Social Taboos and Common Customs in China

Every culture has its own rules on what is acceptable and what is not. This list will detail these customs in China. There is nothing better than experiencing a culture first hand – that doesn’t, however, mean that one should not take the time to read and learn about what is expected before going. This will prevent embarrassing situations, and help natives feel more comfortable around you, so that you can learn the intricacies of the culture. In addition, taking the time to read about what is expected will help you avoid getting in trouble or seriously offending someone.

Addressing Peers

When addressing someone for any reason, it is expected that you address them with their official title. If they hold a position, such as ‘General’, then refer to them as that. If they do not, however, or if you are unaware of their position, you should refer to them as Mr./Mrs./Ms plus their last name. Don’t call them by their first name unless invited to do so.

How to Act

Every culture has its rules on how you are to act, and China is no different. In China, to greet someone, you nod your head, or you bow slightly. Handshakes are also common, but you should wait for your Chinese partner to initiate the motion.

Don’t Touch

This is common in many Asian countries, and is the direct opposite of those found in Western society. Chinese people do not enjoy being touched by strangers. Don’t touch someone unless you absolutely have to.

Respect the Elders

As a Confucian rules, the elders are to be respected in every situation by those who are younger. You should always acknowledge the elder in a group first, and show the most respect to that person.

Keep Your Hands out of Your Mouth

Putting your hands in your mouth is considered to be vulgar in Chinese culture, and should not be done. This includes biting your nails.

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