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  Artiklar > Reseberättelser > How to behave in China:

How to behave in China

Publicerad: 2006-02-09 00.00

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This part is meant as a help for those people that really want to respect the Chinese etiquette and thus earn a lot of respect from the Chinese.

China is known as a state of etiquette and ceremonies. Many proverbs have been passed down from generation to generation such as 'civility costs nothing' or 'courtesy demands reciprocity' and so on. For instance, there is an interesting short story. Once upon a time, a man went on a long tour to visit his friend with a swan as a gift. But it escaped from the cage on the way and in his effort to catch it, he got hold of nothing but a feather. Instead of returning home, he continued his journey with the swan feather. When his friend received this unexpected gift, he was deeply moved by the story as well as the sincerity. And the saying 'the gift is nothing much, but it's the thought that counts.' was spread far and wide.

Chinese used to cup one hand in the other before the chest as a salute. This tradition has a history of more than 2000 years and nowadays it is seldom used except in the Spring Festival. And shaking hands is more popular and appropriate on some formal occasions. Bowing, as to convey respect to the higher level, is often used by the lower like subordinates, students, and attendants. But at present Chinese youngsters tend to simply nod as a greeting. To some extent this evolution reflects the ever-increasing paces of modern life.

It is common social practice to introduce the junior to the senior, or the familiar to the unfamiliar. When you start a talk with a stranger, the topics such as weather, food, or hobbies may be good choices to break the ice. To a man, a chat about current affairs, sports, stock market or his job can usually go on smoothly. Similar to Western customs, you should be cautious to ask a woman private questions. However, relaxing talks about her job or family life will never put you into danger. She is usually glad to offer you some advice on how to cook Chinese food or get accustomed to local life. Things will be quite different when you've made acquaintance with them. Implicit as Chinese are said to be, they are actually humorous enough to appreciate the exaggerated jokes of Americans.

As is said above, Chinese consider gifts as an important part to show courtesy. It is appropriate to give gifts on occasions such as festival, birthday, wedding, or visiting a patient. If you are invited to a family party, small gifts like wine, tea, cigarettes, or candies are welcomed. Also fruit, pastries, and flowers are a safe choice. As to other things, you should pay a little attention to the cultural differences. Contrary to Westerners, odd numbers are thought to be unfortunate. So wedding gifts and birthday gifts for the aged are always sent in pairs for the old saying goes that blessings come in pairs. Though four is an even number, it reads like death in Chinese thus is avoided. So is pear for being a homophone of separation. And a gift of clock sounds like attending other's funeral so it is a taboo, too. As connected with death and sorrow, black and white are also the last in the choice. Gift giving is unsuitable in public except for some souvenirs. Your good intentions or gratitude should be given priority to but not the value of the gifts. Otherwise the receiver may mistake it for a bribe.



Conservative suits for men with subtle colors are the norm.
Women should avoid high heels and short sleeved blouses. The Chinese frown on women who display too much.
Subtle, neutral colors should be worn by both men and women.
Casual dress should be conservative as well.
Men and women can wear jeans. However, jeans are not acceptable for business meetings.
Revealing clothing for women is considered offensive to Chinese businessmen.



Do not use large hand movements. The Chinese do not speak with their hands. Your movements may be distracting to your host.
Personal contact must be avoided at all cost. It is highly inappropriate for a man to touch a woman in public.
Do not point when speaking.
To point do not use your index finger, use an open palm.
It is considered improper to put your hand in your mouth.
Avoid acts that involve the mouth.
Gift giving is a very delicate issue in China. It is illegal to give gifts to government official however; it has become more commonplace in the business world (more information about gift giving at the end!).
It is more acceptable to give gifts either in private or to a group as a whole to avoid embarrassment.
The most acceptable gift is a banquet.
Quality writing pens as considered favored gifts.
The following gifts and/or colors are associated with death and should not be given:

* Clocks
* Straw sandals
* A stork or crane
* Handkerchiefs
* Anything white, blue or black

Always arrive on time or early if you are the guest.
Do not discuss business at meals.
Do not start to eat or drink prior to the host.
As a cultural courtesy, you should taste all the dishes you are offered.
Sample meals only, there may be several courses.
Never place your chopsticks straight up in your bowl. By placing your sticks upright in your bowl your will remind your host of joss sticks which connotes death.
Do not drop the chopsticks it is considered bad luck.
Do not eat all of your meal. If you eat all of your meal, the Chinese will assume you did not receive enough food and are still hungry.
Women do not usually drink at meals.
Tipping is considered insulting, however the practice is becoming more common.



