Tuesday, February 11, 2014

American isolationism

How do you throw a birthday party in China? Take food out to the playground. The guests will already be there.

The US has anything but an isolationist foreign policy. This seems to be in stark contrast to the way modern life and society seem to work in the US. At least that's my take on it.

I am an extrovert (though not as out-going as I'd like), and I have been almost continually lonely since I've been back to the US. Yes, my wife and children are around me. Yes, I see family everyday, as we still live together. My reprieves are two morning men's groups (Thursday at 6:30 a.m. and Friday at 6:00 a.m.), a Tuesday night gathering of mostly young families, and Sunday late morning and early afternoon at a Chinese church in Fort Worth. This may seem like a lot to some, but it's a struggle for me.

Part of the blame is my own. Despite trying to live as normally as possible in this small town, I admit that I've neglected to pursue a few community involvement ideas simply because I know I could be gone at basically any time. Also, not yet having a job, living off the charity of others, it doesn't seem wise to go out to social events that require spending. And with the cold winter we're having in the US, people aren't outside hanging out much. Options are limited.

Where do people congregate here? Perhaps a better question is whether people do congregate. To hear people talk, once out of college, you've basically got bars and churches. I find the habits I'd built in China are all but useless right now. There aren't dozens of people and children just walking around outside in a central location, playing, talking, laughing. There aren't events like English corners or  discussion just popping up for no reason other than to have one. There aren't hundreds of people who are all next-door neighbors.

Of course there are other factors. Living with my family, for example, means it's not my home. I can't just invite people over, especially not families with young children. Nevertheless, even if we were in our own place, I suspect it would be difficult. Makes me yearn for the days of apartment living.

What non-work, non-church, non-bar things do you do you to meet people and socialize in the US?


  1. Coffee shops, gyms and parks seem to be other places we have found. A lot of people ask to meet or go to coffee shops. When there is a bad weather day, I go to the apartments gym and you meet and talk with people there. Parks on good weather days are another. Lots of parents usually. I think San Antonio may be a more outdoor culture that DFW area though.

    We live in an apartment here - while probably still better than individual houses, its still not the same community as China, the Philippines or Japan. The cultures are just different. It takes a long time here.

    1. Yes, parks are a great idea. The cold winter has impeded that plan though. Gyms are great if you have one in your building. Coffee shops, though somewhat expensive for one without steady income, would be my preference, but I'm in a small town, not actually in DFW, so there's not much available.

      I have friends in Des Moines who were living in an apartment complex with a very international presence. (DSM is a major refugee hub.) They said that they were able to meet so many people because so many of them spent time outside with their kids, just as they would've done in their home cultures.