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4 Cultural Customs to Know Before You Visit China

You’re planning a trip to China, and need everything to go smoothly. You’ve taken care of your travel details and arranged guided tours when you arrive. Everything is lining up well, but you must keep in mind that you will be immersing yourself in a much different culture. The last thing you want to do is offend someone or diminish your experience.

Relax. As long as you understand and adapt to a few Chinese customs, you will have a great trip. Even better, this understanding may help you in any personal or professional relationships you have with people from China.

Adjust Your Expectations About Personal Space

Westerners tend to place a lot of value on personal space. Most of us simply expect that each of us has our own “bubble” around us that other people won’t cross. That’s not something that exists in a place like China where the population is so large – especially in urban areas with many people in a relatively small area.

Be prepared that you will be standing and moving in very close proximity to other people. Also, people bump into each other in China quite frequently. If this happens, don’t expect an “I’m sorry” or “excuse me”. It’s such a normal part of moving around that people simply continue their day.

When you interact with people in China, you may find that they stand very close to you. This is simply a cultural norm here.

Punctuality is a Matter of Respect

Chinese people see punctuality as a matter of respect. They may arrive early to a planned event as a way to show respect to the host. Likewise, arriving late can be a subtle way to show contempt. To leave a good impression, show up early for events. If you are meeting someone, you should arrive on time at a bare minimum. Ideally, will arrive at the meeting location before them.

This rule is particularly important if you are interested in developing friendships or romantic connections in China. You can click here for additional opportunities to find people with similar interests.

Memorize Rules of Greeting Etiquette

In China, there are many rules around greetings and introductions. It can seem complicated at first.

When you introduce yourself in China, you will state your full name, occupation, and employer the first time you meet someone. If you are doing the introductions, here are some rules you should always follow:

  • Men are always introduced before women, always.
  • People who have a lower social status or position at work will be introduced to the person of higher status or authority first.
  • Introduce elderly people to younger people first
  • At an event, be sure to introduce the host before you introduce any guests.

This is a great way to get off on the right foot at social events.

Always Follow Meal Etiquette Guidelines

If you are fortunate enough to visit China, you will eat some amazing meals. Ideally, you will be invited to share a meal at the home of a local family. If you are so lucky, there are some rules to follow.

First, learn to use chopsticks before you go. It just takes a bit of practice, and it’s an important skill. They are used for all foods. Soup is the only exception. Keep these other chopstick etiquette rules in mind:

  • Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking up out of your food
  • Never lick food off of your chopsticks
  • Don’t stir your food with your chopsticks

What about belching? Yes, that is a sign of respect. It may feel “wrong” to do. But, you’ll probably feel more comfortable when others begin.

When you are eating in China, never start eating before the host. Instead, what for them to invite everybody else to enjoy the meal.

Of course, you can’t visit China without drinking tea. Most of these relate to respecting the ritual of drinking tea as well as the ingredients. For example, you should always sit to enjoy tea and conversation. You never want to smoke while drinking tea. Also, take a moment to smell the tea before you drink it. When you do drink the tea, sip it so you can savor it.

Respect For a Culture is The First Step in Connecting to It

When you take time to learn about Chinese culture and customs, you demonstrate care and respect. If you do that, you’ll find that you have an enjoyable time and better, more authentic experiences.

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