China dos and don’ts

China dos and don’ts
UPDATED: 10 Dec 2015 217 Views

China may be changing fast, but it’s still a highly traditional society. Showing respect for local customs will make your travels more pleasant for you and those around you. Here’s some tips to help you avoid a gaffe.


  • remove your shoes when entering a Chinese home or temple
  • greet the eldest person in a Chinese family first, as a sign of respect
  • beckon someone by waving them over to you with your palm down. Don’t point or use your finger (this gesture is used for dogs).
  • present things to people with both hands, to show that what you’re offering is the fullest extent of yourself
  • be effusively thankful if someone gives you a gift, then set it aside to open later, to avoid appearing greedy
  • be prepared for random people approaching to you and asking to practice their English
  • keep calm when dealing with officials, especially if tense situations arise. Getting angry or raising your voice will create only an ugly, face-losing situation for all.
  • eat what your host offers and orders, including alcohol; it’s rude to refuse
  • touch your glass below that of the eldest person in the group when toasting – the eldest (aka wise one) holds his/her glass highest
  • fill your companion’s tea cup when it’s empty, especially if your companion is older than you
  • eat all of the rice in your bowl – some Chinese believe it’s bad luck to leave even a single grain behind
  • say how much you love watching Yao Ming play in the NBA (when he’s healthy)
  • prepare yourself to see animals treated very differently than you’re used to back home
  • be punctual. Being on time shows respect for others.
China dos and don'ts
China dos and don’ts


  • write anything in red ink unless you’re correcting an exam. Red ink is used for letters of protest.
  • leave your chopsticks upright in your bowl or tap your bowl with them
  • point the bottom of your shoes/feet at someone
  • shake your feet, lest you shake away all of your luck.
  • touch someone’s head (it’s sacred)
  • give clocks or books as gifts. The phrase ‘to give a clock’ in Mandarin sounds too much like ‘attend a funeral’ and ‘giving a book’ sounds like ‘delivering defeat.’
  • make political comments like ‘boy, didn’t Mao kill a lot of people’ unless your new pals take the lead. Many Chinese remain huge Mao fans, as proven daily by the lines at his mausoleum.
  • make out with your beau – limit your PDAs, lovebirds.
  • be offended when asked if you’re married – and if you’re over 30 and single, say yes, lest you be pitied
  • give too much attention to an object someone else has; they may feel obligated to give it to you
  • wear your Free Tibet t-shirt unless you want a LOT of attention
  • Use those pretty gold/silver papers for western décor.  It’s for spiritual/cultural Chinese rituals.
  • freak out if you don’t know what to do. When in doubt, simply watch what the Chinese people do and follow suit.
China dos and don'ts
China dos and don’ts
Tags : China