|Home > Learn Chinese > Chinese Etiquette > People and Relationships
Chinese Etiquette: People and Relationships
|Showing 1 to 7 of 20
||<< Prev 1 2 3 Next >>
Chinese Names and Addressing Others
Unlike in the West, Chinese names do not come from a generic "list", but are chosen from random words and phrases used throughout the whole language.
Traditionally it's believed a name will determine the child's fate and prosperity, so many names are associated with happiness, virtue, beauty, nature or even historical events. For example: Ting (graceful), Yan (beautiful), Hua (flower), Jingsong (sturdy spine) or Jianguo (build the country).
Adults who are not family or close friends generally address each other as Mr. Jones, Miss. Wang, etc - the surname with the appropriate prefix (not by their first names).
Nicknames and first names are normally used by family and close friends only. It's impolite to call anyone by either their nickname or first name until you are good friends or given permission to use them.
When writing a name, write with the last name first, then the given name. For example, John Smith would write his name as Smith John. If you read a name Lu Shuna, Shuna is the first name and Lu the last. In this case you would verbally address the person and Miss Lu, not as Shuna until she says otherwise.
Another common practice is to write the family name is capital letters e.g. SMITH John
After marriage, woman keep their maiden names.
Children generally take the father's family name.
In business or formal circumstances it is customary to use the person's business title together with their last name. For example, if Mr. Wang is a manager, he would be addressed as Manager Wang or Jingli (Jeeng-lee) Wang.
Bowing is not a common practice these days. Although not traditional, the Western handshake is now accepted and widely used, but there are a few differences: Keep the handshake brief (physical contact in public is a touchy issue in Asian cultures) and importantly, not too strong. In the West a strong grip is the norm, but not in China - firm, but gentle is expected.
A bow is appropriate when greeting the elderly, particularly when they are unable to stand or accept a handshake. At formal occasions, with large groups of people, bowing is sometimes more practical than
Do not bow unless your Chinese counterpart does first. If so, make a fist with your right hand and cover it with your left. Now shake your hands as if you are about to throw a dice. Bow your head slightly. Do not bow from the waste. This is a Japanese custom and is politically incorrect.
Body Language and Physical Gestures
The most noticeable difference between Western and Eastern body language is personal space: Chinese stand a lot closer than you are used to or comfortable with.
Chinese are not comfortable with physical contact with people who are not family or close friends. Do not hold, hug, back-slap or put an arm around a shoulder.
Chinese do not commonly use their hands to express themselves while speaking.
Pointing with one finger is used when accusing someone of doing something wrong. Don't point with one finger when speaking or during presentations.
Wagging your index finger back and forwards to call a person over is considered rude. The correct way is to open your hand, straighten your fingers with your palm facing down and wave your hand up and down as if waving good-bye. (Use this hand gesture in the same circumstances you would your wagging finger: with friends, at a restaurant, colleagues, etc, but not with your work supervisor or other people of authority.)
Snapping your fingers to get someone's attention or to hurry them up is considered insulting.
Using two hands when offering something to another person is a sign of respect. (You will often see this happen when given a business card. Use two hands to give yours in return)
Don't pat an adult or teenagers on the head, it's insulting.
Laughter and smiling is not always an indication of enjoyment or pleasure. They are also reactions to embarrassment, uncertainty or to relieve tension. These reactions are often misunderstood by Westerners, so if you find you are the object of inappropriate laughter, don't get angry. It doesn't necessarily mean you are amusing or others are being insensitive.
In the West, shushing (sshh) is used as a call for silence. In China, this is a sign of disapproval.
Avoid gestures using your mouth - its considered rude, as is biting your nails or picking food from your teeth. (see more about eating manners in the Meals and Dining category.)
Blowing your nose in public with a handkerchief is acceptable.
Making Eye Contact
In China, making eye contact has completely opposite implications to what it does in the West where it's a show of respect, paying attention or honesty. "Look me in the eye and tell me the truth" or "Look at me and pay attention".
Steady eye contact is inappropriate in China. It can be considered as show of aggression or insubordination, particularly during interaction between juniors and seniors whether socially or in the work place.
For this reason, Chinese often tend to look down when talking.
Initially it is acceptable to make some eye contact and only periodically after that.
Being Asked Personal Questions
Etiquette (how people treat you), is primarily based on your social and economic status.
To determine your status, it's common to be asked questions about your age, family, finances or similar private affairs. This is acceptable, so don't be offended by personal questions that you consider rude or "none of their business".
If you prefer not to answer a personal question, it's better to give one that is vague, but without showing your displeasure or possible anger (sometimes not always easy to do, but remember losing your temper in public is to lose face.)
Modesty and Compliments
Avoid insincere, undeserved or overly elaborate compliments. They cause more damage than good as both you and the other person will lose mianzi (face).
Paying someone a personal compliments is acceptable. Where it's genuinely deserved, it's encouraged (goes to improving the person's face)
When a compliment is given, it is cultural correct to be modest and downplay the praise. One expression used to deflect the praise - and appear to be modest - is to say Nali?, Nali?. Directly translated this means "Where? Where? as in "where is the person you are praising"? (this custom is slowly becoming less used amongst the younger generations).
Making an Apology
Making an apology is a very sensitive issue with the Chinese and should be taken seriously. In many respects it carries far more importance than in Western cultures.
Don't ignore making an apology when one is expected (even if you think otherwise) - your disrespect will not be forgotten.
In many cases a simple, but sincere apology can defuse difficult situations, mistakes or misunderstandings, which has caused embarrassment or loss of face.
Since the Chinese will apologize for things Westerners might normally ignore or consider unimportant, it's sometimes better to eat "humble pie" and make the apology - in the long run it could save you a lot of hassle.
|Showing 1 to 7 of 20
||<< Prev 1 2 3 Next >>