They say it’s unwise to judge a book by its cover. Yet this is exactly what many people do when they look at Chinese people. Being the forerunner of economic and technological revolution, China is home to diverse cultures and traditions, with an ancient history admired by the rest of the world. While other countries evolved through time and absorbed different cultures through the ages, China was able to maintain its own identity. Not surprisingly, Chinese people appear very different to foreigners owing to their unique customs and traditions. If you own a business and aim to enter the Chinese market, chances are you will need to have a knowledge of some of the unique Chinese customs along with having the support of a reliable and professional agency delivering Chinese translation services for an easy transition into this economic and technological giant.
Here are 10 very unique Chinese customs which are found to be different from other countries:
1. Bowing as a Traditional Gesture
One of the gestures deemed unique and different from the rest of the world is bowing. To show respect to someone, Chinese people bow gently as a form of greeting. This traditional gesture is unique in itself as you may not see it in western countries. While the people in western states prefer shaking of hands, Chinese use this gesture in business and formal meetings. However, it is interesting to note that clapping in China depicts driving away demonic spirits instead as a gesture of appreciation or happiness, unlike the rest of the world.
2. Colors Reflect Symbols
In China every color has a traditional meaning for instance black color depicts evil and darkness and is most commonly used by prisoners. White color is used to depict grief, sadness and funerals. Red color brings good luck and power and is therefore considered most conspicuous color in China. It also represents fire.
3. Chinese Tea is a National Beverage
In China, when you are with friends and families, Chinese tea is the thing for you. Many traditional tea houses have been built where you can have infinite supply of tea in your tea cups. The common practice is ensuring all teacups are filled and don’t go empty. Termed as ‘tea-tapping’, this tradition involves visitors tapping the tables as a form of showing gratitude. In fact, it is a custom to never let a teacup go empty.
Tea is the national hot drink of China. In fact, the social status of a person is judged by the way and the type of tea he drinks. As a form of greeting visitors and securing business transactions, it is common to sit down for a tea with the guests.
4. Chop, Chop, Chopsticks!
The placement of chopsticks might be a gesture that is paid little attention by you, but in China, this placement is everything. It is considered bad luck to stick your chopsticks straight upwards after a meal as it depicts an offering to the dead. Moreover, it is highly discouraged to place your chopsticks vertically as it represents the incense used in funerals. Similarly, crossing the chopsticks is also disliked due to superstitious beliefs about offering to the dead. You can put your chopsticks next to your bowl, on your bowl or on the chopsticks rest. It will show that you have finished your meal.
5. Burping is Considered Sign of Gratitude
Ever burped in public and got embarrassed? We have all been there—but in China burping and farting after a meal is a common thing. According to Chinese doctors and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is unhealthy to keep something in your body that wants to get out. In order to show gratitude to host and chefs, Chinese people start burping on the table which is considered to be a sign of satisfaction and gratefulness.
6. A Likeness for Foreigners
Chinese people love foreigners. Their curiosity about visitors from other countries lead them to take photos of these people. Interestingly, you will feel like a celebrity in China as they will keep on asking you to take photos with them. A lot of Chinese families will take your snaps without asking you. This is harmless so don’t forget to enjoy it. However, as most of the Chinese have black hair, foreigners having different colored hair are considered traditionally demonic to them. For example, Dutch people are associated with Buddhist demons owing to their red and orange hair—not a welcome thought if you are a Dutch wanting to take your business to China. You will still need to have the support of a reliable agency for delivering you the best Chinese translation services, though.
7. Eating Strange Foods and Drinking Hot Water
China is famous for its strange meals. In China, the best meal is a carefully balanced mixture of flavor, texture, color and food types. Chinese choose their meals differently—the stranger the animal the costly it gets. This is why it is a tradition to have frog lung, parts of pig, fish eyes, and stomach of a cow, chicken feet and hundred-year old eggs for meal. In fact these are labeled as special foods of China.
It is said that you must eat dumplings in winters otherwise the cold will tear off your ears. This is the reason Chinese throng to markets in winters to eat dumplings every year. Moreover, Chinese people prefer drinking burning hot water as they believe it prevents them from ailments and diseases. Also, it is considered impolite if you don’t drink your wine during business meetings as Chinese businessmen love white wine (known as baiju).
8. Giving Gifts, Refusing gifts and Gifts in Return
When it comes to gifts, who doesn’t like them? Chinese people love to give gifts in house parties and don’t open them until the guests are gone. However, they normally refuse gifts two to three times before accepting them. One must be careful in giving gifts too—a pear is a sign of divorce and separation and should not be gifted. Similarly, gifting umbrella and fans is said to bring bad luck while gifting a clock depicts counting down life span. Birthday gifts are wrapped in red paper or sheet as red symbolizes good luck and wine, cigarettes and sweets are considered ideal gifts on occasions.
9. Face Tattoos and Face Kini (face-mask)
Face is everything in China. Whether it’s a business meeting or an informal one, Chinese people focus on the face. This is why in China face represents social standing, honor and respect. The Chinese believe that these features of the face depict the true personality of a person, along with representation of his entire family. The pale complexion is desired by Chinese people so in 2004, face kinis (face masks) were introduced for the protection of face from jelly fish and sun light tanning on the beaches. Other Chinese go for face paintings and tattoos as they believe it will bring honor to their kin.
10. Spitting Loudly in Public is Common
However disgusting it may seem, spitting is not considered offensive in China. Chinese believe spitting will keep them safe from demons. Although the majority of the Chinese now deem this act unhygienic, many of them still don’t find it offensive to spit in public places.
The Last Word
China is at the forefront of all economic and technological revolutions, and Chinese people are believed to be the best negotiators in the world. Nevertheless, some of the traditions and customs followed by these Chinese may be peculiar and odd for the rest of the world, but are still in practice today. This is why a business seeking to expand in China need to have a thorough knowledge of these Chinese customs and traditions, along with having the support of a reliable Chinese translation service agency for a seamless and effortless transition into the market.