Things not to do in China
There are several things that should not be done when visiting a country. In China, there are quite a few things one should learn before visiting the country and there are things one should absolutely not do in China. Below lay a few tips one should know before visiting the Asian superpower.
- Never addresses people by their first names.
Chinese people have their first and last names like everyone else. However, in China, the last name always comes first. The family (and the collective in general) always takes precedence over the individual. John Allan is South Africa is known as Allan Joe (or the equivalent) in Shengzen. If a man is introduced to you as Xiao Xi, you can safely refer to him as Mr. Xiao (not Mr. Xi).
Unlike people in the West, the Chinese don’t feel very comfortable calling each other by their first names. Only people very close to them like family are given privilege to do so.
- Never drink alcohol without first offering a toast.
Chinese dinners include eight to ten courses of food and plenty of wine. One way to slow the drinking is to observe Chinese manners 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 “gân bçi,” (gahn bay) however, watch out.
Gân bçi means “bottoms up” and you may be expected to drink the whole drink rather quickly. Don’t worry. You can always say “shuí yì” (shway ee; as you wish) in return and take just a little sip instead.
- Never show up empty handed.
It’s common cutesy to give gifts to visitors, known or unknown. 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. When attending Chinese events one notices that Chinese people always arrive with gifts to give to their hosts. 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.
- Never get angry 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 is one thing you should not to do in China, as it taken as very offensive.
- Don’t expect much English.
You need to familiarise yourself with Mandarin when travelling in China. In some cities you’ll hear a lot, but most will be the same three phrases over and over. If you really need English help, look for a high school student or a businessperson — they’ve often got the right mix of skill and inclination. Learn how to say ni hao (hello).
Avoid coming across as being rude or unfriendly by reading our guide on tips of what not to do in China before visiting the country or having Chinese guests over.