If you plan on visiting China, you should brush up on your etiquette beforehand. Many Chinese etiquette rules date back hundreds of years, and stand in stark contrast to our own. Failure to prepare for different cultural norms might leave you with a case a culture shock! For first time travellers in particular, being aware of social niceties, manners and common courtesies in China is a must.
Meeting new people
Chinese etiquette extends far beyond the introductions used in the western world. Frequent travellers already know that in different countries people greet each other in different ways. The custom can change depending on whether you are introducing yourself, being introduced, or introducing others. This can make the whole process rather confusing for those new to China.
If you are introducing yourself it is polite to give not just your first name, but your full name and title, along with your job position and place of work. If you are being introduced, it is up to the person introducing you to provide this information, leaving you to finish the introduction with a handshake or mutual greeting.
When introducing others, there is a strict hierarchy of who is introduced first. A younger person for example should be introduced to an older person, whilst the male should be introduced to the female.
At parties, the host should be introduced to the guest. The oldest person in your group should also be greeted first, as this is considered a sign of respect. There are also more extensive etiquette rules for those conducting business in China.
Trying the local cuisine is of course a must in China – read our guide to cheap eats if you are travelling to Guangzhou. However, the very specific tableside etiquette may leave you a little tentative about your first dining experience.
Just like us, diners in China are very particular about such things, especially when it comes to the placement of your eating utensils. Intrepid Travel (@Intrepid_Travel) explains:
“Good table manners are very important in Chinese culture. Apart from plain old common courtesy, proper etiquette invites luck and is seen as a sign of educational status. Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking upright in your rice and don’t use them to point, move bowls or spear food. Most formal meals in China are communal, so be prepared to share. But try not to ‘dig’ through the dish searching for the perfect slice of beef – this is considered bad manners.”
When attending a banquet, it is a must to sample every dish offered to you, but beware of overindulging. It is actually polite to leave a little food behind on your plate as a sign of generosity and courtesy to your host. During these more formal occasions, you should stand up and tap the table twice when toasting.
Your trip to China will see you meet a number of new people, many of which may become friends. Before you leave, why not give a gift to mark your meeting and time together? As with introductions and dining out, gifting comes with its own etiquette rules. Gifts should be given and received with both hands. Wait to unwrap the gift until after you leave.
Choosing and wrapping your gift should also be completed with care. Small items are generally well received. Clocks or anything to do with the unlucky number four should be avoided. Wrapping your gift elaborately in black or white paper is also frowned upon.
Now you’re clued up on Chinese etiquette rules, why not get started with planning your trip? We provide trips in and around China so you can experience its customs, history and heritage for yourself.