Chinese culture

There are over a billion people living in China and of those 91.9% are of Han Chinese origin. Other nationalities living in China include Mongol, Korean, Buyi, Manchu, Hui Yi, Tibetan, Zhuang and Uygur. There are also strong expat communities in China, particularly in larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The main religions in China are Daoist/Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian.

China is run by a communist government.

In China ‘Face’ (which translates roughly as respect/honour/reputation) is very important. There are four main types of face. Diu-mian-zi is where one’s actions have been revealed to others, Liu-mian-zi is where mistakes are avoided and wisdom is shown, Gei-mian-zi involves bestowing respect on others, and Jiang-main-zi is where the deeds of others increases your own face. Losing face is to be avoided at all costs.

As a nation there is a real emphasis placed on the obligations people have to others based on the relationship they share. This is called Confucianism and there are five types of relationships it mainly affects; Ruler and Subject, Parents and Children, Husband and Wife, Brothers and Sisters and Friend and Friend. It is believed that society can only remain strong if harmonious relations between individuals are maintained through loyalty, respect for seniority, duty, honour and filial piety.

Generally speaking the Chinese operate as a collective society on both business and personal levels and disgracing or embarrassing others is greatly frowned upon.

In China much import is attached to non-verbal communication. In order to assess how someone else feels tone of voice, posture, facial expression and gesture are commonly examined. Impassive expressions are usually adopted during conversations and looking into another person’s eyes is thought to be disrespectful.

Greetings are generally quite formal and the oldest person is always the first to be greeted. Often you should address a new acquaintance by their surname and honorific title.  You should not move on to addressing them on a first name basis until you are told to.

If you plan on giving a gift in China you should bear in mind the fact that flowers, handkerchiefs, straw sandals and clocks are associated with death and funerals. Scissors and knives meanwhile indicate the severing of a relationship. Also, whilst eight is a lucky number in the nation and gifts involving 8 are welcomed as bearers of good fortune, four is unlucky. Gifts should also be given with two hands.

As a general rule the Chinese prefer entertaining in public spaces so an invite to a Chinese person’s home should be treated as an honour. Shoes should usually be removed as soon as you enter the house and the guest of honour is often seated so as to be facing the door. Table manners are a matter of tradition in China and there are some rules that it’s best not to break. Food is usually served on a large, communal scale. If you are unsure whether the food is going to be dished up then wait – if everyone else starts helping themselves it’s probably okay for you to do the same. Chopsticks should be used to eat with, but they shouldn’t be played with!

When it comes to business the Chinese prefer to deal with companies they know which can often mean working through an intermediary. Once a relationship is established building on it can take some time. Although gender bias in practically non-existent in business matters rank is extremely important and must always be kept in mind. In the main the Chinese perceive foreign workers not as individuals but as representatives of their company and in China business matters and social occasions are fairly strictly separated.