China is one of the most beautiful countries in East Asia with a rich and ancient culture. Many people and tourists dream of going to China and visiting this legendary country. But the culture of the Chinese people may not be as close to your culture as you think. Although there might be similarities between the cultural etiquette in your country and that of China, in Chinese culture doing certain common things can make you look very bad.
This is when knowing a thing or two about the dos and don’ts in China when traveling to this country can come in handy. If you are planning to travel to China and want to learn more about the cultural etiquette in this country, don’t miss this post.
Do’s when Travelling in China
Learn Chinese Etiquette
One of the do’s of traveling to China is getting to know the greeting culture of this country. Before traveling to China, it is better to learn how to socialize with local people and avoid any misunderstandings. The first important thing is to get to know their way of greeting. One of the most used Chinese sayings when greeting a new person is to ask, “Have you eaten?” It shows that you care about the other person and are concerned about their health.
When you meet an elderly person, don’t wait for them to greet you. Younger people should always greet and respect older people first. To greet an elderly person, you should not wave at all, there is no need to bow. Contrary to popular belief, bowing is part of Korean and Japanese culture and is not necessary in China. It is enough to lower your head a little as a sign of respect. Waving when greeting is only allowed for people in your age group. When calling people, don’t forget to use Mr. and Mrs. next to their names.
Respect Privacy and Personal Space
A remarkable and very important point about the Chinese is that they do not like to have physical contact with someone they have just met. Therefore, it is better not to take the first step to shake hands. Wait for the other person to let you know that they have no problem with this. Privacy, especially physical privacy, is very important to the Chinese.
Eat Well with Good Appetite
One of the other do’s in China is to eat until you finish your food. The Chinese love to know that you enjoyed the food and drinks they prepared for you. Therefore, make sure to consume all the prepared foods and drinks as well. If you eat half of your food, the Chinese think that you did not like their cooking and consider this as a form of disrespect to the host. Therefore, be sure to eat the food and drinks prepared on the table until the last bite and drop.
If you are in a restaurant or a public place and someone fills your plate or glass, you should gently tap the table with two fingers. This is a sign of thanking the other person for filling your dish. If you are at a formal party, the most polite thing to do is to try some of all the food provided. Try a little bit of all the dishes on the table as a sign of respect to the host.
Install WeChat to communicate with Chinese People
Most Chinese do not use messengers such as WhatsApp, etc. Their main messenger that all generations use is WeChat. There are few people who live in China and do not have WeChat installed on their devices. Therefore, it is better to install WeChat to communicate with the Chinese when traveling to China as it will be practically impossible to access them from other platforms.
travelling to China: Always Be on Time
One of the most important musts among the dos and don’ts when traveling in China is to be on time and keep your promise. There is nothing that can irritate a Chinese person more than rudeness and being late. Therefore, if you have an appointment with someone, do your best to be there exactly at the appointed time. Otherwise, most Chinese will think that you are irresponsible or that you disrespected them and did not value their time. Common excuses like traffic will not be accepted.
travelling to China: Learn the Etiquette of Gift Giving
One of the musts in the list of dos and don’ts when traveling in China is to give a gift to the host. If you have been invited somewhere or have a date with someone, the etiquette in Chinese culture dictates that you do not go empty-handed. But there are a series of dos and don’ts for giving gifts that you should know about as well. For example, when you want to give a gift to your host, be sure to give it to them with both hands. Giving gifts with only one hand is considered disrespectful and upsets the Chinese.
One of the Chinese dos and don’ts is that if a Chinese person gives you a gift, you should first refuse it a few times and then accept it. Don’t look too eager to receive a gift. You should first compliment a little to show your courtesy to the other person. At the same time, you should keep in mind that Chinese people’s favorite gifts are small things such as books, vases, and decorative dishes.
travelling to China: Get Used to Personal Questions
One of the Chinese habits when getting to know other people is to ask a series of personal questions. For example, you may be asked questions about your income and marital status in the first hours of getting to know each other. These questions in Chinese culture mean that the person has become friends with you and feels close. Also, keep in mind that words like “how fat you are” are actually considered a compliment in Chinese culture.
