If you are visiting China for leisure or a business trip and you don’t want to piss off the Chinese people, you need to observe Chinese business etiquette and culture. Unlike most cultures, the Chinese people observe a lot from people during business or casual meetings. For instance, there are some manners to follow when you’re in China; Chinese gift giving etiquette, Chinese social etiquette, a Chinese etiquette dining, Chinese bowing etiquette and more.

Chinese Business Etiquette and Culture

Any business located in China heavily relies on personal relationships. This is why you should have some good contact with the locals. As a westerner, it’s essential to note that Chinese culture and business etiquette are very different from the ones in your home country.

Practicing and knowing some common customs will not only increase the success of your business but will also prevent you from embarrassment and unwanted tension. Here are some useful tips for foreign businesspersons in China.

Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette

The only one rule that surpasses all the other tips is; never be late for a business meeting and know who’s the boss. You should also ensure that you don’t schedule your meetings on national holidays, especially the Chinese New Year.

What do the Chinese people expect from you?

  • You should be well-prepared for the meeting. Therefore, make sure that you have at least 20 copies of your proposal and any presentation material should be in white and black. Avoid other colors.
  • Before closing any deal, the Chinese prefer establishing a healthy relationship first. Therefore, you might have to meet up several times.
  • At the beginning of the meeting, small talk is critical.
  •  Ensure that you maintain composure during Chinese business meetings. Being too emotional could have an adverse impact on the business negotiation.
  •  Even though they don’t like it when you’re late, the Chinese have the habit of extending talks far beyond the agreed deadline to gain some advantage. Therefore, be ready for delays and don’t mention any deadlines.
  •  Even though handshakes are common, wait for your Chinese counterpart to initiate it.
  • Titles of Courtesy require for people to be addressed with a title followed by their last name.
  • Try to avoid political-related discussions such as human rights, animal treatment and Cultural Revolution.

Chinese business gift giving etiquette

In China, you just don’t wrap a gift and offer it to your Chinese business partner. You should master Chinese gift giving etiquette while wrapping and choosing the present. This will prevent you from offering the dreaded “Gift of Death”. Chinese societies offer gifts during holidays, birthdays, and special events and official business meetings. The general guidelines of giving personal or business gifts in China include:

  • Today’s Chinese business official policy forbids the giving of lavishing gifts. This gesture is considered an act of bribery and it might be declined.
  • If the gift is for an individual, the giving should be done privately in a friendship context.
  • Gifts for an entire company can be accepted in China only when; all business negotiations are concluded, and the one offering the gift has specified is from his/her company. Ensure that the gift is presented to the leader of the Chinese negotiating team.
  •  Never wrap the gift before arriving in China as it might be unwrapped in Customs.
  •  For major holidays such as the Chinese New Year, observe the colors and numbers. Avoid plain white, blue and black. The best choices are gold, yellow and red as they symbolize prosperity and wealthy. Number four should be avoided as it’s very close to death. Eight is considered to be the luckiest number in China.

Keep in mind that the monetary value of the gift depends on two things; the occasion and your relationship to the recipient.

The Chinese Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts

Whether you are observing the Chinese bowing etiquette or Chinese social etiquette, there are some general do’s and don’ts that everyone should know.

The Do’s

  •  Greet the oldest person first as this symbolizes respect. Grownups are to address by their honorific family title relationship or family name.
  • During a toast, tap the table twice and if it’s more formal, stand up.
  •  Sample all the dishes during formal or banquet occasions.
  •  Present your gift with both hands.
  • Even numbers are always considered good luck.
  • Keep calm when dealing with government officials. Getting angry or raising your voice will not help you out.
  • Always be on time. This shows respect for others. Never be late for more than 10 minutes.

The Don’ts

  • According to the Chinese etiquette dining tips, chopsticks should not be placed upright in your bowl. This symbolizes death.
  • Don’t unwrap the gifts when receiving them. Open them after you leave. If you can’t wait, simply ask “Can I open it?”
  • Don’t overreact when asked personal questions such as age, family, income or marital status.
  • Don’t take pictures of elderly people without their permission.
  •  Unlike in western countries, you shouldn’t hug, back slap or put your arm around someone’s shoulder. This will make the Chinese feel uncomfortable.
  •  Don’t disrespect temples or homes.

What about the Chinese Dining Etiquette?

If you’re a guest in a Chinese home, you should ensure that you observe the Chinese table manners. While eating in China, you are expected to behave in a civilized manner. Ensure that you pay close attention to the table manners. For instance, you should let older people eat first or start eating when an elder says “let’s eat.”

Pick up your bowl. Ensure that your thumb is on the mouth of the container while the index, middle and ring fingers support the bottom of the bowl. It’s also very important to consider others. Take the foods closest to you rather than those in the middle of the table. Using your chopsticks to dig through food is considered bad manners.


There are hundreds of other rules concerning the Chinese business etiquette and culture. Ensure that you visit Laowai’s Career social media pages and blog for more tips especially if you are a foreigner. Remember, it’s not always too late to apologize in China. Just don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Also, learning a few Chinese words will build a strong relationship in any business meeting.