Traveling through China is an experience that is bound to be fantastic. If you have a trip planned out to the Dragon country, then you should know about everything that concerns the dos and don’ts when in China. Traveling through is always revolving and ever-changing experience, where outsiders learn a new set of rules, customs, traditions, social expectations, stigmas one all experienced in one country. To avoid any confusion and embarrassing situations, here are some tips!
- Greet others by using a handshake or a nod. Japan and Korea are the countries where bows are best used.
- Address everyone with seniority even with an honorific title or by their family name.
- Always address the eldest or most senior person first as it is considered a sign of respect.
- When offering a handshake, don’t make it too firm as it can be mistaken for a sign of aggression.
- If you are meeting someone for the first time, don’t go straight for the hug. Anybody contact except a handshake might make your new Chinese friends feel uncomfortable.
- It is better not to address elders using ‘ni hao’, instead use ‘nin hao’. It is more polite, formal, and respectful.
- Join in on toasts as it is considered a polite way. Do stand up during the formal gatherings.
- It is considered polite to leave a little on the plate in honor of your host’s generosity.
- Tap the table when someone refills your tea. Use the gesture of two fingers to tap the dining table to show gratitude towards whoever is filling your tea.
- Always allow elders to sit first; after that, you will be instructed to where you will sit.
- It is considered good manners to try everything at the dinner table and eating loud is allowed as it means that you are enjoying your food.
- Drinking from the bowl is okay, and eating food with your fingers is not looked upon. Just make sure that you are not touching food that is not already on your plate.
- Even if you are not an expert in eating with chopsticks, do give them a try!
- Never leave your chopsticks in the upright position in your food as it symbolizes death. It is similar to a ceremony that Chinese people use to pray someone who has passed away, thus considered bad luck.
- Avoid tapping the bowl with your chopsticks; also make sure that your chopsticks are not pointing at anyone. It is considered to be extremely rude.
- Do not use your chopsticks when picking up food to put in your plate; it is overlooked by everyone. It is better to use the serving chopsticks or ladles provided to show proper table manners.
- Tipping is not common in China, so better avoid it. If you are inviting someone for dinner, it means that you are offering to pay the bill.
Gifting in China
- If you are offering a gift in China, better do it with both hands as it is considered to be respectful. The receiver also should take it with both hands.
- It is a custom in China to refuse a gift twice before accepting it, as respectfully declining it shows one is modest before accepting the gift. So don’t be discouraged when giving gifts and don’t be overexcited when receiving one.
- If you are gifting fresh produce such as fruit or any other treats, do it in a neatly presented box or basket. Chinese people like it.
- It is appreciated to gift things like souvenirs, cigarettes, and alcohol from your home country. If you are offering a reputable Chinese brand, then it is okay.
- Avoid gifting a clock as Chinese people believe that it has the same saying “attending a funeral”. So if you are gifting someone a clock, it means that you are cursing them to die. Scissors and other sharp objects are not proper gifts as they represent the severing of relationships.
- Never gift white or yellow flowers, especially chrysanthemums as these are known as funeral flowers in China. Simply avoid it!
- If you are sending fresh produce, better avoid pears as it has the same pronunciation as divorce. Same for umbrellas, do not gift someone an umbrella as it signifies separation.
- It is important that when you are wrapping your gift, to use red wrapping paper or any other festive colors. Do not go for any dark colors such as black, dark blue, and purple. If you don’t know, then always go for red.
- It is impolite to open the gift in front of the giver, so do not feel sad if they decide not to open the gift in front of you unless the person wants you to open it.
- Punctuality is an essential virtue in China as it shows respect for others, so arriving on time is a must.
- The number 4 is considered to be unlucky in the Chinese culture as it has the same pronunciation as death. So don’t surprised to see that the number four is omitted from elevators and buildings.
Don’ts: It is quite normal for someone to ask personal questions regarding your age, relationships, family, or income. It’s all part of Chinese-style small talk, and it is perfectly polite in Chinese society.
If you are meeting Chinese people for the first time, better avoid being too physical as they will find it very uncomfortable from part of a stranger. A handshake or a simple nod of the head is enough to demonstrate your friendliness.
As China is a reserved society, so better avoid public display of affection. It is generally looked down upon. So be mindful of this when touring China.
Hope you’re next visit is an unforgettable one!