Travel & Culture

Chinese Etiquette

Chinese themed party

Chinese etiquette – How to behave with the Chinese.

Chinese manners are different. Their acceptable behavior may come across as overly practical and hospitable. But you have to love them for it!

Knowledge of some Chinese business or dining etiquette would help if you are going to any area with Chinese people. This page is written for the general Chinese culture, which may not be limited to China-only communities.

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Chinese Etiquette

Chinese Dining Etiquette

The first and most important Chinese etiquette to know is Chinese dining etiquette. Why? Because food is very important to them. The Chinese are one of the world’s most adventurous about food. (The Japanese are serious contenders though.)

Most Chinese socialize during meals. Dinners are the highlight of Chinese families. Every celebration or festivity is centered around food.

Food are shared from communal plates set in the middle of a big round table. You’ll either use serving spoons or your chopsticks, whichever is provided to pick the foods to be eaten from the center of the table with your bowl of rice.

See also Good Chinese Table Manners:

Before you eat, all should be seated and wait to start. The children or the youngest of the table generally show their respect and show good Chinese etiquette by ‘asking their elders to eat’. They may say, “Grandfather, grandmother, please eat (start),” and followed by, “Mom, Dad, please eat”. Then the elders will smile and indicate to everyone by slightly raising his chopsticks, “Everybody, eat!” And that’s when the meal starts.

Chinese themed party

A Chinese dinner is very festive. Fine dining Chinese restaurants are not like your other fine dining restaurants where the quieter it is, the more refined and superb the food is expected to be. In large expensive world-renown restaurants, you’ll still find the festive (read noisy) table full of laughter, sound, chatter by the Chinese people in the restaurant.

They let go and let loose sometimes. (Which explains very noisy Chinese wedding dinners and more so if there is alcohol). This is acceptable Chinese etiquette.

See more of Chinese Dining Etiquette

Chinese Etiquette

When It Comes To Who Picks Up The Tab

Can Be Applied As Chinese Business Etiquette

In the most genteel Chinese society, there is no such thing as “going Dutch”. To go “Dutch” is considered bad etiquette. If you are invited to dinner, your dinner will usually be paid for by the host.

That is what I really like that about the Chinese manners and the Chinese culture. They show hospitality to the max and I can say they are the most hospitable people in the world. I find myself enjoying to repay the favor.

Chinese dinners are usually large in numbers, and yet, the tab is usually picked up by one person.

Often there is a “fighting to pay the bill” going on when the bill comes. In fact, if you are dining people who are familiar with Chinese etiquette, this happens all the time. This friendly ‘bickering’ or ‘arguing’ (in the most positive sense) over who pays the bill is considered VERY GOOD MANNERS, as bizarre as it may sound.

Usually the host will win the ‘fight’, but as a guest, it’s good to put up a struggle a little, even if it is for show. If there is no “fighting”, your host family will not think you are rude, but this “wanting to pay the bill for everyone” is a show of appreciation and gratitude.

Generally this does not apply if the person you are dining with is at least one to two generation older than you (10-20 years). It is understood that the person more senior usually picks up the tab. Even if it’s just a few years of difference. I could never let my younger brother (younger by three years) pay for me, up to now.

But of course, if you are the host, generally picking up the tab is good Chinese etiquette. Just the same if we are invited to dinner by our parents, no matter how old we are, the dinner will be paid by our parents.

Beware though, there is an unspoken rule as ‘social debt’ in Chinese culture. If you are constantly being invited for dinner by the same people. YOU MUST repay the favour but asking them out to dinner and PICKING up the tab. If you don’t, your invitations by the host will cease.

This is ‘paying for your guest’ thing is especially important when it comes to business functions and business entertaining especially if you do business or network with the Chinese (or anyone from Chinese culture). If you are seeing a client, you’ll have to pick up the tab.

Chinese Etiquette

Greetings the Chinese

Generally, people say hello and ask you if you have eaten.

“Hi how are you?”, followed by, “Have you eaten?”

Food is very important to a Chinese person or a person of Chinese culture. If you haven’t eaten, they would make sure that you are fed first.

Hugging or kissing on the cheek is not expected though some will oblige the more western influenced.

Some Chinese who grew up in Anglo-Chinese cultures, will hug and kiss on the cheek like everyone else.

Chinese Etiquette

Business Greetings the Chinese

  • Shake Hands.
  • Say hello and ask if they have eaten.
  • Do not hug or kiss on the cheek. Never!
  • Bowing is not needed.

Please continue to Chinese Etiquette Page Two

You might also be interested in:

  • International Business Etiquette

  • Business Meal Etiquette

  • Chinese Manners

  • Chinese Dining
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