Traveling to a new country is an exhilarating adventure, filled with vibrant sights, sounds, and tastes. It offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, learn from its people, and expand your horizons. And when it comes to China, a land steeped in rich history, traditions, and customs, there’s one age-old adage that holds true: “When in China, do as the Chinese do!”
China, with its vast landscapes and diverse communities, offers an experience like no other. From the towering skyscrapers of Shanghai to the timeless beauty of the Great Wall, each region has its unique charm. This article will help you understand the Chinese way of life whether you’re about to initiate a business in the country or are just a tourist exploring Chinese customs and traditions.
According to George Jaeggi, author of “A White Man’s China,” the Chinese people appreciate it if you try to understand their procedures and that a big happy smile will get you anywhere in China.
The Very Basics of Chinese Etiquette
Build trust by immersing yourself in Chinese cultural practices and learning to respect and understand the various ancient rituals. Remember that you don’t get a second chance to make an excellent first impression.
Wait for the Chinese counterpart to offer their hand first for a “Western-style” handshake, and if they don’t feel comfortable shaking hands, do not take it as a sign of hostility; nod your head a little.
If you meet with a group of people for dinner, it will most likely be in a separate room with a round table, and you will sit beside your acquaintance the furthest away from the door.
Arranging the food should be left to your Chinese friend or contact, but if the dinner is by your invitation, ensure that you will look after the bill and avoid embarrassing moments. Traditionally, every dish will be presented to you first, and politely help yourself with every dish. Never empty your plate as an empty plate might indicate that there needs to be more food.
Having a toast before the meal is customary. Each member on your table, other than the designated driver, will come over and offer a toast and, in return, you are expected to visit each one after and offer a toast to them as well. Moatai is a fairly high grade, and you have to be careful not to get too overwhelmed with drinking, but with the main people on your table, you have to do “Gangbei,” which means “bottoms-up.” However, with people whom you do not know well, a little sip will do.
The best way to offer a gift is to mention it to the person you have a gift for and find out if a presentation at the table or after the meal in the parking lot is more appropriate. If you offer a gift to a person on the table, you might get anguish or jealous looks from others.
After a nice meal, it is often customary that you will be invited to join the party in a karaoke room and have an enjoyable evening. Don’t be shy and participate with at least one song. You will be amazed how the Chinese people love to sing and don’t forget to applaud after every song. Some places also offer card or dice games; the more you participate, the more trust you build within your group.
Always have a Chinese calendar and mark all festivals. The Chinese are always surprised if you mention their celebrations, and they love telling you stories about the origins of their special festivals.
If you’re planning to move to China or are going for business reasons, read George Jaeggi’s “A White Man’s China.” The book includes the knowledge gained by the author during his more than 50 trips to China, which will benefit not only major corporations but also the common person who is not aware of the customs and markets in China.
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