Bowing or nodding is the common greeting; however, you may be offered a handshake. Wait for the Chinese to offer their hand first.
Applause is common when greeting a crowd; the same is expected in return.
Introductions are formal. Use formal titles.
Often times Chinese will use a nickname to assist Westerners.
Being on time is vital in China.
Appointments are a must for business.
Contacts should be made prior to your trip.
Bring several copies of all written documents for your meetings.
The decision making process is slow. You should not expect to conclude your business swiftly.
Many Chinese will want to consult with the stars or wait for a lucky day before they make a decision.
Present and receive cards with both hands.
Never write on a business card or put it in your wallet or pocket. Carry a small card case.
The most important member of your company or group should lead important meetings. Chinese value rank and status.
Develop a working knowledge of Chinese culture.
Allow the Chinese to leave a meeting first.


Gift giving!

Countries in the world with a Chinese cultural influence, a collectivist attitude, accept gifts with a reserved demeanor. In order not to appear greedy, a gift will not be immediately taken, but refused three times before finally being accepted. Each time it’s refused, you as the giver must graciously continue to offer the gift. And once it’s taken, tell the person you’re happy it’s been accepted.

The gift is offered using both hands and must be gift-wrapped; though it won’t be opened it front of you. It will be set aside and opened later. This tradition eliminates any concern that the recipient’s face might show any disappointment with the gift.

If you’re presented a gift, follow the same process of refusing it three times then accept it with both hands. You’ll also not open it, but wait until later.

In China, official business policy considers gifts as bribes, which are illegal. Though the policy is softening, there may be times when a gift you offer will absolutely not be accepted. Should you find yourself in this situation, graciously say you understand and withdraw it. Waiting until negotiations have concluded will eliminate the appearance of bribery when a gift is presented.

A good guideline if there’s a concern is to offer a gift, saying you’re giving it on behalf of your company. It’s important to always honor the most senior person, so he will be the individual you actually present with the gift, stating you want him to accept it on behalf of his company. This gesture, company to company, will usually circumvent any problem regarding undue influence. If you have several gifts to present, never give the same item to people of different rank or stature. The more senior the person, the more expensive the gift.

Typically one person is not singled out to receive a special gift, especially in front of a group. If you’ve established a good working relationship with someone and want to give a gift, arrange a time when the two of you are alone to present it. Then when you do give it, be sure to say it’s being offered as a gesture of your friendship, not business.

A gift’s value should be commensurate with the level of the business dealings. This applies both to an individual’s gift and a corporate gift. There are times when an expensive gift fits the occasion and circumstance, but an overly extravagant one could create complications or embarrassment, as the recipient may not be able to reciprocate.

In Chinese culture symbolism is important, with colors and numbers having special meaning. For instance, at Chinese New Year, Money may be given in a red envelope; it must be even amount, using an even number of new bills.

Red is a lucky color; pink and yellow represent happiness; and the number 8 is the luckiest number. The colors black, white and blue and the #4, or four of anything, are negatively associated with death or funerals. Also included in this category are clocks, handkerchiefs, and straw sandals.

Sharp objects like knives or scissors represent a ‘severing of a friendship or relationship’- including a business relationship.

You don’t want to inadvertently select a gift that has a negative or unlucky association. And because of the symbolism, it can happen. For instance, a fine writing pen would be a good gift, unless it has red ink.

Early in your business relationships, you may want to make your gift selections from a local store where you’ll be given the proper information and direction. At least it’s wise to have items gift wrapped once you’ve arrived in the country, to eliminate incorrect choices for colors and types of paper.

In China, plan a banquet, especially if you are being honored with one.

Av:  horsemandk

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