Customs and Etiquette
(taken from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/china-country-profile.html )
Facts and Statistics
Location: Eastern Asia bordering Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia
(northwest) 40 km,
Tajikistan 414 km,
Vietnam 1,281 km
Climate: extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in
Population: 1,298,847,624 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu,
Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
Religions: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Muslim 1%-2%, Christian
Government: Communist state
The Chinese Language
Chinese is a family of closely-related but mutually unintelligible languages.
These languages are known variously as f¨¡ngy¨¢n (regional languages), dialects
of Chinese or varieties of Chinese. In all over 1.2 billion people speak one or
more varieties of Chinese.
All varieties of Chinese belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages and
each one has its own dialects and sub-dialects, which are more or less mutually
Why not learn some useful Manadarin or Cantonese phrases before your visit?
Chinese Society & Culture
The Importance of "Face"
. The concept of 'face' roughly translates as 'honour', 'good
reputation' or 'respect'.
. There are four types of 'face':
1) Diu-mian-zi: this is when one's actions or deeds have been
exposed to people.
2) Gei-mian-zi: involves the giving of face to others through
3) Liu-mian-zi: this is developed by avoiding mistakes and
showing wisdom in action.
4) Jiang-mian-zi: this is when face is increased through others,
i.e. someone complementing you to an associate.
. It is critical you avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all
Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations
of people towards one another based upon their relationship. The basic tenets
are based upon five different relationships:
. Ruler and subject
. Husband and wife
. Parents and children
. Brothers and sisters
. Friend and friend
Confucianism stresses duty, sincerity, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect
for age and seniority. Through maintaing harmonious relations as individuals,
society itself becomes stable.
Collectivism vs. Individualism
. In general, the Chinese are a collective society with a need for group
affiliation, whether to their family, school, work group, or country.
. In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at
all times and will not do anything to cause someone else public embarrassment.
. They are willing to subjugate their own feelings for the good of the
. This is often observed by the use of silence in very structured
meetings. If someone disagrees with what another person says, rather than
disagree publicly, the person will remain quiet. This gives face to the other
person, while speaking up would make both parties lose face.
. The Chinese' Non-verbal communication speaks volumes.
. Since the Chinese strive for harmony and are group dependent, they rely
on facial expression, tone of voice and posture to tell them what someone
. Frowning while someone is speaking is interpreted as a sign of
disagreement. Therefore, most Chinese maintain an impassive expression when
. It is considered disrespectful to stare into another person's eyes. In
crowded situations the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy.
Chinese Etiquette and
. Greetings are formal and the oldest person is always greeted first.
. Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners.
. Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone.
. Address the person by an honorific title and their surname. If they want
to move to a first-name basis, they will advise you which name to use.
. The Chinese have a terrific sense of humour. They can laugh at
themselves most readily if they have a comfortable relationship with the other
person. Be ready to laugh at yourself given the proper circumstances.
Gift Giving Etiquette
. In general, gifts are given at Chinese New Year, weddings, births and
more recently (because of marketing), birthdays.
. The Chinese like food and a nice food basket will make a great gift.
. Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they indicate
the severing of the relationship.
. Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals as they are
associated with funerals and death.
. Do not give flowers, as many Chinese associate these with funerals.
. Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper.
. Four is an unlucky number so do not give four of anything. Eight is the
luckiest number, so giving eight of something brings luck to the recipient.
. Always present gifts with two hands.
. Gifts are not opened when received.
. Gifts may be refused three times before they are accepted.
. The Chinese prefer to entertain in public places rather than in their
homes, especially when entertaining foreigners.
. If you are invited to their house, consider it a great honour. If you
must turn down such an honour, it is considered polite to explain the conflict
in your schedule so that your actions are not taken as a slight.
. Arrive on time.
. Remove your shoes before entering the house.
. Bring a small gift to the hostess.
. Eat well to demonstrate that you are enjoying the food!
. Learn to use chopsticks.
. Wait to be told where to sit. The guest of honour will be given a seat
facing the door.
. The host begins eating first.
. You should try everything that is offered to you.
. Never eat the last piece from the serving tray.
. Be observant to other peoples' needs.
. Chopsticks should be returned to the chopstick rest after every few
bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
. The host offers the first toast.
. Do not put bones in your bowl. Place them on the table or in a special
bowl for that purpose.
. Hold the rice bowl close to your mouth while eating.
. Do not be offended if a Chinese person makes slurping or belching
sounds; it merely indicates that they are enjoying their food.
. There are no strict rules about finishing all the food in your bowl.
Tipping Etiquette:Tipping is becoming more commonplace,
especially with younger workers although older workers still consider it an
insult. Leaving a few coins is usually sufficient.
