Home sweet home. After a glorious eight days in Hong Kong, China and Macau, I’m back on American soil. Fighting jet lag, re-adjusting to not eating noodle soup for breakfast (boo), and remembering what it’s like to live somewhere that isn’t 100 percent humidity every day (yay).
And of course, back to my new friends.
As usual, I spent a good chunk of time thinking about the act of making new friends while in Hong Kong. Our hosts, one of whom is American and the other from Honduras, have lived in HK for two years and have carved out great lives for themselves. They have friends–a tight-knit group of friends, in fact–and a whole social scene. Which, it seems, would be really hard to do when one of them speaks no Cantonese.
Of course, there’s a pretty large international population in HK, and their friends are made up of Americans, Canadians, Koreans, and French. At least. But I noticed that there’s another way that foreigners in a foreign land can make casual friends, if not besties. And that’s through the universal languages.
Hear me out. On the second morning of our trip, Matt and I headed to the local park to hang with the locals and get some exercise in. Matt jumped in a full court pick-up basketball game with nine other local residents. He couldn’t communicate with any of them in words, barring the little English some of his teammates spoke, but by the time we left he was laughing and high-fiving with these guys. They may not have had language in common, but the rules (and the fun) of basketball is universal, and that’s how they connected.
When I travel, it never ceases to amaze me how certain activities transcend spoken language or country lines. Sports are sports. No matter your native tongue, you can communicate with others when you play. Matt had so much fun he returned the next day. I think the same is true of music. Also, art. And there are others, I know it, though I can’t think of them right now. Which is frustrating.
It’s fascinating to see how well and how quickly we adapt to our surroundings. Companionship is as basic and essential a need as water, so if we can’t get it through spoken words, we find another way. We’re survivors, after all .
Have you ever made a friend with whom you didn’t speak a common language? How? Are there other universal languages that make pals of people who can’t communicate otherwise? How do different speakers connect despite the language barrier?