Popular Post AdamD Posted November 11, 2014 at 06:52 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted November 11, 2014 at 06:52 AM Last week I went to Beijing and Shanghai specifically to bolster my conversation skills. The first couple of days were terrible—I'm a pretty severe introvert, and I also couldn't understand what anyone was saying to me because my 听力 sucks—but the last few days were incredible. That's mainly because I used a few techniques to have comfortable Chinese conversations with friendly and patient people.I don't intend to state the obvious or tell people how to suck eggs. Rather, I want to help people for whom conversation is difficult, confidence is low, experience in China is basic or time is short. I'd also love you all to add your own tips. (I can't find a thread for precisely this sort of advice.)The usual warnings apply: be careful at night; don't expose valuables; don't wander into a scam. Use common sense and enjoy yourself.Go to a busy park. This is best in the morning and early afternoon. You can choose from a load of suburban parks in China, but I went to Dongdan Park in Beijing, an easy walk south of Wangfujing. It's full of people dancing, playing 毽子 and 象棋, and just sitting around chatting, so the mood is very positive and open. At this particular park, which I later discovered is also a meeting place for GLBT locals, dozens of people were sitting on a low fence; I sat in a vacant spot and the conversations started instantly. Then I was encouraged to join an informal game of 毽子 that lasted four hours, chatting in short bursts to the other participants the whole time. (A word of warning: Dongdan Park is a cruising spot at night, and I was hit on rather brazenly at dusk, so keep your wits and don't use the toilets on the western edge. I had no issues here in daylight, and most other parks are not cruising spots as far as I know.)If your first park works for you, identify more parks in the untouristed inner suburbs and just go for a walk. When people inevitably stare at the 外国人 that's walking through their park, smile and say '你好', and watch their faces light up. There's your gambit to start a conversation if they don't do it first. I did this in the Hongkou area of Shanghai, in Lu Xun Park (near Hongkou Football Stadium; go to 虹口足球站 and walk east) and Peace Park (go to 四平路站 and walk south along 大连路 or 四平路 until you see a sign or an entrance gate).Get in a tourist cart in a pedestrian mall. These are all over the place, but I discovered this in Nanjing Road in Shanghai. There's a little tractor-train that runs punters the length of 南京路步行街 for 5元 a time. Get in the type of train that has seats facing seats, so you're likely to sit with a small group of people, and request your ticket in Chinese. Your carriage companions, all of whom are most likely visiting from another part of China and in a holiday mood, will hear you say four Chinese words and will probably want to talk to you. I had wonderful success with this.Take someone up on a safe offer. Common sense prevails. If you're aware of how tea scams work, you're in a good position to judge whether or not you're being offered something real. In this particular case in Shanghai, I was offered a free fitness assessment at a modern gym. I told them I was only staying for a couple of days and couldn't commit to anything, but they just seemed rapt that I could speak some Chinese and clearly enjoyed giving me a half-hour detailed fitness assessment. One of the blokes even passed me on the street two days later and was all excited to talk to me.Respond differently to market stallholders. When people recognise you as an English speaker and announce their merchandise to you (e.g. 'hat... scarf... bag... chess... fan'), tell them in Chinese that their English is great. In Shanghai's Yu Yuan markets, I lost count of how many times their guard dropped and they stopped caring about a sale.Return to restaurants. Order in Chinese and go back the next day. If they grin and say they remember you, respond and you're away. (This isn't anything new, but I found it to be an effective and relaxing way of having good conversations.)Visit a neighbourhood recommended by a Chinese Forums member. I took roddy's advice here. It's a friendly area with very few foreigners. I had a couple of remarkably good quality conversations with people who started them.As at the top of this post, use common sense and don't get yourself into trouble. If you don't feel secure or you're unsure of something, don't do it. 16 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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