Asia is a plenitude of cultures with a variety of races, languages and religions. The Asian concept of “saving face” is inherent in this part of the world.
Many younger foreign travelers to Chinese-speaking countries find themselves in a state of culture shock on their first trip. To avoid offending Chinese people (there are a lot of them, by the way), follow these 6 simple rules and etiquette tips:
#1: Always Bring a Gift (For the First Time):
Never give: clocks, cut flowers, umbrellas, straw sandals, crane, handkerchiefs, or any cutting tools. Anything with the number “4” should be avoided. The number “4” , which sounds like the word for death is also considered unlucky. However, the number “8” is considered lucky because it sounds like the word that means wealth, or fortune. Talk about being superstitious. When accepting or giving objects, always use both hands.
#2: Properly Greet People
Contrary to the Koreans/Japanese, you are not supposed to bow when greeting Chinese people. Smiling and shaking hands is the most common way to greet people in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. You can say “hi”, “ni hao” or use “nin hao” when greeting someone who is older than you.
#3: Eat the Right Way
Make sure you arrive on time.
Let the elders sit down first and wait for someone to tell you where to sit.
Avoid eating as soon as the food gets on the table.
Eat as much as you can to show that you’re enjoying the food.
Avoid declining when someone offers you food.
Do not take the last pieces of food from the serving plate.
Do not flip the fish once you’ve finished with one side, especially when you are in China and Hong Kong. It is considered bad luck.
It is acceptable to make noise or burp while eating.
If you have no intention of paying for the whole check, make sure you volunteer a few times before you let the other party pay.
#4: Proper Use of Chopsticks
Do not use chopsticks to make noise or draw attention.
Do not place chopsticks vertically standing in a bowl of rice (similar to incense sticks in the urn).
Do not use chopsticks to point at someone.
It is also ok to bring the rice bowl up to your mouth in Chinese culture.
#5: Drinking the Right Way
Out of respect, when clinking glasses, make sure that your glass is lower than the other person. Always raise your glass when doing a toast. To avoid getting bombed by alcohol, pretend to take tiny sips. This does not work when you are asked to finish your glass in one shot.
#6: Be Sure to Compliment and Boot-Lick
Always compliment your host/client – Tell them that the food is great, their house is gorgeous, etc. Never criticize your host/client, whatever the reason may be.
If you’ve made a mistake when meeting Chinese people, don’t worry. The Chinese give a lot of leeway to foreigners since they expect most foreigners to be clueless to their customs so any possible offenses will be overlooked.