Business Etiquette and
Protocol in China
Relationships & Communication
. The Chinese don't like doing business with companies they don't know, so
working through an intermediary is crucial. This could be an individual or an
organization who can make a formal introduction and vouch for the reliability
of your company.
. Before arriving in China send materials (written in Chinese) that
describe your company, its history, and literature about your products and
services. The Chinese often use intermediaries to ask questions that they would
prefer not to make directly.
. Business relationships are built formally after the Chinese get to know
. Be very patient. It takes a considerable amount of time and is bound up
with enormous bureaucracy.
. The Chinese see foreigners as representatives of their company rather
than as individuals.
. Rank is extremely important in business relationships and you must keep
rank differences in mind when communicating.
. Gender bias is nonexistent in business.
. Never lose sight of the fact that communication is official, especially
in dealing with someone of higher rank. Treating them too informally,
especially in front of their peers, may well ruin a potential deal.
. The Chinese prefer face-to-face meetings rather than written or
. Meals and social events are not the place for business discussions.
There is a demarcation between business and socializing in China, so try to be
careful not to intertwine the two.
Business Meeting Etiquette
. Appointments are necessary and, if possible, should be made between
one-to-two months in advance, preferably in writing.
. If you do not have a contact within the company, use an intermediary to
arrange a formal introduction. Once the introduction has been made, you should
provide the company with information about your company and what you want to
accomplish at the meeting.
. You should arrive at meetings on time or slightly early. The Chinese
view punctuality as a virtue. Arriving late is an insult and could negatively
affect your relationship
. Pay great attention to the agenda as each Chinese participant has his or
her own agenda that they will attempt to introduce.
. Send an agenda before the meeting so your Chinese colleagues have the
chance to meet with any technical experts prior to the meeting. Discuss the
agenda with your translator/intermediary prior to submission.
. Each participant will take an opportunity to dominate the floor for
lengthy periods without appearing to say very much of anything that actually
contributes to the meeting. Be patient and listen. There could be subtle
messages being transmitted that would assist you in allaying fears of on-going
. Meetings require patience. Mobile phones ring frequently and
conversations tend to be boisterous. Never ask the Chinese to turn off their
mobile phones as this causes you both to lose face.
. Guests are generally escorted to their seats, which are in descending
order of rank. Senior people generally sit opposite senior people from the
. It is imperative that you bring your own interpreter, especially if you
plan to discuss legal or extremely technical concepts as you can brief the
interpreter prior to the meeting.
. Written material should be available in both English and Chinese, using
simplified characters. Be very careful about what is written. Make absolutely
certain that written translations are accurate and cannot be misinterpreted.
. Visual aids are useful in large meetings and should only be done with
black type on white background. Colours have special meanings and if you are
not careful, your colour choice could work against you.
. Presentations should be detailed and factual and focus on long-term
benefits. Be prepared for the presentation to be a challenge.
. Only senior members of the negotiating team will speak. Designate the
most senior person in your group as your spokesman for the introductory
. Business negotiations occur at a slow pace.
. Be prepared for the agenda to become a jumping off point for other
. Chinese are non-confrontational. They will not overtly say 'no', they
will say 'they will think about it' or 'they will see'.
. Chinese negotiations are process oriented. They want to determine if
relationships can develop to a stage where both parties are comfortable doing
business with the other.
. Decisions may take a long time, as they require careful review and
. Under no circumstances should you lose your temper or you will lose face
and irrevocably damage your relationship.
. Do not use high-pressure tactics. You might find yourself outmanoeuvred.
. Business is hierarchical. Decisions are unlikely to be made during the
meetings you attend.
. The Chinese are shrewd negotiators.
. Your starting price should leave room for negotiation.
What to Wear?
. Business attire is conservative and unpretentious.
. Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
. Women should wear conservative business suits or dresses with a high
. Women should wear flat shoes or shoes with very low heels.
. Bright colours should be avoided.
cards are exchanged after the initial introduction.
. Have one side of your business card translated into Chinese using
simplified Chinese characters that are printed in gold ink since gold is an
. Your business card should include your title. If your company is the
oldest or largest in your country, that fact should be on your card as well.
. Hold the card in both hands when offering it, Chinese side facing the
. Examine a business card before putting it on the table next to you or in
a business card case.
. Never write on someone's card unless so directed.
Links and Information about China
* Currency - the currency of China is the Yuan. Use the
free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for China.
* Translation Services - do you need a Chinese translation service?
* News - check out all the latest Google news on China.
* Intercultural Know-how - use the Intercultural Business Communication tool or read doing business in China.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code
for China is +86.
* Time - China is +8 hours GMT. Get the time in China now.
* History - read about the long and rich history of China.
* Management - for information about being a manager in China visit the
free Management in China guide.
* Quiz - test your knowledge of Chinese etiquette and culture
with the Doing Business in China Quiz!
* Hotels - for accomodation see Hotels in China.