5 Tips for interacting with Chinese people

Hi! I’m Laura and I have been living in China for over ten years. When I first arrived, on a scholarship from my government, let me tell you I knew nothing about Chinese culture. But after over a decade, I have picked up a few tips which I would love to share with you. 

If you interact with Chinese people a lot, you probably know these, but if you don’t interact with Chinese people much, you are totally missing out! Just do the math – a pool of over a billion people mean there are millions of awesome ones!

So let’s jump into it with five tips for interacting with Chinese people, whether for business or pleasure! (wink wink)

  1. Treat them like actual human beings 

This is not a drill. If I have learned anything from traveling the world, it’s that our similarities outweigh our differences. While discovering cultural differences can be fun, confusing, exciting, or stressful, always remember that the person across from you is just that – a person.

  1. Ask if they have eaten-  

In China, you don’t ask how someone is, instead you ask if they have eaten. According to what I have heard, this is because in ancient times people didn’t have enough to eat, so you ask if they have had a meal or not. This also aligns with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – when you greet someone, the first thing to check is if their physiological needs have been met. So instead of “How are you?” try “Did you eat your lunch yet?”

  1. Do your best to pick up the bill

If you want to really impress one of your Chinese friends or colleagues, all you need to do is excuse yourself from a meal and say you need to use the bathroom. While visiting the bathroom, talk to the host and pick up the check. Instant respect!

  1. Ask about old bodies 

Excuse me, what do you mean “old bodies”?! I just mean when you are talking to someone, ask after the health of any important old people in their lives, including themselves. For example, if you are talking to someone of grandpa or grandma age, ask them how their body is. If you are talking to someone younger, ask after the health of their parents or grandparents. This will show your respect for elders.

  1. Cheers below the rim of their glass

This tip comes in handy for business dinners, and it can also be quite fun! In Chinese culture, cheering your glass below the rim of the other person’s glass shows respect. After a few cheers, this can turn into a light-hearted battle of who can get their glass lower. (demonstrate) Like this!

So there you go, those are five tips for interacting with Chinese people! Use them in business, to make friends, or even with your in-laws! Good luck and remember to do the right thing!

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