Gosh. Hard to say.
When I got here, I worked for a big British chain, and flatshared with some of the girls from there. Instant pals. Made friends with the teaching assistants and the school manager.
My best Taiwanese friend was the mother of one of the kids I taught. She didn’t speak much English, but here kid was having a few problems keeping up with the English and socialising with the others; she decided she was going to be the anqingban teacher and my friend and brought us tea every day and took us to dinner and hotsprings, etc. She was a bit odd at first and I’m embarrassed to say I avoided her a bit. She and the kids grew on me; I’ve known her kids for more than half their life and adore them. I still speak to them on Skype from the UK. I stayed in Taiwan much longer than I would have done, because of people like her.
My other BTFF is my ex Chinese teacher. She’s a few years younger than me, and the cleverest, prettiest, sweetest person ever. We had a very business-like class going on. I met after I’d just been dumped in the most horrible way by a boy I really liked. Paying for private classes was part of my ‘pick yourself up and start again’ program; new apartment, new job, gym, learning Chinese, hiking, etc. It was all going great but one day (I have a six month delayed response to trauma), I just couldn’t cope any more and started crying in NY Bagels. Really, really howling and weeping. I’d lost my boy, and I’d lost a baby as well, and my father just before that. Anyone who says that Taiwanese people only care about face should have seen her ‘handle’ that! She started to talk about her problems to and then we started laughing about how stupid we are and we have been very close ever since.
What I would say is; be open. The longer I spent in Taiwan, the more I guarded my ‘me-time’. I started working insane amounts of hours and when I wasn’t at work, I just wanted to be with my old Brit friends, my Taiwanese friends from the early days, and my flob gang. If I’d met this woman in my last couple of years in Taiwan, it’s doubtful we’d have become friends because I avoided (most) students and/or pushy mothers like the plague. My loss. Yes, people who aren’t interested in you as a person and just want to practise English are rude and annoying, but it’s easy to start seeing everybody in that way when they really aren’t.
You have to be ready willing and able to do Taiwanese stuff. Taiwanese people socialise over food. Go and eat snake soup, barbecue entrails, go shrimp fishing in a warehouse in Panchiao, eat spicy hotpot and generally treat your stomach lining with gay abandon. And KTV. Learn to suck it up. It’s depressing, shit and boring, but if there are Taiwanese people, there’s KTV. Be a joiner inner, even though it’s not what you’d normally do.
And work really hard at your Chinese! After five months, there’s not a huge amount you can converse about so maybe people think you are boring (don’t mean that in a nasty way; everyone begins somewhere and after 7 years, I’m still rubbish…). Imagine hanging out with people who had only been learning English for five months, back in your home country. It’s not that people are unfriendly, they just don’t know what to say to you.
Anyway, I’m just rambling because I’m ‘homesick’…