As the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” It is so true that every country and region has their own unique culture of manners. And as I randomly browsed through Quora and Reddit, I surprisingly found that quite a few people are asking, “What kind of behaviors are considered impolite in China and polite in other countries?”

I have to say that some of the answers I already knew, for example a Chinese host should pay for the dinner bill, but others did amuse me, as I, a Chinese, thought these manners should be universal. But it turns out that only a few Asian countries “obey such rules.”

I have chosen to share with you my own experiences as well as netizens’ contributions. I hope this article will serve as a useful guide for visitors who are planning to come to China.

Those who have just arrived in China may find themselves unaware of typical Chinese manners. Photos: IC

The “Don’ts”

1.Search through the whole dish with your chopsticks. Chinese people prefer to share one dish of the same plate, which shows a close relationship. It is impolite if one repeatedly only selects his favorite food. If you don’t like the food that is nearest to you, use your eyes to find your favorite and go directly for it before others notice.

2.Tap the glass if you want to propose a toast. While it is common to tap your glass with a spoon or a fork when proposing a toast, the sound is considered to be a beggar’s way of begging for food from others, and so does tapping bowls with chopsticks. The best way is to just stand up, raise your glass and your voice a little bit to get people’s attention. Also, never raise your glass higher than the person’s glass you are toasting unless they are much younger than you.    

3.Walk into someone’s apartment with your shoes on. Take off your shoes and change into a pair of slippers offered by the host. This is the first rule you need to keep in mind if you visit a Chinese person’s home. No matter how well behaved you are in their homes, their attention will always be on your dirt-covered shoes that make their morning cleaning a pain. Even if you don’t want to wear their slippers, wearing your socks is better. 

4.Take a shower in the morning. This gives Chinese the impression that you sleep with all the dirt, sweat, dandruff and bacteria on your body.

5.Be too straightforward. Chinese value the beauty of implicit gestures. If you are offering something to Chinese people, most of them will say, “No, thank you.” And if you insist on offering or you just go and offer, your politeness is checked. The same rule is also applied when you are being offered something. Don’t accept the first time they propose an offer. 

6.Call new acquaintances by their given name. Chinese given names are reserved only for close friends or family members. If you do call Chinese people by their given names, you will be regarded as either disrespectful to others or conspiring to do something bad. Address people with Ms, Mr or their professional title with their surname if you want to show politeness. For example, “Ms Wang,” “Teacher Zhang” or “Dr Guo.” If people are older than you and you don’t know their professions, address them like a family member followed by their surname, such as “Brother Li” or “Uncle Zhao.”