Welcome to China!
Every culture has their own rules on what are acceptable and what are not. As an inseparable part of folk customs, taboos are closely linked with ordinary Chinese people’s lives in ancient times. With the constant changes of society, taboos have undergone great evolution in both forms and implications, though some elderly people maintain some forms of traditional life styles at present.
Travelling around China is a revolving, ever-changing experience, where you will learn a new set of rules, customs, and social expectations that you have never experienced elsewhere before. The following travel tips of China aim to help you to learn about China Dos and Donts before travelling to China. Your knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable can make your trip in China much smoother, prevent confusion and embarrassing situations, and also avoid getting in trouble or seriously offending someone.
- Do not use a toothpick in public without covering your mouth with your hand.
- Do not use your own chopsticks or spoon to dish shared dishes (which is customary) when eating with a group, use the serving spoon to dish into your bowl or plate to eat instead.
- Do not open a present in front of the giver, which is not polite.
- Do not leave your chopsticks sticking up in the left-over rice at the bottom of your bowl after eating a meal.
- Do not stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl before or after eating a meal. Instead, lay them on your dish. Doing it in a restaurant or a private home would be a terrible curse on the proprietor, as sticking chopsticks in the rice bowl looks like the shrine with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it, which is equivalent to wishing death upon person at the table.
- Do not tap on your bowl with chopsticks, as the beggars tap on their bowls, which is impolite and insulting.
- Do not give a gift like the Clocks (giving a watch is okay), straw sandals, a stork or crane, handkerchiefs and anything white, blue or black, which are associated with death or cause for crying, and are perceived to bring people bad fortune.
- Do not lose your temper, as to lose one’s temper is an absolute loss of face.
- Do not point the bottoms of your feet to any person when sitting. Try to sit cross-legged or tuck your legs underneath you.
- Do not touch someone unless you absolutely have to. Chinese people do not enjoy being touched by strangers, which is the direct opposite to Western society.
- Do not biting your nails or putting your hands in your mouth as it is considered to be vulgar in Chinese culture.
- Do not behave in a carefree manner in public. Embracing or kissing when greeting or saying good-bye is highly unusual.
- Do not write cards or letters with red ink or ball pen, as it symbolizes the end of a relationship.
- Do not forget to take off your shoes when entering any home in China, unless are told not to.
- The order of Chinese names is family name first, then given name. Brides in China do not adopt their husband’s surnames.
- Always addressing people with their official title, refer them as Mr./Mrs./Ms plus their last name. Don’t call them by their first name unless invited to do so.
- Handshake is common form of greeting. While meeting elders or senior officials, handshake should be gentle and accompanied by a slight nod.
- Always show respect to the elders and acknowledge them in a group first.
- Chinese do not usually accept a gift, invitation or favour when it’s first presented. Politely refusing two or three times is thought to reflect modesty and humility.
- Always present your gifts with both hands. And be aware of colour when wrapping. Red represents lucky, pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity, while white, grey and black are for funeral. White or yellow flowers (especially chrysanthemums) are used for funerals.
- Do learn some Chinese which will help traveling around the country with much ease.
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