Top Tips When Meeting People in China
During your stay at the Omeida Chinese Academy, you’re going to meet a lot of people. Many of these will be international students like you. Others, especially when you’re out and about in your free time, will be native Chinese speakers. There are some basic rules and formalities covering etiquette when you meet Chinese people. So, here we’re going to give you some top tips when meeting people in China which we’re pretty sure you’ll find useful.
Use appropriate body language
Let’s start with meetings and greetings. When you meet a Chinese person that you’ve never been introduced to before, it’s important that you’re on your best behaviour! You should smile at your new acquaintance and, if you wish, offer a slight bow in greeting. Don’t worry – you’re not meeting the Queen of England, so over-elaborate bows or curtsies are not necessary, but being formal and polite most certainly is.
If you’re meeting people in China with whom you are planning to do business, you would ordinarily be offered a handshake by your Chinese acquaintance. However COVID-19 has, for the time being, put a stop to this, so for the moment a nod will suffice. When life fully returns to normal, and handshaking resumes, do remember that it’s your Chinese counterpart who initiates the handshake, not you! And when shaking hands resumes, don’t shake hands too tightly. This can be perceived as aggressive and won’t get things off to a great start.
Greet them in Chinese
A handy top tip when meeting people in China is to greet them with a few basic Chinese words, so start with “你好” (nǐ hǎo – hello), or “很高兴认识你” (hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ – Nice to meet you). Your Chinese counterpart will be charmed! The more you learn Chinese, the more you will be able to connect through courteous communication.
Bring the right gift
Oftentimes, when you’re meeting someone in China, you’ll want to offer a small gift as a gesture of friendship. Whatever you do, don’t present a new acquaintance with the gift of a clock! Clocks signify either parting or death, so this would be a disastrous way of introducing yourself. And don’t give a Chinese person four of anything. There’s a good reason for this. Four is an unlucky number in China as its pronunciation is similar to the pronunciation of the Chinese word for death! When you present your gift, offer it with both hands. In Chinese culture, this is considered polite. Don’t be surprised or upset if the person to whom your offering the gift initially refuses it. This is perfectly normal. Offer the gift again and it will be accepted graciously.
Take off your shoes before entering
Another tip when meeting people in China is bear in mind that practically nobody wears shoes in their homes. So, if you’re invited into the home of a Chinese person, remember to take off your shoes. This is a must do, not a suggestion. Your host will almost certainly have several pairs of slippers for guests. So no matter how odd it may feel wearing someone else’s shoes, go along with this out of courtesy. Especially as wearing nothing at all on your feet is even more frowned upon than not taking your shoes off!
Don’t be late
When you’re meeting people in China, you must be punctual. If you’re attending a meeting, whether it’s for business or pleasure, be sure to arrive on time. No matter how well acquainted you may have become with a Chinese person, being late will cause offence, so be sure you’re at the meeting point at the agreed time.
Mind your table manners
When you’re eating with Chinese people, there are a number of rules that simply have to be followed. If there’s a toast, be sure to join in. And if everyone else stands up, stand up too, especially if it’s a formal gathering. It’s considered polite to try a little of every dish you are served, but always leave a little food on your plate in honour of your hosts’ generosity. Assuming that you’re using chopsticks, don’t tap them against your bowl as this is considered rude. And don’t use the chopsticks with which you are eating to help yourself to food from communal dishes.
Personal questions are OK
Top tip when meeting people in China – don’t be surprised if your new Chinese friend asks, what you may consider, quite personal questions. It’s perfectly normal in China for someone to enquire about your age, whether or not you’re married, what you do for a living or even how much you earn.
Don’t write in red ink
And finally, we’ll sign off with this rather unusual suggestion. Don’t write in red ink! Never ever write someone’s name in red, as only the names of the dead are written using red ink. Red is also considered a signal of criticism and is reserved for teachers marking the work of their students. So, the only time you should see red ink used is on the homework from your Omeida Chinese Academy teacher!