Some Chinese Etiquette

Pulling a case from his robe, Victory Jiaxiang Yu bowed as he held out his business card with both hands. I had remembered reading somewhere that business cards in China should be accepted with both hands so I did so awkwardly. I had to consciously tell myself not to automatically take his card casually with one hand.

At that moment Warveni Jap, a member of the marketing and international business faculty at Thompson Rivers University, walked over and introduced herself. I did the same thing to accept her card.

Once the card swap was complete I decided to ask about some common etiquette in China. Warveni told me about these things:

-removing shoes is a sign of respect for the house.

– China is a gift giving culture, so gifts are used to show respect and say thank you often.

– It’s OK to skirt around receiving gifts, but they must be accepted in the end. To not accept them would be rude. What I mean by that is it’s fine to say, “oh you shouldn’t have, I can’t accept this, I don’t deserve a gift” etc. as it’s common to do in Canada.

– It’s not OK to open the gift in front of the giver (unless they prompt you).

– If you are unsure whether to shake someone’s hand or bow, bowing is safe.

– Allow the senior of the group to be introduced first.

– It’s bad manners to introduce yourself (not really sure what you would do if you are alone with a new person).

– When people in China do not like something they will not say so. It’s common for them to keep offenses to themselves. (When I asked how I would know then if I did something wrong or rude, Jap said I should find a friend who is comfortable with me and she/he will inform me and lead me through the works.)

– And finally, because Chinese citizens don’t tell their grievances they are generally forgiving of non-Chinese mistakes (because, how could we know!).

I skipped through some Google collected sites on Chinese etiquette and stumble upon this website. It has some extra guidelines if you are planning a trip to China.

However, the best thing is to have a friend native to the region guide you. China is a big place and things change from region to region as this awesome photographer, Tom Carter, showed in his photo series China: Portrait of a People. Here’s a glimpse of the series featured by In Focus.

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