China is becoming very open nowadays to the outside world and Chinese people are becoming more and more used to foreigners walking around the city, especially in big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Chinese people are friendly and like to make friends with people from all over the world. In 2nd, 3rd tier cities and remote areas where foreigners are not so often seen, you need to be more cautious about the cultural dos and don’ts. To make your stay in China is more pleasant and comfortable, here is a list of the things you must be aware of:
– Drink bottled water or boiled tap water. Do not drink water from the tap directly.
– Eat fruits and vegetables after you wash them carefully. Do not eat them without washing as you do in your country.
– Bargain at the small shops but not at department stores.
– Take taxis with meters and ask for receipt ( Fapiao in Chinese). Do not take motorcycle taxis which is always very dangerous.
– Bring a small gift when you first meet with a Chinese friend or when you are invited to a friend’s home.
– Express your feelings less directly to avoid panic. Do not kiss or hug unless they do it to you first because Chinese people in general are not used to intimate body touch like kiss or hug.
– Express your opinion sincerely but be cautious about the person’s position or rank. Do not talk too candidly or directly to avoid hurting somebody’s “face”.
– Pay for your friend’s lunch/dinner if you initiate the meeting. Do not go Dutch because Chinese people rarely go Dutch for dinner gatherings unless this was stated clearly beforehand. For two friends, normally the one who initiated the meeting pays for the lunch, the dinner or the coffee, etc. to show generosity and friendliness.
– Give a Hongbao (red envelope with cash) as a gift when your friend or your colleague gets married or has a new baby.
– Learn some survival Mandarin to make your stay in China easier. Do not be afraid to speak Chinese with local people even if sometimes the accent makes it difficult to communicate.
– Speak as much Mandarin as possible even if you can only say Nihao. Chinese people will think you are great and friendly because you showed respect by trying to speak the language.
– Do not call senior Chinese people by their names because it is considered very rude.
– Do not cross your legs when you sit in front of an honorable guest or your boss because it means you are being arrogant and disrespectful.
– Never give umbrellas or clocks to Chinese people as gifts because it denotes bad meanings as the two words in Chinese sounds the same as “break up” and “ending”.
Article by Emma Wang, Miracle Mandarin co-founder.
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