Before we came I imagined that I would spend my time hanging out with the wives and children of Brad’s co-workers. The wives would be much like my friends at home: highly educated women whose husbands make enough that they have the option of staying home. They would of course all be fluent in English.
The reality is, of course, much different. Most of the guys Brad works with are young and don’t have wives or children. I can’t think of even one of his male co-workers that has a child living in Hangzhou. Some of them come to Hangzhou to work leaving their wives (who also work) back in their home towns near their parents. There are a couple of female co-workers with kids around Andrew’s age, but they are obviously working with Brad all day, not hanging out with me.
Both parents work in nearly all the families here. In most cases there is also a resident grandparent or nanny to watch the kids. When that’s not the case, there is always daycare. There is one family in our complex where the mom works and the dad takes care of their daughter nearly full time. They both speak fluent English and their 5 year old does too. We’ve had a good time getting to know them, but I’m not sure our association rises to the friend level.
So what do I want from a friend? Somebody that I can discuss more than the weather with. We can complain about our husbands, our respective governments, and our kids to each other. The Chinese people we have met have been more than generous with their time, advice, translating services, babysitting services, and especially food, but not so much their innermost thoughts.
I’ve made many acquaintances but very few friends. The few friends I have made are expat wives like myself. They are fun to hang out with and we can easily talk, but I am leaving a little disappointed with not having made any good Chinese friends.