The Chinese translation of “friend” is “朋友” (peng you), but we might use “peng you” in a broader way than “friend” in English. “Peng you” can refer to an acquaintance you just talked for a while, or it can also refer to a person you’ve been friends with for many years. We have many different words for very close friendship, but all these words is under “friend” category. So when you say someone is your “peng you” in Chinese, you are showing your kindness and friendliness in a way that shortens the distance between you and this person.
Using “peng you” to introduce a person to your group can help him or her feel more welcomed to the group and the group can get close to him or her more easily. When you introduce a person, even whom you just met and just talked with for a short while, you can say this is my friend “peng you”. In this way, both sides of your introduction will feel closer and more friendly. So if you were introduced by a acquaintance as a friend of him or her, don’t shout out “We are not friends! You are not my friend!” Chinese people just want to be nice and close to you when they introduce you as a friend.
On one hand you can easily be a “friend” of a Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese people need more time to consider you as a real friend, not the “acquaintance friend” I just mentioned. People make friends more easily in some countries, as long as they like your personality. But in China generally we believe that love and friendship are built with time. We do believe in friendship, we just need time to trust. Once we built the friendship, we won’t abandon our friends. We protect each other, love each other. Even though we cannot meet each other for a long time because of our different lives, when we met again we are still as close as before. We won’t blame each other for not keeping in touch. We trust each other.
We also use “peng you” as “friend” in English. We also have good friend which is “好朋友 – hao peng you”, close friend “密友 – mi you”, and best friend “最好的朋友 – zui hao de peng you”. Boys call their close friends “哥们儿 – ge menr”; girls call their close friends “闺蜜 – gui mi”.
In China, friendships are built through mutual help. Friends are the ones who are supposed to show up when you need them, besides sharing the happiness together. If someone who just wants to take advantage of you but don’t want to support you when you in hard times, we call them “狐朋狗友 – hu peng gou you”, which directly means “crafty friends like foxes, not real friends”. So if we want to know whether someone is our real friend or not, we see if he or she can support us when we are in trouble.
In China, a friend could have the same goal or same interests as you, but this doesn’t mean your friends have to be similar to you in every aspect. Everyone is different; You cannot ask your friend do what you want to do. We can still be friends if one of us doesn’t drink at all while the other is an alcoholic; we are still friends if one of us knows nothing about sports while the other is an athletic fan. Friends should respect each other and understand each other.