Chinese Culture ABC

Names and Addressing

In a Chinese name, family name comes first, then given name. Wives in China do not adopt their husbands' family names. Among Chinese, a formal way to address a person is to use his or her title and last name. For a person who doesn't have a title, use "Mr.", "Mrs.", "Miss", plus his or her last name. A casual way to greet people regardless of gender is to add terms like lao (old), xiao (young) before the family name.

Public Behavior

Handshakes are popular in China. While meeting elders or senior officials, your handshake should be even gentler and accompanied by a slight nod. Embracing or kissing when greeting or parting is highly unusual. Public displays of affection between the sexes are frowned upon. Traditionally, Chinese do not show their emotions and feelings in public.


Chinese do not usually accept a gift, when it is first presented. To show modesty, people always politely refuse two or three times. Chinese people don't open gift in front of the giver. Traditionally the value of a gift indicated the importance of a relationship. Present your gifts with both hands, but not four gifts, because the number "four" reads like "death" in Chinese. The color is important for a gift, for example, red stands for good luck, pink and yellow represent happiness and prosperity. Pears are not good gifts, because pear reads the same as parting and is considered bad luck. Red ink for writing cards or letters is avoided. The word "clock" in Chinese sounds like "the end of life", so better not to present as a gift.

Table Etiquette

Traditionally, there are many taboos at Chinese tables, but with the modernization of China, some of the taboos lost their popularity. However, there are a few things that must be paid attention to. Don't stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl. Because when people die, the shrine to them contains a bowl of sand or rice with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it. Make sure the spout of the teapot is not facing anyone. The spout should always be directed to where nobody is sitting, usually just outward from the table. It is not polite to tap your bowl with your chopsticks.