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Streetsmart > Etiquette


Young Beijingers on Wangfujing
  1. Greeting People

    Shaking hands is commonplace and certainly considered the norm with foreign visitors. The usual Chinese greeting is “Ni hao,” which means “How are you?” or “Nimen hao” in its plural form, to which you reply “Ni hao” or “Nimen hao.”

  2. Personal Questions

    Although unfailingly polite, Chinese people will not blanch at asking you how much you earn, how old you are, or whether you are married. Such questions are seen as nothing more than taking a friendly interest in a new acquaintance.

  3. Exchanging Business Cards

    When proffering business cards, the Chinese do so using the fingertips of both hands, and receive cards in the same manner. For businessmen a good supply of cards is essential, preferably with English on one side and Chinese on the reverse.

  4. Face

    Although reserved in manner and expression, the Chinese also harbor strong feelings of personal pride and respect. The maintenance of pride and avoidance of shame is a concept known as “face.” Loss of face creates great discomfort and major embarrassment for the Chinese, so although you may occasionally become frustrated by the incompetence of hotel staff, it is never a good idea to embarrass anybody in public.

  5. Places of Worship

    Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian temples are relaxed about visitors wandering about, but you should be considerate toward worshipers and the resident monks, and refrain from sticking cameras in their faces. You need to dress more respectfully for mosques – avoid wearing shorts or short skirts, and cover your upper arms.

    Monk at the Lama Temple
  6. Staring

    The Chinese habit of staring can be a little annoying. This sort of behavior is normally encountered in smaller towns and rural areas, but you also come across it in Beijing, since the city attracts a lot of migrant workers and peasant tourists. However, the intent is never hostile. Foreigners may also be asked to pose in photo-graphs with the locals.

  7. Tipping

    The Chinese do not tip. so neither should you, and that goes for guides, bell boys, taxi drivers, and anyone else. In China the price you agree for the service is the one you pay, although some restaurants in larger hotels now routinely add a service charge. Away from hotels and tourist areas waitresses will pursue you down the street to return the change they think you’ve forgotten.

  8. Begging

    China’s imbalanced economic progress and huge population of rural poor have resulted in large numbers of beggars, especially in Beijing and other big cities. Foreign visitors are associated with wealth and naturally attract lots of attention, and groups of children are often sent by their parents to extract money. The best strategy is to ignore them and walk away.

  9. Political Discussion

    Avoid political discussion altogether. Most Chinese are uncomfortable hearing criticism of their leadership or nation. At the same time, they are quite happy to have a go at other countries, often to the point where you might feel provoked. Don’t respond. Far better to just change the subject.

  10. Chinese Names

    The Chinese will usually state their last name first, followed by the given name. For example, Zhang Yimou, in Chinese would be Mr. Yimou Zhang using the Western style.


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