Visiting China: Tips and Taboos You Need to Know

The seasons are changing and many of you may be thinking ahead to your summer travel plans. If your plans include traveling abroad keep reading! Many foreign countries have taboos and laws that are essential for travelers to know before you arrive. The following list was shared with us by a SCOLA provider in China. He says many travelers from abroad may become confused and frightened by Chinese customs. This handy reference tool makes it easy for newcomers to Beijing to fit right in.

Greetings

1. When addressing someone, it is customary to add terms of honor before their family name based on their age: lao (honorable old one), xiao (honorable young one) or occasionally da (honorable middle-aged one).

2. Most greetings begin with a brief handshake. When greeting the elderly or senior officials, your handshake should be gentle and include a slight nod. As an expression of warmth, it can be acceptable to cover the handshake with your left hand. As a sign of respect, Chinese usually slightly lower their eyes when meeting someone.

3. Embracing and kissing are not parts of a Chinese greeting or saying good-bye. Public displays of affection, or acting in too carefree a manner are not advisable in public.

Conversation

4. Be cautious in political discussions.

Gifts

5. Normally, Chinese will not accept a gift, invitation or favor until the second or third time it is presented. In their culture, this shows modesty and humility. If a person accepts too quickly it can make them look aggressive or greedy. The same goes for opening a gift in front of the giver.

6. When wrapping a present, be aware that Chinese give much importance to color. Red represents luck, and pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity. Do not wrap gifts in white, grey or black, as those are funeral colors. When you are ready to present a gift, hand it off with both of your hands.

7. Acceptable gifts may include lighters, stamps, t-shirts and exotic coins, and the following gifts should be avoided: white or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums), which are used for funerals, pears, the word for Pear in Chinese sounds the same as separate and is considered bad luck, red ink on cards or letters symbolizes the end of a relationship, and clocks of any kind. because the word clock in Chinese sounds like the expression “the end of life”.

Food and Dining

8. Tipping is not normally practiced in China and almost no one asks for them. Only in some luxurious hotels are tips expected.

9. While eating, place chopsticks next to your dish instead of upright in your rice bowl. In China, when someone dies, their shrine may include two incense sticks stuck upright in a bowl of sand or rice. If you stick your chopsticks upright in your dish at the dinner table, it looks like the shrine and is comparable to wishing death upon person at the table!

10. When drinking tea, do not face the spout of the teapot towards anyone. It is impolite.

11. Don’t tap on your bowl with your chopsticks. People in restaurants where the food is taking too long and beggars tap on their bowls. It is insulting to the cook.

12. People in China dine out at least once a week with friends or family members as a way to strengthen relationships. The dinner will last long and include alcohol drinks.

Are you planning on traveling to China soon? Were these tips helpful to you? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Be sure to check back next week to learn more about Chinese Dating and Marriage Customs!

Want to learn more tips and taboos for international travel? Check out Savoir-Vivre…coming soon!

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