Home: Travel Tips:
Font Size:    


China has often been referred to as the Nation of Etiquette. According to many westerners, however, Chinese people often act in what appears to be a discourteous manner. The reason for this anomaly lies in the different cultural and historical views of social decorum. In order to avoid unnecessary mistakes and embarrassment during communications, a better understanding of Chinese etiquette is essential.

Handshaking is considered formal greeting behavior in China. It is used to show respect, but only if the person is someone important, like a government official or a businessman. The grip should be firm, but not overly strong, and should not be prolonged because Chinese, like other Asians, prefer a brief handshake. After shaking hands, you may exchange your name or the title of your company with each other and then proceed to carry out the affairs.

 Mianzi (Face):
Mianzi, commonly referred to as 'face', is a reflection of a person's level of status in the eyes of his or her peers. Having 'face' means you are viewed by your peers, superiors, and subordinates as one in harmony with the prevailing disposition of society. It is a subtlety that is not openly discussed in Chinese society, but exists as a conversational skill nonetheless. As a foreigner, it is not necessary to take Mianzi too seriously when engaged in discussions that may be confusing. Mianzi can best be understood as the avoidance of embarrassment in front of others. Otherwise, it can be considered to be impolite.

 Gift Giving:
'Courtesy demands reciprocity', goes an old Chinese saying, and the advice is an indispensable part of social interactions. It is important to both private and business relationships. The best choice for the initial meeting is a gift that expresses some unique aspect of your country. The gift wrapping should be red or any other festive color. White and black are ominous and should be avoided. It is not proper, and is even considered to be unfortunate, to take a clock as a gift or to choose one having to do with the number four, which sounds like death in Chinese. Even though even numbers are considered as good luck, the number four is an exception. Do not brag about your gift in front of the recipient, and you should use both hands when presenting it. Generally, the recipient may graciously refuse the present when first offered. In this case, you should correctly assess the situation and present it once again. If the recipient did not open your gift, it does not mean that he or she is not interested in it. It is polite to open it after you leave.

 Family Visiting:
In China, a gift is also necessary when visiting a family. But it is not as complex as the above situation. Usually, flowers, common fruits and food are okay. As for alcohol, you had better check whether the person enjoys it or if they have such a hobby. During lunch time, hosts will ask you to have more food or alcohol. If you do not want to disappoint them, you can have a little more according to your situation. If you are truly full, you had better refuse directly, otherwise, the hospitable hosts will continue to refill your bowl.

If you follow the usual rules of etiquette in China, you will extend the proper respect to the people. But there is no need to worry more about the cultural barriers, for the warm and friendly Chinese will try their best to respect your customs when communicating.

I want to say
  • ReplyLolly
    2013/12/26 8:39:00

    A friend of mine who is like a younger brother to me married a woman from China. It was nice to meet her and they seemed very happy. They gave me a Christmas gift that first year, however he and I have never exchanged gifts and I thanked them very much but didn't have a gift for them, I talked to him later and suggested we not begin exchanging gifts, we never have and it's fine that way, having a visit at Christmas is good. He agreed. Since then I have been blacklisted, no contact AT ALL. It's weird. Is it because of the gift?

  • ReplyPaul
    2013/1/11 10:21:00

    Hi I am visiting a friend in Dandong China, she is female and I want to present her with a gift, what would you suggest? I do know numbers play an active role in the Chinese culture.Any help would be greatThank you

    • Kelly :2013/1/11 19:39:00

      the specialties from your hometown would be good choice.

  • ReplyReadbestbooks,   China
    2008/8/16 8:44:00

    My wife received a very expensive jewelry gift from a close Chinese business/friend of mine. It is something she will never wear. Is it appropriate for her to exchange the gift at the jewelers he purchased it from. Want to do the correct thing.

    • Poooooky ( Hong Kong, China ) :2012/10/31 17:09:00

      no, Chinese love to store the most precious things , don't exchanged it for money or other stuff without her consent

  • Replycaroline agaab,   Philippines
    2009/7/25 3:40:00

    My boyfriend is Chinese we been together in a business and live together for more than a year, through thick and thin.He went back China, and keep communicating with me everyday.He has his job there,and we still have business transactions.He always saying that he really loves me?is it true or just because of the business?

    • Poooooky ( Hong Kong, China ) :2012/10/30 18:39:00

      it really depends on trust and your relationship with him. Chinese appreciate men or women who would wait for their beloved one (can be forever)and remain single. But....many men will say that to rewind their relationship with girls even though they have girlfriends or even married....so, i don''t know how to answer this...

  • Replytony fonta,   Canada
    2009/4/4 22:37:00

    is it true that chinese women don't say " i love you "

    is it true that a chinese lady will offer candy to her friends first and then her husband.

    why is my chinese wife so difficult to understand ?

    chinese women dosen't answer questions, is that true?

    why can't my wife be more open in conversations with me ?

    italian man married to a wonderfull chinese lady.

    what are all those secrets my wife has?

    i have noticed that my wife has extreme difficulty asking for my help to do whatever she'd like to do ?.

    how can i asure her that i am on her side no matter what the difference might be ?

    • Poooooky ( Hong Kong, China ) :2012/10/30 18:43:00

      errr...Chinese are reserved and saying words like ' i love you' made their face red, but in special occasion they do.

      Why Chinese women are so difficult to understand??
      i think it's true for all women in the world. u know, men and women are from different planets

      no, it's not true about the candy

    • Poooooky ( Hong Kong, China ) :2012/10/30 18:53:00

      Nope, chinese women do answer questions lol
      be more open in conversations?
      if that's about sex, no way!
      speak to her in private. You mean conflicts in between you guys or you want to ask for her opinion??
      To tell her you are on her side, no matter what, and hug her from behind, it will melt her heart :P

  • Replycombiner
    2012/7/12 16:09:00

    i was wanting to know what should i bring a Chinese woman for a proposal im from texas and what gift should i take her brother when i ask him for her hand? thank you for letting me know

    • Rosa :2012/7/12 19:14:00

      where is her hometown? i mean which province, city, county, or village?because the custom of different places are quite different. but usually it includes money.

  • ReplyJanR,   China
    2010/10/5 15:20:00

    We will be leaving for China soon, & will be visiting a Chinese family. Can anyone tell me how long we should stay/when we should leave?

    • Steven :2010/10/5 23:48:00

      If you are good friends, it doesn't matter how long to stay and when to leave.

  • ReplyLeticia,   United States
    2010/9/14 13:02:00

    My daughter had a friend that is Chinese and recently had her over to work on a school project. Her friend brought a gift, I felt very appreciative but I am not sure how to respond. So now again, her friend came over a second time and the father brought over another gift when he picked her up. Again I am grateful but I want to make sure that I don't offend them so I would like to know what is the correct way or what is the etiquette for response.

    • Elva :2010/9/14 21:31:00

      don't worry Leticia,
      you didn't offend them. the gifts they give you shows their thanks to you,and you don't have to prepare a gift for response. if you want to, i think a small gift will be ok.

  • ReplySunny,   China
    2009/2/22 20:20:00

    Hi Mr Bean,
    Generally Chinese women are conservative. You can express your love clearly to her, but the mention of marriage is better to be later when you are in a steady relationship. Marriage is serious especially in China. Some people say that marriage in China is not just the matter between two lovers, but also the two families. :)

  • ReplyBean,   Zambia
    2009/2/21 4:36:00

    I like a Chinese woman. She says that she is not ready for marriage. What is the acceptable way to propose love to a Chinese woman? Also, what is the right way to conduct oneself in a relationship?