Etiquette Tips for Travelers to China
China is one of the most culturally rich countries in the world. First time travelers to China might get kind of culture shock on landing in the country. The culture of the country dates back to almost 5000 years and it has almost no similarities to cultures and traditions of the western civilization. What might seem right to you might be wrong to them. The best part is that Chinese people do not impose their culture and traditions on foreigners. They are rather lenient in the matter of etiquette. But they appreciate if you follow norms and regulations and their etiquette in their country.
So now that you have applied for your China travel visa and waiting to get the Chinese visa; it is time to know about some etiquette that should be followed in the country. Your efforts will be highly appreciated by the local people there.
- Greeting and meeting etiquette
There was a time when a handshake with a foreigner would not be seen as proper. But with the impact of the western civilization, now Chinese people can lend out a hand for a warm handshake. But the greeting should be restricted to that. Hugs are not welcome in China, particularly between a man and a woman in open public places. While being introduced to someone, it is recommended to stand up and keep standing till the whole phase of introduction is over. Elderly people are given great respect in the country and so greet them first and let them speak first. It is a gesture of showing respect.
If you are confused about addressing someone, just ask. Formal addresses are preferred in the country mostly with surnames. Surnames in China come before the main name. Close friends and family can call by first name.
- Being invited for a meal
If you are fortunate enough, you might make few Chinese friends, who might invite you for a meal. Usually they prefer treating guests out in a restaurant or so. In case they invite you to their home, take off the shoes right at the gate. You will be given a pair of slippers that you can wear. The size might not be perfect, but don’t complain.
In case you are invited to a restaurant, know that Chinese host will make all the payments. The concept of ‘going Dutch’ is practically absent in the country. All the dishes will be ordered by the host only and the guests enjoy the same. Don’t try grabbing the bill for paying some part of the amount as it will be highly embarrassing for the host. If you want to contribute ask politely. If they refuse, don’t insist.
- What to say and what not to say
If you are lucky in striking up a conversation with a stranger in China, train yourself to be composed and patient. They are not hesitant about talking about personal things like appearance, skin color, marital status, income amount, about not having kids and so on. You might feel offended and pissed, but refrain from showing any kind of anger or dislike. Such questions are not considered rude in the country.
On the other hand, don’t criticize China in front of the Chinese people in any way. Usually they get irked and angry when foreigners compare their country with China. Also don’t joke about anything that is related to China. The locals might not take it well. Usually they don’t react violently, but might resort to silence, which is quite disturbing.
- Gifting ideas
It is always good to bring some gift for your host. Use both hands for giving the gift. If you get a gift in return, accept with both hands and don’t open it in front of the host. It is considered rude. For gift wrapping, choose red or pink wrapping papers. Avoid white wrapping in any form. Some popular gift items that you can carry include foods, different kinds of tea, imported booze, sweets etc. If there are kids, you can take some toys, chocolates etc as well. Do not gift cut flowers, watches, cutting implements or umbrellas as there are superstitions related to these items.
- Drinking is accepted in the country
Chinese love to drink and treat their guests likewise as well. Dining experience remains incomplete without drinking in China. Chinese people believe that more the guests drink, better it is. Usually the first toast before drinking is made by the host. Gradually everyone raises a toast and your glass will probably never be empty. Not joining the toast and not raising the glass is considered rude. If you are not much into alcohol, you can raise your tea or coffee cup and join the toast. If you want to avoid drinking much, take small sips or touch the glass to closed lips.
- Eating etiquette
There is a debate among Westerns and Chinese people regarding table manners. Though it might not be evident clearly, there are table manners that exist in the country. Let the host decide your seat during dining. Seniority and age are given prominence in seating arrangements. Once you start eating, don’t stick the chopsticks straight on the rice as it is considered to bringing bad luck. Also, licking the chopsticks is bad manners. If you are not comfortable with chopsticks, ask politely for silverware. Even better, carry your own set. Taste a bit of everything that the host has cooked. Also don’t feel surprised if the host puts some item on your plate unannounced. Don’t flip the fish on the other side for the eating as it is a ‘bad luck’ superstition. Also don’t put down your plate all empty as your host might think that the food was not enough for you. Don’t have too much leftover as well. Just let some food be there on the plate here and there. Last, but not the least, cover your mouth with one hand while using tooth pick.
A reliable agency offering China visa service can also guide you on the basic etiquettes that travelers to China should follow.