Of course, it's easy to find foreigners in China. We really stand out. They frequent western style eating places and bars. But if I hang out with the foreigners only, why leave home?
Truth is, we've met many helpful foreigners. They know just how hard it is moving to a foreign country and setting up house. They know what it's like try to get what you want without the proper language skills.
I laugh and sometimes refer to my attempts at communicating in Chinese as "linguistic gymnastics" because when they confirm to me what they think I said, their words are simpler, shorter, and clearer. Rats, I hate that. But I do learn.
Really, the only way to understand another's culture is to simply spend time with them. I went out to lunch with a local guy who was himself a foreigner in another country for five years. He had some interesting observations. What was clear to me, after some discussion, was that he was more open minded than usual. He was not set in the traditional ways of his parents. In fact, he was attempting to help them change their thinking. He was very interested in my perspective on life. It was a great interchange.
Even though China is undergoing great material changes in their infrastructure, I think there are bigger changes happening. Changes in perspective, changes in outlook, especially their view toward other countries and their way of doing things.
Could this be the sunset before a new day begins? Maybe, just maybe.
If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.