Don’ts When Travelling in China
So far, we have reviewed some examples of things that should be done in China. But in the list of dos and don’ts when travelling in China, there are also a series of things that should not be done at all. If you do these things, you will lose face in China and people will think that you have disrespected them or their culture. For this reason, you should carefully avoid doing these things. In the following, we have elaborated on some of the most important things that you should not do in China.
travelling to China: Don’ts When Meeting People in China
One of the Chinese don’ts when greeting people is to put your hand forward first. Also, if the other person extends their hand to shake, do not squeeze their hand firmly. Make sure the physical contact is limited to a handshake. Chinese people don’t like physical contact with someone they don’t know well. For this reason, avoid hugging or kissing people in China. Also, bowing is not part of Chinese culture and you don’t need to bow when meeting someone in China.
Don’ts When Eating in China
Usually, in Chinese restaurants, a container is placed on the table to put food waste such as fruit cores and chicken or fish bones. One of the dos and don’ts when visiting China is that you must put this part of your food inside a separate container and cannot leave it on your other dishes. If you leave the core or bone next to your dish, you are being disrespectful. This is considered a form of rudeness or bad etiquette while eating.
Be careful that you should never hit your chopsticks on the table or food dish. If you do this, you have disrespected the food and the people sitting at the table. To remove the food from the main dish, special chopsticks are placed. Never use your chopsticks, even if they are clean, to remove food from the main dish.
Don’ts about Dressing in China
China is a free country and you can walk the streets of China wearing any clothing. But freedom from the legal point of view and the dressing etiquette of the Chinese people are two completely different things. If your dress is too revealing and shows too much of your body, it is possible that the Chinese look down on you. Dressing appropriately is very important in China, especially when visiting the temples.
Do not Ask questions about Sensitive Topics
There are many religions and sects in China. In this regard, one of the dos and don’ts when visiting China is that you should be careful who you ask what questions. Some questions, even if they are simply out of curiosity on your part, may come off as rude to a Chinese person. For this reason, it is best to avoid asking sensitive questions related to religious and political issues. Ask these questions only when you know people well.
If You Don’t Speak Chinese, Never Travel Alone in China
One of the problems that many travelers in China face is the language problem. You should never travel to China alone without someone who knows Chinese, especially when it comes to the old neighborhoods and villages. Most people in China do not know English and speaking in sign language will not help you much in communicating with them. Therefore, we suggest that you travel to this country with a Chinese-speaking companion or by booking a tour.
Don’t Be Discourteous
Moral values have a high place among Chinese people. You always see them using words like please or thank you. If you do not naturally have these qualities, it is better to make an effort and be extra polite in dealing with the Chinese.
Do not criticize the Chinese in front of others, because you will cause the loss of that person’s reputation and face. In Chinese culture, “face” is very important. In general, do not publicly humiliate or embarrass a Chinese. You can point out their mistakes privately.
Do Not Buy These Gifts
Don’t go to Chinese people’s house without a gift. If you’re invited to a Chinese friend’s house for dinner, it’s polite to bring a gift. It can be a fruit basket, a box of chocolates. But a series of things should not be given as gifts in China:
- Green hat: wearing a green hat signifies a man’s betrayal of his wife and is considered really bad in China.
- Watch: Giving a watch means wishing someone death as it is associated with the passage of time.
- Umbrella: Umbrellas cause separation. When you give an umbrella as a gift in China, you are letting them know that you want to end your relationship with that person.
- Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemums are traditionally used to mourn someone’s death at funerals or placed on graves.
Do Not Take Pictures of Temples and Museums
To protect the Buddha statues and temples, photography is prohibited in most Chinese temples. Some temples may allow you to take pictures if you turn off the flash though. In most places, there are signs warning you about taking pictures.
Do Not Tip
Tipping is one of the forbidden things in China. In fact, tipping is not common in China and will even be considered rude and embarrassing in some situations. So, you don’t need to tip the taxi driver or the waiter at the restaurant.
Forget about Number 4!
Maybe until now you thought that only the number 13 is the forbidden number! But in China, you should have nothing to do with the number 4. For example, if you want to buy 4 flowers, better change your mind and get either 3 or 5.
In this post, we went through some of the dos and don’ts when travelling in China. Observing these simple things can have a great impact on your experience in traveling to China and make you enjoy your trip more and communicate better with Chinese people. Some Chinese people, especially the elderly, can be somewhat traditional and consider it bad luck to do certain things. For example, you should never write anything, especially people’s names, in red ink in Chinese.
Before visiting the sacred buildings and temples of China, be sure to read up on all the dos and don’ts related to visiting them and only then enter. Make sure you always respect the culture of the people in your destination country.