China holds a lot of mystique for many travellers, as an exotic eastern land, with a completely different language, alphabet system and culture. these differences can make it quite daunting, especially when it comes to communicating. Whether you speak Chinese or not, it’s important to remember that non-verbal communication is just as important as language, and there are huge cultural differences when it comes to body language and gestures that make up this other realm. of language. Make sure you don’t needlessly offend the locals by avoiding these rude gestures while in China!
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1. large and excessive hand movements
Chinese people tend to be conservative in their gestures and avoid making a lot of hand movements. if you’re a person who likes to talk with your hands, try to keep your tone down while you’re in china so you don’t annoy the locals.
2. getting sensitive
Sensitivity and physical affection are not common in Chinese culture. do not try to hug or kiss strangers, pat them on the back, or reach out and touch them. even handshakes are considered too delicate, although this is changing thanks to trade relations with the West. To greet someone in China, especially someone you don’t know, simply nod your head slightly and don’t try to impose any physical contact. wait to see if the Chinese person initiates a handshake, as some will extend their hand to Westerners, but don’t be the first to offer yours.
The flip side of this is that the Chinese tend not to have the same respect for personal space that you might be used to in public areas. this applies to queuing, being on public transport, etc. however, this is more something that has come about due to population density, with people used to sharing tight spaces.
3. pointing the finger
If you want to gesture to someone or call them, don’t point your finger at them. this is considered quite rude. instead, point with an open hand. this also applies to using your finger to call or wave to someone. rather make eye contact and nod your head to avoid causing discomfort.
4. winking and whistling
While you may see winking as a friendly or flirtatious gesture, whatever you do, don’t wink at a Chinese person. this is seen as a vulgar gesture. the same applies to whistles. stop whistling, either to get attention or just to mindlessly whistle a tune.
5. making gestures with the feet
It is considered rude to point your feet at someone. as you cross your legs, check the direction your feet point. also, do not put your feet on a table, or make any kind of gesture to the people who are with them.
6. take a business card with one hand
If someone offers you a business card, always take it with both hands. after receiving it, be sure to examine it in front of the person before putting it away. this is considered the correct and respectful way to receive a business card. ideally, then you would give your own business card in return.
7. point your chopsticks
China takes chopstick etiquette seriously. they are strictly for eating and should not be used to point to people or things, or to be played with at the table. also, don’t stab the food with the chopsticks so that they stand on the plate; this is considered a bad opening. use your chopsticks the right way to eat (or to the best of your ability!) and when you’re done, place them on top of your bowl.
If you find the prospect of these cultural differences daunting, remember that your own culture has many cultural quirks that others find strange. Making the effort to respect these disparities will always be appreciated!