Chinese Etiquette and Manners


Meeting and Greeting in China

When it comes to greeting, people usually say "ni hao", which means "hi". If they want to show extra respect, they use the phrase "nin hao". It should be kept in mind that Chinese people do not shake hands in general because it is not a part of their greeting ritual. Although, sometimes when they see a foreigner they shake hands to show an understanding of Western culture. Chinese people are generally friendly and very hospitable. Don't be surprised if someone asks you out for lunch or dinner, even though they might be a stranger – it's just a part of Chinese culture, a way to communicate with people and create social circles.

Chinese people don't like to be addressed by their name unless you are the same age or older. For people your parent's age, you should call them uncle (shu shu) or aunt (a yi). For people your grandparent's age, you should call them grandpa (ye ye) or grandma (nai nai). Addressing people as such does not always imply family relations.

Chinese people respect their elders. It can be showed in many ways. Wait for the eldest at the table to eat first before you start. On public transportation, you should give your seat to the elderly.


Table Manners in China

What is the best conversation starter in China? Eating! Instead of using the greeting "How are you?" you might be greeted by someone saying, "Have you had your meal?" Eating plays a significantly important part in the Chinese culture and life. You porbably will be asked to eat a meal at a private home, be invited to a banquet in China. Here are multitude of etiquette and manners you need to know when dining in China:


Seating arrangements

Round dining table is very popular in China as many people can be seated comfortably around it conveniently face one another. Seating arrangements are very important for a Chinese banquet. Usually, the most important guest seat toward to the main door of the room. The next in line follow the order of importance sit from the left to the right. The place where the dishes are served are considered for the young or the least important one.


Chinese Eating Etiquette

When the banquet starts, always let older people eat first, or if you hear an elder say "let's eat", you can start to eat.

When helping yourself to the dishes, you should take food first from the plates in front of you rather than those in the middle of the table or in front of others. Always offer someone else food or tea before you serve yourself.

It is not good manners to pick up too much food at a time. You should behave elegantly. When taking food, don't nudge or push against your neighbor.

Don't let the food splash or let soup or sauce drip onto the table.

Do not pick the plates up and start passing them around! And never, ever pick up a dish and scrape or slide portions of food into your bowl. Leave the serving dishes where they are.


Chinese table manners are mostly concerned with the use of chopstick. Here are some general rules and conventions relating to chopsticks:

Do not leave your chopsticks stuck vertically in food. It is considered rude and a sign of bad luck..

Do not use your chopsticks to point at food or for gesture while talking.

Do not click your chopsticks together to make a noise, use them as drumsticks or to move anything other than food.

Do not stab or skewer food with your chopsticks.

Do not dig around or pick through your food with your chopsticks to find a special morsel.

Passing a piece of food to someone with your chopsticks -- or receiving food by snatching it with your chopsticks -- is extremely taboo. If you must pass food, put it on the recipient's plate.

Sometimes it's considered unhygienic to use the chopsticks that have been near or in one's mouth to pick food from the central dishes. Serving spoons or chopsticks can be provided, and in this case you will need remember to alternate between using the serving chopsticks to move food to your bowl and your personal chopsticks for transferring the food to your mouth.


Chinese Drinking Etiquette

A toast to others is a characteristic Chinese dining. When all people are seated and all cups are filled, the host should toast others first, together with some simple prologue to let the dining start. During the dining after the senior's toast, you can toast anyone from superiors to subordinates at their convenience. When someone toasts you, you should immediately stop eating and drinking to accept and toast in response. If you are far from someone you want to toast, then you can use your cup or glass to rap on the table to attract attention rather than raise your voice. However, it is impolite to urge others to drink.



In China gifts are often given to express gratitude or friendship or hospitality. It is appropriate to give gifts on occasions such as festival, birthday, wedding, or visiting a patient. If you are invited to a family party, small gifts like wine, tea, cigarettes, or fruit, are welcomed. Also candies, pastries, and flowers are a safe choice.

In China, odd numbers are thought to be unfortunate, so wedding gifts and birthday gifts for the aged are always sent in pairs for the old saying goes that blessings come in pairs. Clocks and shoes are considered offensive in Chinese culture. Also, you should be careful about the color of the gift. Red envelopes are the popular choice for Chinese New Year and weddings.