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Chinese Etiquette Last updated on 2019-05-23

We would be hard-pressed to sum up all the ins and outs of Chinese culture in a single list, but we have tried to offer a little guidance below. Act with the same respect for local laws and customs as you would anywhere and you won’t run into any trouble.

Do...

… learn a few words of Chinese to ease your travels.

… give and receive things with both hands (business cards, gifts, etc).

… offer to pay the bill. Splitting the bill is rare in China, and the process is considered awkward.

… address people by their title and last name, unless asked otherwise.

… shake hands when meeting new people.

… show respect to elders, and acknowledge them before others.

… wear the color red, as it is considered especially lucky.

… take off your shoes when you step into someone’s home, unless asked otherwise.

Don’t...

… expect an easy time crossing the road. Many drivers don’t pay attention to pedestrians.

… stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice; it looks like incense at a funeral, and is therefore a bad omen.

… hit your chopsticks on the side of your bowl; that is how beggars ask for money, so it is considered impolite.

… wear a green hat; it is a sign that your partner has been unfaithful.

… write names in red ink; red ink is used for gravestones and ‘death lists’.

… hug people you don’t know very well; only very close friends can make that kind of physical contact.

… be surprised if you’re served hot water in a restaurant instead of iced; hot water is considered to be beneficial to one’s health.

…. give a clock as a gift, since the word for clock (sòng zhōng/送钟) sounds exactly like the word for ‘attending a funeral ritual’ (sòng zhōng/送终) and is thus considered unlucky.


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