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Home > China Travel Guide> Custom and Etiquette > Respect the Culture Difference and Customs

Culture Difference and Customs

Culture Difference and Customs

[an error occurred while processing this directive] When presenting a business card or any other important piece of paper, it is always considered polite to hand it with both hands at the same time, with the thumbs and index fingers holding either side of the document.

If you smoke (and even if you don't), it is always considered polite to offer a cigarette to those you meet, as long as they are of adult age. This rule applies almost exclusively to men, but under certain circumstances, such as a club, bar or tea house, it is OK to apply the rule toward women, particularly in the larger, more cosmopolitan cities. If someone offers you a cigarette and you don't smoke, you can turn it down by politely and gently waving your hand. The same applies to alcoholic drinks or food offered during a meal. An alternative to the alcohol drink tip is to turn your "wine" cup upside down (if it is empty!) and place it on the table in such manner, but do this with a smile. Note: When toasting, it is best to look directly in the eyes of those you are toasting with. Keep in mind that although the Chinese love to drink copious amounts of alcohol, public drunkenness is frowned upon. If you see some people getting or being obnoxiously drunk in public, by no means think that it is OK -- it isn't.

Try to avoid political topics, as they usually lead nowhere and can even cause problems. Many Chinese hold to their beliefs quite rigidly and it is rather rare to find a politically open mind. Those who are open and knowledgeable about political issues, tend to keep such ideas to themselves and those very close to them, so don't expect a quick breaking of the ice in this field. To a lesser extent, topics of history are met with a similar attitude. On the other hand, religious topics are easier to discuss. Note: Do not discuss Tibet or Taiwan political issues unless you fully agree with the policies of the PRC regarding these matters, as they are almost invariably met with varying degrees of hostility.

It is usually best to spit the bones found in food directly on the table or a small plate for such purpose, or skillfully take them out with your chopsticks and place them there, rather than using your fingers. This may be totally unacceptable to most people from other countries but it is the rule in China. Sticking your chopsticks into your rice and leaving them there is considered taboo, as it is reminiscent of sticks of incense burning at a shrine or funeral and therefore you are seen to be wishing death upon the people at the table. Also, if someone clears his/her throat and spits on a restaurant floor, accept it, as it is also very common indeed throughout most of the country.

A small gift taken to a host's home is always very welcome.

As a traveller, you may find that your language, color of hair and skin, behavior, and manner of dress will draw long and sustained stares, especially in rural areas or outside the major cities. While there is a great deal of diversity in China, it is also true that in some areas people have little or no contact with people outside of their village or social circle. Do not be put off by this fact or you may spoil your own time in China.

The Chinese tend to be very concerned about correct behavior and "saving face", and also tend to be very conscious of social status. Pointing out mistakes or failings, even for innocent and/or justified reasons, may cause intense humiliation and embarrassment for the person on the receiving end. This does not mean that you have to accept a significant error or mistake that has a negative effect on you; it means that if you must point out a problem or give criticism, do so in the most polite (but firm) manner that you can.


Tipping is not necessary and often considered an inappropriate gesture, but under certain rare circumstances — such as a doorman allowing you into a building at a late hour — a tip is welcome. (A ¥1 tip would suffice for the above example.) The exceptions to this rule are in upscale businesses where you are rendered some type of service.

Taxi drivers do not require tips. If the meter says 8.30 and you hand him a 10 yuan note, expect two in change. However, in areas such as Beijing that are heavily touristed the drivers are now used to tips and some even ask for them.


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This article is based on information from an article on Wikitravel contributed by Anonymous and is distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0

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