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China Sprout

 

She's Culturally Correct in China

 

Journeywoman Eva Lynne is a mother of two and a grandmother of 6 who dreamed of coming to China to teach since her early teens. After her children were raised, she traveled worldwide with her life-partner and then set off for China to embark on her long awaited teaching career. Eva Lynne offers 25 bits of helpful information designed to heighten your cultural correctness and your safety while working and visiting in her part of the world. She writes...


1 -- If someone invites you to dinner it is a compliment and honor. Arrive promptly, and no more than 15 minutes early. In Western culture you eat and then afterwards relax and talk. In China, the main social event is the meal itself, and the gathering ends when the guests rise from the table. You may, therefore, leave whenever you feel it is appropriate.

2 -- Most Chinese families eat dinner between 6:00 pm and 7:00 PM and dinner is the most important meal of the day. The mainstay of the diet is rice.

3 -- A typical simple Chinese breakfast is congee (rice porridge with fish or meat or vegetables). A Cantonese breakfast consists of a variety of several small dishes, such as meatballs, vegetable dumplings, and BBQ Pork Buns (commonly called dim sum).

4 -- The social norms in China in regards to alcohol, like most things, have their own particularities. If you prefer to abstain from drinking, you should be prepared for a certain amount of peer pressure, and it is therefore helpful if you practice how to do so gracefully. It is poor taste but acceptable to get drunk in a bar or disco, but not recommended as it makes you vulnerable to theft. It is never acceptable to get drunk while eating dinner at someone's home, even if the host should do so.

Ed. note:
Women travellers should always watch their alcohol intake. Too much to drink and your reasoning ability diminishes and everybody sees you as 'fair game.'

5 -- If you want to bring a gift to the family, a gift from your culture or toys for the children is acceptable. Food or candy is often a good gift. If you are travelling with a man tell him that he should never give a gift directly to your host's wife. This can be misunderstood and your host will lose face.

6 -- Chinese eat a lot of fish and spicy food. If you are sensitive to spicy food you may want to drink a glass of milk before you go to dinner. Chinese families will understand if you say the food is too spicy for you and you cannot eat it, but you should at least be courteous enough to taste it, if you can.

7 -- In the evening, Chinese go out to have a good time, so restaurants are jovial and the noise levels are high.

8 -- Asking to take left over food with you from a restaurant is acceptable if you are paying the bill.

9 --T here is generally no tipping in Chinese restaurants (except in the big cities and in big hotels). They have never heard of it and the waitresses give all the money on the table to the cashier.

10 - Always call if you cannot keep a date.

11 - If you travel into the countryside and accept lodging with a family you do not know, always privately offer money to the wifebefore you leave. It is customary to refuse three times before accepting the money. Keep offering.

Ed. Note: For obvious reasons, a woman travelling solo should be extremely careful about accepting free lodging from someone they do not know. That said, trust your intuition and your gut feeling and try to make at least one other person know where you are spending the night.

12 - Chinese people do not hug when they greet one another or part.

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