to laugh at the things you see.
Gathering a diverse collection of friends in quite simple. A Sunday afternoon can easily be spend with friends and new acquaintances from three or more continents. UK or Texas, Quakertown to Buffalo, Norway or Canada, Thailand or Philippines. Throw a stone here, you will bounce it off of several. And occasionally complete strangers, are suddenly your newest best friend when you slowly realize you have mutual acquaintances.
Keeping with the suburban, tropical atmosphere, one sure-fire enjoyable afternoon can be spent with friends on someone’s rooftop pool deck. This is a winner with 99% of all the cool people you will meet. IF your new friend is the one percent, you can just stop inviting then and thank me later. (I kid.) I also highly recommend trying out the parks while the short winter weather allows. Winter lasts about 3 weeks here and then it is back to aforementioned malls. Embrace the wannabe-popstar inside and dive into that karaoke set of 90’s songs set to bizarre Eastern European music videos. Or maybe go ices skating in your shorts. Either way, fun times can be had while staying cool on those so-hot-you-need-three-showers days.
One occupational hazard of being an expat in a big city is that your circle of friends can sometimes be limited to those you work with everyday. This is a great place to start. You will likely have common backgrounds and interests. Co-workers will have tips for adjusting to a new city and where to get the best lunch. But at some point you will need to escape ‘work talk’ and hopefully you will recognize the benefits of having a larger circle of friends. I think it is healthy to have people in your life who see you not in your work mode. I’ve found when I make a point to turn off thoughts of the office and the to-do list on my desk, I can come back on Monday more refreshed and productive. It’s not for everyone but for me, I have made great friends by finding an international church. Going every week and having a common faith were two ways building friendships with the people I met there was easier.
Knowing where you’re going tomorrow (or this afternoon) is not so important. Better to adopt the laid back attitude that many Asian cultures have and go with the flow. You will be better for it. Planning is hard when so many diverse people are involved. And in a city that offers both fantastic food varieties and entertainment for miles, why plan when you can effortlessly stubble on the next big thing with a spontaneous adventure? (Take a friend and a smartphone with GPS, just in case.)