2013 Jan 20 Stop Being So Offensive: Top 10 Don'ts in China
German tourists. They're famous throughout the world for their Boy Scout-like preparedness and curt efficiency. We should all be more like them. So, what kind of advice do Germans get before coming to China? One German travel magazine published some tips that have gotten some buzz in Chinese. The guide, which introduces the concepts of mianzi (reputation) and guanxi (connections), was translated into Chinese, so we thought we'd pay it forward and translate the tips into English. Now you know how to be a German in China. Is the advice actually useful for life in Beijing? You decide when you read on:
1. Don’t criticize others in public when things don’t go smoothly--or even go completely wrong. There is nothing worse than to make a Chinese person feel embarrassed, especially in public.
2. Don’t say “no” directly, even if there seems to be no other solution or options. I know this is really hard, but you will pick up how to refuse politely by watching your Chinese friends.
3. Don’t mess with Chinese people’s noon break, especially when you are dealing with government officials. In Chinese education, students are taught that the noon break is very important to living a long life.
4. Don’t forget to dress up. In China, and many Asian countries in general, if someone is abroad, he or she should dress up out of respect. This is about mianzi.
5. Don’t forget your name card when you are invited to social affairs. Name cards show off a person's class or status.
6. Don’t avoid answering the private questions that Chinese people are throwing at you. In China, salary and marriage status is never something personal. And if a Chinese person asks if you’re still single after your 30s, your answer should be “no.” Otherwise, you might appear pathetic in your Chinese friends’ eyes.
7. Don’t eat all your food in a restaurant. If you wipe your dish too clean, you’ll be seen as being poor in China. Chinese people usually leave a little in their dishes to show that they are not that hungry. Also, it’s the worst curse if you stab your chopsticks in your bowl of rice, so don’t do that under any circumstances! Having dinner together is a good way to gain guanxi, so sometimes you’ll have to pay for the whole table. However, your Chinese companion might fight with you over who should pay for the bill. This, too, is a kind of tradition.
8. Don’t accept an invitation right away. Being invited to someone’s home is a great honor in China. You should at least say “no” once before you accept the invitation, which shows you’ve thought about this invitation and it means a lot to you.
9. Don’t forget the seating chart. In China, people take seating arrangements very seriously because it shows the importance of the guest. You’ll immediately know who the most important guest is once you are familiar with the seating chart. Here’s a tip: the most important seat normally faces the door if you are in a private room of a restaurant.
10. Don’t try to ask the Chinese directions. If you are lost with your map, don’t ask them. Many of them don’t speak English, but they are super friendly. In order to save face, they will try their best to take you to the destination they think you want to go.