Top 9 Things Never to Do in China

Objchina is from Nigeria; he shares his top 9 things that foreigners should avoid doing in China while interacting with the Chinese in order to save them from “certain embarrassment and possibly even outright humiliation.” What do you think about the list?

1. Never get upset in public

Public displays of anger are frowned upon by the Chinese and are most uncomfortable for them to deal with — especially if the people getting angry are foreign tourists, for example. This goes right along with making someone (usually the Chinese host) lose face, which you should avoid at all costs. The Chinese place a premium on group harmony, so foreigners should try to swallow hard, be polite, and cope privately.

portant; float: none;”>2. Never accept a compliment graciously
portant; float: none;”>You may find yourself at a loss for words when you compliment a Chinese host on a wonderful meal, and you get in response, “No, no,the food was really horrible.” They expect you to say works like ” mama huhu(马马虎虎)” or ” Na li, Na li哪里哪里” whenever they tell you words like, “your Chinese is very good” while some will say, “your Chinese is very guda” (No, disrespect but just keeping it real). These people aren’t being nasty…just humble and polite. A little less boasting and fewer self-congratulatory remarks go a long waytowards scoring cultural sensitivity points with the Chinese.
portant; float: none;”>当 你赞美中国朋友厨艺精湛时,在听到中国人的回答“不,不,我做的饭挺难吃”时,一定感到困惑。中国人对你说“你的中文很guda(这样说没有任何的鄙视之 意,只是保持中国人真正的发音而已)”,他们希望你的回答是“mama huhu(马马虎虎)或者Na li, Na li(哪里哪里)”。他们并不是难相处,而只是过分谦虚而已。少一点自夸自擂能让你与中国人保持更长久的关系。

3. Never address people by their first names first

Chinese people have first and last names like everyone else. However, in China, the last name always comes first. The family (and thecollective in general) always takes precedence over the individual. For example, my Chinese name is L? Míng, assuming I am a Chinese, you can safely refer to me as Mr. L? (not Mr. Míng).

Unlike people in the West, the Chinese don’t feel very comfortable calling each other by their first names. only family members and a few close friends ever refer to the man above, for example, as simply “Míng.” They may, however, add the prefix lao (lao; old) or xiao(xiao; young) before the family name to show familiarity and closeness.


4. Never make someone lose face

The worst thing you can possibly do to Chinese acquaintances is publicly humiliate or otherwise embarrass them. Doing so makes them lose face. Don’t point out a mistake in front of others or yell at someone.

The good news is that you can actually help someone gain face by complimenting them and giving credit wher credit is due. Do this whenever the opportunity arises. Your graciousness is much appreciated. For example, “Give a round of applause for Laoshi, for giving us a wonderful lesson today,” THEY LOVE THAT.


5. Never let someone else pay the bill without fighting for it

In the past, I was stunned the first time I witnessed the many fairly chaotic, noisy scenes at the end of a Chinese restaurant meal. The time to pay the bill has come and everyone is simply doing what they’re expected to do — fight to be the one to pay it. The Chinese consider it good manners to vociferously and strenuously attempt to wrest the bill out of the very hands of whoever happens to have it. This may go on, back and forth, for a good few minutes, until someone “wins” and pays the bill. The gesture of being eager and willing to pay is always appreciated.

6. Never show up empty handed

Gifts are exchanged frequently between the Chinese, and not just on special occasions. If you have dinner in someone’s house to meet a prospective business partner or for any other pre-arranged meeting, both parties commonly exchange gifts as small tokens of friendship and good will. Westerners are often surprised at the number of gifts the Chinese hosts give. The general rule of thumb is to bring many little (gender non-specific) gifts when you travel to China. You never know when you’ll meet someone who wants to present you with a special memento, so you should arrive with your own as well.

中 国人经常互送礼物,不仅仅是在特别的场合。如果你要去中国人家里去见未来的商业伙伴或者去参加会议,双方通常会交换象征着友谊长存和美好祝愿的礼物。西方 人在看到中国人送的礼物数量时都会惊呆的。当你到中国旅游时,一般的经验是带点儿小(不限性别)礼物。你不知道你将见到谁,不知道他是否会送你特别的礼 物。所以,你去拜访他时也要带上礼物。
7. Never take the first “No, thank you” seriously

Chinese people automatically refuse food or drinks several times — even if they really feel hungry or thirsty. Never take the first “No, thank you” literally. Even if they say it once or twice, offer it again. A good guest is supposed to refuse at least once, but a good host is also supposed to make the offer at least twice.

8. Never accept food, drinks, or gifts without first refusing a few times

No self-respecting guests immediately accept whatever may be offered to them in someone’s home. No matter how much they may beeager to accept the food, drink, or gift, proper Chinese etiquette prevents them from doing anything that makes them appear greedy or eager to receive it, so be sure to politely refuse a couple of times.

9. Never drink alcohol without first offering a toast

Chinese banquets include eight to ten courses of food and plenty of alcohol. Sometimes you drink rice wine, and sometimes you drink industrial strength Máo Tái, known to put a foreigner or two under the table in no time. One way to slow the drinking is to observe Chinese etiquette by always offering a toast to the host or someone else at the table before taking a sip yourself. This not only prevents you from drinking too much too quickly, but also shows your gratitude toward the host and your regard for the other guests. If someone toasts you with a “gan bei!” you should accept it in a polite way.

“Gan bei” means “bottoms up, or drink all,” and you may be expected to drink the whole drink rather quickly. Don’t worry. You can always take just a little sip instead.

中 国人的宴会会上8至10道菜,随后会上许多酒。有时你喝的是米酒,有时喝的是著名的茅台。茅台酒劲大,外国人很快就会喝醉。一个减缓喝醉的方法就是观察学 习中国人的酒桌礼仪。中国人通常会向主人祝酒,而酒桌上的其他人只会啜饮一下。这不仅会放慢你喝酒的速度,也能显示你对主人以及酒桌上其他人的尊重。如果 有人和你干杯,你应该起身与他干杯。