Chinese Culture


There are 56 recognized ethnic groups in China. A majority of the groups follow Buddhism, but even they vary considerably in cultural customs of marriage, family celebrations, burial rites, etc. Buddhism generally promotes a policy of compassion and non-injury towards living creatures. Though some historical evidence suggests Buddha did not shun meat-eating entirely, some schools of Buddhism prohibit meat-eating. However, Buddhists do not usually refuse any type of food offered to them nor do they show preference for any particular food because they are taught to shun “desire.” Please check back in Sept., 2014 for our update of these resources.

Chinese Culture Protocol
Chinese Culture
Gesture and Behaviors Additional Information
1. Addressing Chinese people by first or last name only Use the appropriate forms “Mr.,” Mrs.,” “Miss,” and/or “Ms.” When the Chinese give their names, it is difficult to be sure whether it is in the Chinese form (Family name first) or the American form (Family name last). Traditionally, the Chinese give their family name first. In America, however, most Chinese are used to the American way of using first name first. Many Chinese have also adopted American names for easy everyday usage.
2. Using direct eye contact to indicate interest in the other person’s conversation This is considered impolite by the older generation of Chinese women and by other Asian cultures including Japan. Eye contact is considered polite in the U.S. and in most Arab cultures. In America, most Chinese people have adapted to this except, perhaps, for the elderly and very shy.
3. Smiling as part of greeting In Asian cultures, smiling may indicate confusion or embarrassment rather than pleasure. Never assume that a smile means understanding or agreement. If the matter is important, pursue it with the help of an interpreter.
4. Shaking hands Considered acceptable by the Chinese.
5. Bowing as a greeting Bowing is more common in Korean and Japanese culture than in Chinese. It indicates greeting and respect. A slight nod of the head and shoulders is customary. Some older generation of Chinese may still prefer bowing, but most Chinese are now used to shaking hands in China and in America.
6. Keeping “social distance” appropriate; it is closer in Chinese culture than in American culture. A westerner may back up, and instinctively the Chinese person may step closer. This is not threatening; it merely indicates interest in the other person’s viewpoint.
7. Gushing with “thank you” is not appropriate Accepting and giving direct praise may be considered poor etiquette among the elderly, but not in the second generation of Chinese Americans.
8. Passing an item to someone with the left hand Extremely offensive in the Middle and Far East including Japan. In China, handing and receiving items like business cards etc. with both hands is highly regarded and perceived as a sign of respect for the other person.
9. Beckoning with finger meaning “come here” Considered offensive in the Middle and Far East including Vietnam, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan. It is best to use the whole hand with fingers pointing downward and waving slightly. Using hand gestures while talking is considered poor etiquette in China. Many people from the older generation of Chinese prefer to stand with their hands loosely clasped behind their backs when standing in formal settings.
10. Pointing with the index finger meaning “look at that” Considered rude when pointing at people in the Middle and Far East, in parts of Asia and Russia, but okay when pointing at some object. An open hand should be used instead for pointing at people.
11. Entering a home with shoes on In China and some Far Eastern countries, such as India, it is considered disrespectful. If possible, remove shoes and/or apologize to the home owner.
12. Tapping lightly on the table with two fingers while being served food and while engrossed in conversation In Southern China and Hong Kong during conversation at a business dinner or lunch, it is a subtle way of indicating appreciation to the server, and is a substitute for “thank you.”
13. Doing business with Chinese “The Chinese usually do not like to do business with strangers.” “….Whenever possible, try to use an intermediary known by both sides to make the first contact. Chinese prefer to be introduced to someone new and may seem unusually formal to Americans. It is best to stand when being introduced and to remain standing throughout the introductions.” [ Adapted from this website ]