What are Chinese customs? What can you expect to get used to when moving to China? What might be rude in your country but completely fine here? Here’s a heads up on what to expect from the largest population in the world.
First on the list, spitting. Maybe you already encountered this on your long flight over here but if not, you’re sure to encounter it daily. Some blame it on pollution while others on just having to clear the throat. Also, Chinese think using a tissue is unsanitary as people tend to put it back in their pocket or bag so watch out for flying substances and frozen spit patches in the winter!
You might have already noticed it, whichever restaurant you go you get hot water. If you ask for cold or room temperature water you’ll often hear that they don’t have that. The reason that Chinese are such a big fan of drinking warm water (and tea) has to do with ancient Chinese medicine. It is believed that drinking warm water is healthy, especially in the morning, as it kickstarts your digestive system. Also, drinking hot or warm water supposedly aids blood flow. Increasing blood flow circulation aids in detoxifying the body and is better for your muscles.
Paying the bill
Whenever you have dinner with a Chinese person and the bill arrives, it often happens that they insist on paying the bill. At times, it will even happen that they will secretly pay the bill behind your back. There are many reasons for wanting to foot the bill. One of the reasons is to be polite, as offering to pay the bill is a sign of respect towards the others. Another reason is simply that you want to gift the dinner to someone, this can be because you have something to celebrate or you just want to make a good impression. Also, footing the bill is a sign of superiority and showing your status. Fighting to pay the bill can occur in many settings, it can happen in formal settings, like company dinners or in more informal settings, for example, family dinners or dinner with friends.
Another thing you may have noticed is that they are professional squatters. Whether having a chat or waiting in a queue, they can hold the position for a very impressive amount of time. Have you already tried to sit in the squatting position?
Next up, clothing. Ever had those days when you wake up and your pajamas are just too comfortable and warm you don’t want to change – especially in the winter? You’re in luck! Chinese love to venture out in pajama-like outfits and go for a stroll.
Summer time brings with it a different trend, what is sometimes called the Beijing Bikini. When venturing around Beijing, but also other places, in the summer (where it gets very, very hot) almost all men roll up their t-shirts until just above their stomachs. No six pack required for this one, just cool down!
Personally, I’ve never seen a woman roll up a Beijing Bikini however, almost every woman will probably be wearing sun protection of some sort. Long (sometimes detachable!) sleeves in the sun, visors on bikes and of course, umbrellas. Umbrellas everywhere. While we tend to say that people with a tan have had the luxury of traveling somewhere warm, Chinese people will say the opposite. Whitening creams and umbrellas are the solution for keeping your skin pristine.
If you’re having a chat with a local they might ask you some very personal questions that could be considered rude where you’re from. How much money do you make? How much is your rent? And if you’re seen with someone of the opposite sex they will ask if you’re dating or even if you plan on getting married! All of this is meant inquisitively and curiously of course and should not be replied to in a negative way.
Last but not least on our list of Chinese customs, you might have noticed one more peculiar trend. The long pinky nail. I have to say I am secretly impressed with the care they undertake for this one, long nail. Filed to a point and often a few cm long, this is hard to miss. Why do they have just one long one, you ask? It is a sign of wealth. The long finger nail proves that they do not have to do labour intensive work and can afford to spend time growing and caring for this nail. The pinky nail is also multi functional, serving as a tool for delicate work and for reaching itches in hard to reach places.
The best way of understanding these cultural differences is by asking the people themselves, ask your teachers in class! Want to see all of this with your own eyes? Contact the Hutong School now to find out how you can experience China!
Have you encountered any other interesting differences? Share them with us!