Do and Dont’s in China – If you are planning a trip to China or will be interacting with Chinese people in a business or social context, it is important to understand and respect Chinese etiquette. Since China is one of the oldest living civilizations on Earth, its culture has evolved through millennia, and if you visit, you may find that it differs somewhat from your own. It’s only natural to feel a little overwhelmed while visiting China for the first time because what may be socially acceptable in the West may be forbidden in China (and vice versa!).
We’ve put up this helpful list of cultural dos and don’ts, as well as a general etiquette advice, to help you blend in when visiting this fascinating country and lessen the impact of culture shock.
Here are some do and dont’s in China to keep in mind:
- Do extend a handshake or a nod while greeting someone. Save the bows for your trip to Korea or Japan.
- Do not use the family name alone as the salutation for seniority; instead, use the family name plus Mr. (xiansheng) or Ms. (nvshi) (for example, “teacher” or “laoshi”).
- Do start by addressing the individual who is older or more senior. In order to show respect for people in higher positions, this is done.
- Don’t shake hands too firmly. A hard handshake could be interpreted as an aggressive gesture.
- Don’t immediately reach for a hug. The first time you meet someone, in particular. Aside from a simple handshake, any physical touch could make your new Chinese acquaintances feel uneasy.
- Elders shouldn’t be addressed with “ni hao” (/nee haow/). Use ‘Nin hao’ instead (/neen-haow/, which means ‘you good’). This is more respectful, official, and polite.
- Do participate in toasts. In formal settings, it’s appropriate to participate in each toast and even to stand.
- When attending banquets or formal events, try every dish. It’s customary to leave some food on the plate after a meal to recognize the hospitality of your host.
- When someone refills your tea, do tap the table. To express gratitude to the person who refreshed your tea, tap the dining table with two fingers.
- Do not include any inedible items in your rice bowl, such as bones or seeds. Place them in the given little plate using a tissue or your hand, or watch how others handle them.
- Put away the chopsticks. It is considered disrespectful and impolite to use your chopsticks to tap your bowl or the table.
- Don’t take food from the main courses using your own chopsticks. This is often regarded as unsanitary. Use the provided chopsticks or serving spoons.
See our article on Best Cuisine in Japan to learn more about Japanese Food.
Giving and Receiving Gifts
- Present yourself and take things with both hands. Chinese culture regards this as polite.
- Do turn down gifts several times before finally accepting one. Don’t be disheartened if someone initially rejects your gift; it’s customary in Chinese culture to politely decline a gift before accepting it.
- Gift little products from your home country (or a well-known Chinese brand), such as books, CDs, cigarettes, fragrances, and candy. These are consistently welcomed and appreciated.
- Don’t be too eager to unwrap your gift. Unless the person offering the gift insists. It’s considered polite in Chinese culture to open gifts after you or your guests leave.
- Don’t wrap gifts using black or white wrapping paper. Choose festive colors, such as red, instead.
- Don’t gift clocks or other symbolic items. Clocks and things related to the number four are associated with death in China, and sharp objects symbolize the severing of relationships.
Etiquette in Historic and Religious Areas – do and dont’s in China
- Do walk in a clockwise direction when touring a temple or monastery.
- Do take off your hat when entering temples. This is done as a sign of respect.
- Do donate a few yuan to religious beggars. This is considered an act of merit in Tibetan culture.
- Don’t photograph old folk without permission. It’s often assumed that a request to photograph them is an offer to pay – the same in some places on the Silk Road.
- Don’t touch a Tibetan on the head. Tibetans believe that God resides in your head and may be offended by this gesture.
- Don’t dip your fingers in the yak butter lamps in temples. You may be tempted to taste the butter but this is highly offensive, not to mention unhygienic and a health risk.
In Mosques and Islamic Areas Around the Silk Road:
- Maintain the separation of the sexes in mosques. In Islamic culture, this is highly valued, and you shouldn’t even shake hands with someone of the other gender.
- When visiting mosques, wear a coverup. You should at the very least cover your legs above the knees and your arms up to the elbow.
- Don’t forget to scarf up your head. When entering mosques, women must cover their heads with a scarf.
- Do not inquire about private matters. Avoid broaching delicate subjects like the interactions between the various ethnic groups and the governments.
- Don’t think that smoking and drinking are acceptable. Typically, this is not the case. If you’re unsure, it’s advisable to inquire first.
- If you’re confused, consult our instructions. Don’t bring non-halal items into a Muslim restaurant or house.
General Etiquette do and dont’s in China
- Do not overreact
- Keep calm
- Never write in red ink
- Avoid public displays of affection
Gambling, Betting or staking of something of value on the outcome of a game or event. Commonly associated with gambling are horse racing, boxing, numerous playing-card and dice games, cockfighting, jai alai, recreational billiards and darts, bingo, and lottery.
Risk and reward is a crucial lesson that gambling will teach you. Essentially, all our actions have consequences in our day to day lives. For instance, let’s say you go to the casino with a budget of $100. You can decide to spend it on slots or go all in at the blackjack table.