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9 don’ts you should keep in mind in China

1. Never get upset in public 不要当众生气

Public displays of anger are frowned upon by the Chinese and are most uncomfortable for them to deal with — especially if the people getting angry are foreign tourists, for example. This goes right along with making someone (usually the Chinese host) lose face, which you should avoid at all costs. The Chinese place a premium on group harmony, so foreigners should try to swallow hard, be polite, and cope privately.

2. Never accept a compliment graciously 不要慷慨接受别人的恭维

You may find yourself at a loss for words when you compliment a Chinese host on a wonderful meal, and you get in response, "No, no, the food was really horrible." They expect you to say works like " mama huhu (马马虎虎)" or " Na li, Na li 哪里哪里" whenever they tell you words like, "your Chinese is very good" while some will say, "your Chinese is very guda" (No, disrespect but just keeping it real).

These people aren't being nasty . . . just humble and polite. A little less boasting and fewer self-congratulatory remarks go a long way towards scoring cultural sensitivity points with the Chinese.

3. Never address people by their first names first 不要一见面就直呼其名

Chinese people have first and last names like everyone else. However, in China, the last name always comes first. The family (and the collective in general) always takes precedence over the individual. For example, my Chinese name is L? Míng, assuming I am a Chinese, you can safely refer to me as Mr. L? (not Mr. Míng).

Unlike people in the West, the Chinese don't feel very comfortable calling each other by their first names. Only family members and a few close friends ever refer to the man above, for example, as simply "Míng." They may, however, add the prefix lao (lao; old) or xiao (xiao; young) before the family name to show familiarity and closeness. Lao L? (Old L?).

4. Never make someone lose face 不要让他人丢面子

The worst thing you can possibly do to Chinese acquaintances is publicly humiliate or otherwise embarrass them. Doing so makes them lose face. Don't point out a mistake in front of others or yell at someone.

The good news is that you can actually help someone gain face by complimenting them and giving credit where credit is due. Do this whenever the opportunity arises. Your graciousness is much appreciated. For example, "Give a round of applause for Laoshi, for giving us a wonderful lesson today" THEY LOVE THAT.

5. Never let someone else pay the bill without fighting for it 不要不抢单就让他人买单

In the past, I was stunned the first time I witnessed the many fairly chaotic, noisy scenes at the end of a Chinese restaurant meal. The time to pay the bill has come and everyone is simply doing what they're expected to do — fight to be the one to pay it. The Chinese consider it good manners to vociferously and strenuously attempt to wrest the bill out of the very hands of whoever happens to have it. This may go on, back and forth, for a good few minutes, until someone "wins" and pays the bill. The gesture of being eager and willing to pay is always appreciated.

6. Never show up empty handed 见面不要空手

Gifts are exchanged frequently between the Chinese, and not just on special occasions. If you have dinner in someone's house to meet a prospective business partner or for any other pre-arranged meeting, both parties commonly exchange gifts as small tokens of friendship and good will. Westerners are often surprised at the number of gifts the Chinese hosts give. The general rule of thumb is to bring many little (gender non-specific) gifts when you travel to China. You never know when you'll meet someone who wants to present you with a special memento, so you should arrive with your own as well.

7. Never take the first "No, thank you" seriously 别把"不了,谢谢"太当回事儿

Chinese people automatically refuse food or drinks several times — even if they really feel hungry or thirsty. Never take the first "No, thank you" literally. Even if they say it once or twice, offer it again. A good guest is supposed to refuse at least once, but a good host is also supposed to make the offer at least twice.

8. Never accept food, drinks, or gifts without first refusing a few times 不要不拒绝就接受食物、饮料或礼物

No self-respecting guests immediately accept whatever may be offered to them in someone's home. No matter how much they may be eager to accept the food, drink, or gift, proper Chinese etiquette prevents them from doing anything that makes them appear greedy or eager to receive it, so be sure to politely refuse a couple of times.

9. Never drink alcohol without first offering a toast 先说"干杯"再喝酒

Chinese banquets include eight to ten courses of food and plenty of alcohol. Sometimes you drink rice wine, and sometimes you drink industrial strength Máo Tái, known to put a foreigner or two under the table in no time. One way to slow the drinking is to observe Chinese etiquette by always offering a toast to the host or someone else at the table before taking a sip yourself. This not only prevents you from drinking too much too quickly, but also shows your gratitude toward the host and your regard for the other guests. If someone toasts you with a "gan bei!" you should accept it in a polite way.

"Gan bei" means "bottoms up, or drink all," and you may be expected to drink the whole drink rather quickly. Don't worry. You can always take just a little sip instead.

Source: China Daily – Objchina (Nigeria)


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