known as a state of etiquette and ceremonies. Many proverbs have
been passed down from generation to generation such as 'civility
costs nothing' or 'courtesy demands reciprocity' and so on. For
instance, there is an interesting short story. Once upon a time,
a man went on a long tour to visit his friend with a swan as a
gift. But it escaped from the cage on the way and in his effort
to catch it, he got hold of nothing but a feather. Instead of
returning home, he continued his journey with the swan feather.
When his friend received this unexpected gift, he was deeply
moved by the story as well as the sincerity. And the saying 'the
gift is nothing much, but it's the thought that counts.' was
spread far and wide.
to cup one hand in the other before the chest as a salute. This
tradition has a history of more than 2000 years and nowadays it
is seldom used except in the Spring Festival. And shaking hands
is more popular and appropriate on some formal occasions.
Bowing, as to convey respect to the higher level, is often used
by the lower like subordinates, students, and attendants. But at
present Chinese youngsters tend to simply nod as a greeting. To
some extent this evolution reflects the ever-increasing paces of
It is common
social practice to introduce the junior to the senior, or the
familiar to the unfamiliar. When you start a talk with a
stranger, the topics such as weather, food, or hobbies may be
good choices to break the ice. To a man, a chat about current
affairs, sports, stock market or his job can usually go on
smoothly. Similar to Western customs, you should be cautious to
ask a woman private questions. However, relaxing talks about her
job or family life will never put you into danger. She is
usually glad to offer you some advice on how to cook Chinese
food or get accustomed to local life. Things will be quite
different when you've made acquaintance with them. Implicit as
Chinese are said to be, they are actually humorous enough to
appreciate the exaggerated jokes of Americans.
As is said
above, Chinese consider gifts as an important part to show
courtesy. It is appropriate to give gifts on occasions such as
festival, birthday, wedding, or visiting a patient. If you are
invited to a family party, small gifts like wine, tea,
cigarettes, or candies are welcomed. Also fruit, pastries, and
flowers are a safe choice. As to other things, you should pay a
little attention to the cultural differences. Contrary to
Westerners, odd numbers are thought to be unfortunate. So
wedding gifts and birthday gifts for the aged are always sent in
pairs for the old saying goes that blessings come in pairs.
Though four is an even number, it reads like death in Chinese
thus is avoided. So is pear for being a homophone of separation.
And a gift of clock sounds like attending other's funeral so it
is a taboo, too. As connected with death and sorrow, black and
white are also the last in the choice. Gift giving is unsuitable
in public except for some souvenirs. Your good intentions or
gratitude should be given priority to but not the value of the
gifts. Otherwise the receiver may mistake it for a bribe.