Chinese Culture Tips for Foreigners
Today, China is a highly advanced country with a population of more than 1 billion people. This implies that it has hundreds of cultures and traditions. Therefore, if you are planning to visit China, you should learn some of the Chinese cultures. For instance, if you’re looking forward to closing a business deal, you should learn basic Chinese gestures, what eye contact in Chinese means, the Chinese business etiquette, and more.
Just like other cultures, the Chinese take body language seriously. For example, holding hands in China is taken very seriously especially when in public. Did you know that it’s not polite to back-slap someone in public or put your hands on a friends shoulder in China? Well, here are some Chinese culture facts that you should observe.
Culture of Chinese: Eye Contact
Eye contact is the most subtle forms of social interaction in many cultures. However, you should never underestimate the power of eye contact. Now that you are planning to visit China, this is what you should know. Asian cultures, especially the Chinese traditions, are very strict when it comes to respect.
In China, eye contact is not very important when it comes to social interactions. In fact, it’s considered inappropriate. Subordinates are not allowed to make steady eye contact with their superiors. For example, a daughter is at least traditionally expected to point her eyes downwards when her father is speaking, while students are discouraged from making eye contact with their professors. In countries like China, there is often a great divide between the urban and rural populace which makes it difficult to generalize.
Chinese Body Language:
When it comes to linking arms, the Chinese culture is no different from Western culture. Linking or crossing arms as a defensive shield that blocks the outside world, even if that is not the intent.
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Linked arms can indicate a form of anxiety which is triggered by a lack of trust in the other person, internal discomfort or feeling vulnerable. In China, crossing your arms in front of other people makes them feel rejected.
The Chinese people don’t use gestures often as they regard a lot of hand movement as excessive. Here are some things you should know about the do’s and dont’s of gestures in China:
- Tugging on the earlobe and both thumbs up signify excellence.
- Whistling and winking are considered rude.
- A raised and outward-pointing pinky finger imply that something is of poor quality or someone is not very good at something.
- If you want to get someone’s attention and tell them to come to you, just place your palm down and move your fingers towards you. However, it’s impolite to use this gesture with older people. Never use your finger.
- Make eye contact and bow slightly to gain someone’s attention. This is the most polite way.
Chinese Culture Facts and Traditions
The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China. It’s the first day of a new year in the Chinese lunar calendar. During this time, almost everything is shut down so you should take a look at the Chinese calendar when scheduling business meetings.
When it comes to Chinese Art, Chinese calligraphy is very essential. The Chinese characters, which date back to over 3000 years, are pictures of objects representing their meaning. The Oracles is the origin of Chinese characters. Chinese mythology states that Cang Jie invented Chinese characters.
Chinese food is also very famous. The roast duck and noodles with bean paste in Beijing, to dim sum in Hong Kong are just some of the great dishes you can find.
The Lucky Numbers and Colors in China
According to Chinese traditions and culture, there are certain colors that are considered lucky. This is because their pronunciations are similar to words that have lucky meanings. This is why Chinese people select lucky numbers when choosing telephone numbers, business addresses, residencies, wedding dates, etc. Here are some facts about lucky numbers and colors:
- Even numbers are always preferred over odd numbers
- Number 8 signifies wealth, success, prosperity or social status.
- When it comes to business, if the day has a 6, the business will be successful, and a 9 signifies permanence.
- Red, green, and yellow are lucky colors.
Eating and Drinking in Chinese Traditions
If you want an enjoying and mind-broadening cultural experience, you should try eating and drinking in China. For instance, eating in China is more of a communal activity. Food is ordered dish-by-dish which is shared by everyone on the table. Unlike in Western culture where it’s considered rude to place elbows on the dining table, Chinese culture doesn’t have a problem with this. You should also expect to use chopsticks – there are often no forks or knives.
Most foreigners in China have a hard time keeping up with the many ‘rules’ of Chinese etiquette. However, things aren’t that complicated. Take a look at the following:
- Upon meeting, shake hands. In some cases, a Chinese may bow or nod instead of shaking hands.
- Greet the oldest person first before others. If you want to introduce a group, line up according to seniority – the head should be at the start of the line.
- The Chinese don’t like to be touched by strangers. Therefore, refrain from holding hands, hugging, back slapping or initiating any form of body contact.
- According to the Chinese, you shouldn’t blow your nose in a handkerchief and return it to your pocket. It’s considered vulgar.
- Never point with your index finger. Point with an open hand.
What about the Chinese business etiquette?
- The Chinese expect you to always to be prepared so you should have enough copies of your proposal for everyone.
- Try your best to establish a friendship before closing the deal.
- Always show up on time. Remember that you need the Chinese to close your deal.
- Know how well your hosts understand English or the language you intend to use during the business meeting. You might also learn a few Chinese words.
- Never set up a business meeting on a holiday, especially the Chinese New Year.
Learning the Chinese traditions will not only open your mind but will make you a better person. Keep in mind that the seniors or elders are the most respected persons in Chinese culture.