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We had a wonderful time in Tibet. We have learned a lot about this unique destination because of the wonderful guide Degyi who is so knowledge and always available towards our tours. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa, and we would never imagine a Tibet travel could be so nice and amazing without the help of Degyi.

Also, thanks a lot to our Tibetan driver Mr.Wongdun for his safe driving and a good sense of service along the way.

We shall return Tibet in the near future!

P.B. and A. A - Europe
Tibet Travel

June 2018 (Private Tibet Journey from Kathmandu)



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  You are here: Home > China Trip Planner > Chinese Culture > Etiquette in China
Etiquette in ChinaInformation on Guanxi (Connection or Relationship), Gift Giving, Business Cards, Smoking, When in Public, Banquets in China.

Guanxi (Connection or Relationship)
Guanxi is extremely important in China. We have the same thing in the West: you're looking for a job and so you write letters to some alumni from the university you went to, or your parents might call up an old friend; you use your guanxi, or contacts, to help you. In China, however, guanxi goes way beyond a simple means of aiding you in a job search; it is a way of life, and everyone uses it and depends upon it to get anything they need or want. So you're considering going to graduate school? Well, then, you'd better start buttering up the dean of the department you'd like to enter. Hopefully, you have enough money to buy him gifts of foreign cigarettes, imported fruit, or maybe a bottle of expensive brandy, because otherwise your chances are very slim. This system of using guanxi is apparent in all aspects of life in China, from buying hard-to-come-by train tickets, to obtaining a foreign exit visa. Don't necessarily think of it as bribery or corruption or you'll go insane-you might look at it as admitting the reality of how the system works, especially in a country of such an impossibly dense population. Be aware that the system of guanxi is the way to get by in China and you're not going to change that alone. You may well get caught up in it yourself: why did that nice young woman give you a silk scarf yesterday, for example? Did she say something about wanting to study abroad? Then again, you really need a train ticket to Shanghai for next week; maybe that businessman you've been tutoring in English for free could help you out? Be careful about developing guanxi in China, and remember that it works both ways.

Gift Giving
It's traditional to bring a gift when invited to someone's home. Usually fresh flowers or fruit are your best bet (the number eight is considered lucky, so eight apples or eight oranges is a good idea) or, of course, anything from home. The more expensive the gift, the more respectful, but don't go over the top or you'll embarrass your hosts, who may feel the need to bankrupt themselves to return your generosity. Don't be surprised when, if your gift is wrapped, it is placed somewhere prominent all evening and not unwrapped until after you leave (your hosts might look greedy and ungrateful if the gift were opened too hastily and in front of you). It is also courteous to bring something back from traveling-just a token gift is fine. But be sure to be fair with your gift-giving: don't give something nicer to the secretary in the office than to the dean of the college, and don't give gifts to one group of students and not another-they'll find out, you can bet on it. Often, it's better to give something that can be shared, like food.

Business Cards
It's a good idea to have these made up for yourself as soon as you have an address; it's cheap and easy to do almost everywhere in China. Get a friend to give you a Chinese name, and get your name and address printed in Chinese on one side, English on the other (double-check the English spellings-there are almost always errors!). Get a lot made, as everyone will want one. Use both hands to give and accept business cards to show respect.

Men in China smoke. Smoking is good for business; how better to break the ice and establish common ground upon which to build a relationship than to exchange cigarettes? Women do not smoke; it is bad for them. Don't ask why smoking is good for men and bad for women, because in China it just IS, and if you want to start an anti-smoking or equal-smoking lobby on your own, good luck to you. If you are male, expect to be offered cigarettes as a preface to developing a friendly relationship. If you smoke, offer cigarettes yourself-doing so will endear you to your new Chinese friends; however, declining an offered cigarette isn't a big deal as long as you are gracious about it.

In recent years, however, smoking has been forbidden in many public places and as a result smoking is less prevalent than it used to be.

When in Public
The Chinese are sometimes considered as modest and shy - this is partly due to a cultural concept known as 'Mianzi'. It basically refers to the 'Face', in the context of 'saving face' or 'losing face' and one's status. Self-respect and courtesy is also very important in Chinese culture, so politeness, modesty and a degree of control over public displays of emotion are considered as virtuous. The Chinese may appear quite introverted and aloof when meeting for the first time. Try not to assume that this is a sign of unfriendliness or hostility - it is, in fact, a sign of respect.

You may notice that the Chinese don't use their hands to emphasize words or a point when talking. So when conversing, refrain from exaggerated gesticulations and overtly emotive or strange facial expressions. You should also never try to argue, shame, embarrass or demean someone in public in China -  it's considered extremely undignified and discourteous. If you have an issue that needs resolving, make sure it's done with a more formal approach and in private.

If you're out and about in public, don't be surprised to see a lot of same-sex handholding. This is fairly common in China - however be aware that public displays of affection are frowned upon, and any displays of affection between the same sexes are not at all tolerated.

In public and social situations, try not to put your hands in your mouth, as this is thought to be quite crude. Whistling is really disliked, as is nail biting. Also, try not to point with your index finger - use an open hand instead. It's thought to be bad social etiquette to show the soles of your feet and pick your teeth after eating.

If you're living in China you're bound to be invited to a banquet sooner or later , whether it is a welcome banquet, a goodbye banquet, a banquet to celebrate International Women's Day, a banquet to show off how rich you are in front of a foreigner, or for any semi-plausible excuse. It will probably start at 6pm and you shouldn't be late. Dress is casual as always in China, but try to look nice and don't wear shorts. Dishes will arrive in turn, starting with the lighter dishes and ending with the heavy, starchy dishes (rice, noodles, steamed buns) near 8pm. In between there will be much toasting and downing of beer or, if you're really unlucky, rice wine (otherwise known as jet fuel). You should try to stagger yourself by eating a little from each dish and complimenting each in turn with something like, "This is delicious!" or, "I've never tasted such good fish!" Exaggerate wildly-you cannot lay it on too thick. Near the end of the meal you should declare yourself full, "chi bao le!" and then give in to pressure to eat a little more. Then say you're REALLY full, "hen bao," that you'll never eat again, that you'll be sick if you eat another mouthful, and so on. Around eight, the banquet will end and everyone staggers home - there is no after-dinner chitchat normally.

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