The befriend-ers in Beijing

Beijing airportWitnessed a strange phenomenon in Beijing recently. We were constantly accosted by locals, who it seems just wanted to spend time talking to us, with the simple objective of practicing their English language skills.

The first time A and I were walking along Tiananmen Square and were approached by a couple, asking us where we were from. As we spoke with them, they suggested we could perhaps go to the food market (Apparently a tourist attraction because of all the strange food you can find there – you know snakes and other such usual suspects) together and later have a drink. Being the reasonably “suspicious of strangers” (perhaps our cultural background has a role to play in that) and fairly unsocial types, we turned down the offer… convinced that they were looking to score a free meal/ drink off unsuspecting tourists… or worse, had some more nefarious objectives in mind.

However, similar incidents kept repeating – these were not people who were trying to sell us a guided tour to the Great Wall (and there were many of those) but just regular looking people – two young women in a mall inviting us to chat over drinks, a young student who was also a painter (as he described himself – artist would be more appropriate I concluded later during our conversation) inviting me to an exhibition where his painting was displayed, etc.

As A put it, even if the ones with the villainous objectives are like five in a hundred, why would we want to take the risk of being the unlucky ones (umm “stupid” ?) that suffered? And so, we moved on…

…But I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret about conversations not had, insights not learnt, experiences not lived, people not helped, connections not made.

Has this happened to you in China? Did you take a chance? And if so, how did it turn out?