China Travel Tips
China has been long known for its traditions, ceremonies and etiquette over the years. Whilst it is important to understand the daily manners and courtesies of social life in China you will find that the Chinese are very accepting of cultural differences.
Leave the hankies at home.
The Chinese are repelled when seeing westerners use a cloth handkerchief, so best to use disposable tissues and don’t inspect the contents after blowing.
Take caution where you tread.
A lot of Chinese people are proud and loving dog owners. However there is not always a lot of grass around the cities so the sidewalks become a place for the canines to do their business. So watch your step!
Don’t stare back.
In many areas of China, residents have never seen a Westerner apart from what they’ve seen on television or in movies. In particular in more underdeveloped areas, you could be stared at. This is just out of curiosity so don’t stare back or feel uncomfortable.
Don’t be afraid to haggle at the markets.
A good rule of thumb is to never pay more than half of the price that the merchant is asking for. Build a friendly rapport with the merchant but do not display too much interest in purchasing the product and tell them that it’s too expensive.
Handshakes are appropriate for the first meeting.
Chinese people are generally conservative so a handshake when first meeting is the best option. High fives, hugs or any form of intimate body contact may be deemed as rude and odd to the Chinese upon first meeting.
Prepare to be stuffed.
When visiting a Chinese person’s home as a guest, they like to cook more than enough food. Do not take the last bite of food on a serving plate as this may be considered a little rude and also ensure that you leave a little bit of your meal on the plate, otherwise the host will bring you even more to eat.
Chopsticks even have rules.
Never point chopsticks at a person’s face. Do not stab your food with chopsticks, do not suck the end of your chopstick and don’t tap the side of your bowel to make noise – Chinese may think that this is what a begger does to beg for food. Most important thing to remember is never to stick your chopstick standing vertically in your food. Chinese people do this only when they burn incense to sacrifice the departed.
Great gift ideas can include illustrated books or books about your home country, quality stationery, handicrafts from your home country, cognac or wine from your home country or candy.
But the gifts you should avoid; clocks, knives/scissors, white linen and blue or black items. Clocks are associated with death whilst scissors or cutting implements are a symbol of the severing of a relationship.
Also don’t give gifts in quantities of four as this number signifies death. Colours often have many meaning and these meanings may change depending on the region. Whilst it is best to be careful when wrapping a gift – the best trick is to have it gift wrapped at the store. When it doubt – red is the safest colour for wrapping.
Always give gifts with two hands and they may not be opened when received.
Never put your feet on a desk or a chair.
Whilst you’re remembering this, never gesture with your feet. You may gesture with an open hand and not with your index finger.
BYO toilet paper.
Public toilets do not always have toilet paper or soap so it’s a good idea to take some toilet paper and hand sanitizing gel with you.
Think before you cross the road.
In China it is best not to assume that pedestrians have the right of way.
Learn a few words of Chinese.
This is a good ice breaker when meeting new people and also shows that you have an interest in their language culture. Learn the basics like hello, goodbye and thank you.
With these tips in mind you can rest assured that you won’t make any social etiquette fails when visiting a country with many rich cultural and historical resources.