Some Social Etiquette You Should Know As An Expat In China

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When working and living in a new country, understanding the local social etiquette matters very much. Learning Chinese social etiquette can help you get along with Chinese people in harmony, establish a good relationship with them, and make you have a pleasant and unforgettable experience.



Although it takes a while to master Chinese, you should learn some basic greetings, such as "Hello" (ni hao), "Goodbye" (zai jian) and "Thank you" (xie xie ni). And there will be different social etiquette on different occasions:

Informal occasions: smiling and saying "hello"

Formal occasions: say "hello" and shake hands

(In particular, when you are invited to a family gathering of a Chinese friend, you should greet the eldest person first to show your respect.)


[Recommended Reading: 10 Unique Cultural Facts in China You Should Know ]



After learning the basic greetings, you ought to consider the content of the conversation next. Unlike Western countries, people are used to talking about topics such as weather, sports and politics, while Chinese people usually involve some private information in conversation, such as your age, income and whether you are married. But if you feel a little offensive or feel uncomfortable talking about your private life, you can politely decline to answer. Besides, you should avoid discussing politics with Chinese people, especially sensitive topics such as the border conflict in Tibet and the Hong Kong issue.

In addition, the Chinese are relatively humble, but they are willing to give compliments in conversations. They often praise expats like "Your Chinese is very good!" Westerners are used to accepting compliments and expressing gratitude, but in China, the correct answer is "I still have a lot to learn." to show your humility.


Eating Out

You are likely to be invited by China to their home for dinner, so it’s necessary for you to know some dining etiquette. Take off your shoes before entering the house and put on the slippers the host handed you; prepare some gifts for the host, but avoid sending clocks and umbrellas, which symbolize death and parting respectively; receive anything the host gives you with both hands; do not insert chopsticks upright into your rice or use them to knock the bowl for they are extremely impolite.

If you are invited to a restaurant, the bill is generally paid by the host rather than shared equally by everyone. The host and the guest usually argue about who will pay the bill before paying it, and you are able to politely propose a request to pay the bill, but remember to make the host the one who pays the bill in the end.



At any time, let your Chinese friends lose face ("mian zi" in Chinese), especially in public. Publicly refuting their views or pointing out their mistakes will make them feel humiliated, which may destroy the good relationship between you. As a teacher, remember not to correct a classmate’s mistakes/problems in front of the class and you’d better make suggestions in private to protect his/her “face” and pride.

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