Chinese Manners Daily Life and Business Manners

Hao Zhuo.

Daily Life
China is known as a state of etiquette and ceremonies. Many proverbs have been passed down from generation to generation such as 'civility costs nothing' or 'courtesy demands reciprocity' and so on. For instance, there is an interesting short story. Once upon a time, a man went on a long tour to visit his friend with a swan as a gift. But it escaped from the cage on the way and in his effort to catch it, he got hold of nothing but a feather. Instead of returning home, he continued his journey with the swan feather. When his friend received this unexpected gift, he was deeply moved by the story as well as the sincerity. And the saying 'the gift is nothing much, but it's the thought that counts.' was spread far and wide.

Chinese used to cup one hand in the other before the chest as a salute. This tradition has a history of more than 2000 years and nowadays it is seldom used except in the Spring Festival. And shaking hands is more popular and appropriate on some formal occasions. Bowing, as to convey respect to the higher level, is often used by the lower like subordinates, students, and attendants. But at present Chinese youngsters tend to simply nod as a greeting. To some extent this evolution reflects the ever-increasing paces of modern life.

It is common social practice to introduce the junior to the senior, or the familiar to the unfamiliar. When you start a talk with a stranger, the topics such as weather, food, or hobbies may be good choices to break the ice. To a man, a chat about current affairs, sports, stock market or his job can usually go on smoothly. Similar to Western customs, you should be cautious to ask a woman private questions. However, relaxing talks about her job or family life will never put you into danger. She is usually glad to offer you some advice on how to cook Chinese food or get accustomed to local life. Things will be quite different when you've made acquaintance with them. Implicit as Chinese are said to be, they are actually humorous enough to appreciate the exaggerated jokes of Americans.

As is said above, Chinese consider gifts as an important part to show courtesy. It is appropriate to give gifts on occasions such as festival, birthday, wedding, or visiting a patient. If you are invited to a family party, small gifts like wine, tea, cigarettes, or candies are welcomed. Also fruit, pastries, and flowers are a safe choice. As to other things, you should pay a little attention to the cultural differences. Contrary to Westerners, odd numbers are thought to be unfortunate. So wedding gifts and birthday gifts for the aged are always sent in pairs for the old saying goes that blessings come in pairs. Though four is an even number, it reads like death in Chinese thus is avoided. So is pear for being a homophone of separation. And a gift of clock sounds like attending other's funeral so it is a taboo, too. As connected with death and sorrow, black and white are also the last in the choice. Gift giving is unsuitable in public except for some souvenirs. Your good intentions or gratitude should be given priority to but not the value of the gifts. Otherwise the receiver may mistake it for a bribe.

Business Manners

As more and more foreign corporations and individuals go to tap the Chinese market, it is better to know some Chinese practices in business contacts and negotiation beforehand.

When the establishment of initial business contacts is referred, introduction letters may be the first ready answer for those who are familiar with the old system of planned economy. The purchasing agent had to take an introduction letter made out by the factory director when getting into touch with other factories. After the policy of opening to the outside world was adopted, more convenient ways emerged. You can establish contacts by phone, fax, email and more and more Chinese corporations have set up their own websites. After the first phase, an investigation to the company in person may show your sincerity to cooperate.

When negotiation is entered, the right of decision-making often depends on who are present at the meeting. In most cases, verbal communications are enough. Too many gestures may leave others an impression of arrogance. As to eye contact, when you speak, looking into others' eyes will do, for cultural differences puts a limit on it. And you'd better not take the Chinese nod for agreement; it's only a sign that they are listening attentively. Chinese prefer formal meetings, but after that is usually a dinner together to show their hospitality. However some Westerners think it a waste at public expense. One piece of advice may be 'Do as the Chinese do.' When you become acquaintance with the Chinese partner, a private lunch meeting or dinner at home is a good opportunity to know each other.

In China you should not be surprised to see many business women taking up positions like director, general manager, president and etc. They play such an important role in the society as to 'prop up half of the sky.' Generally speaking, career women demand no more respect than men. But they will particularly appreciate the gentlemanly manners.

Chinese think punctuality is a virtue and try to practice it especially in the business world. Chinese usually tend to come a bit earlier to show their earnestness. And it would not be regarded as being late if you come within 10 minutes.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: