Good etiquette is important when travelling overseas, as has been illustrated in recent months with the Chinese National Tourism Administration release of a 64 page manual for Chinese tourists holidaying abroad.
Whilst this manual is certainly good for a giggle or two – don’t leave footprints on the toilet seat has been a popularly referenced travel etiquette tip – it is, however, important to remember that Westerners are also guilty of displaying poor etiquette when travelling overseas and that what might seem normal to us is sometimes highly offensive to others.
With that in mind, here are a few important travel etiquette tips to take note of when holidaying in China.
Whilst you might feel tipping taxi driver is doing them a favour – taxi drivers like many other Chinese workers receive paltry wages – you might actually offend them by offering them a tip.
This is undoubtedly something that would appear odd to Westerners, though it’s interesting to note that this is because tipping is considered a remnant of the Chinese feudal and warlord system, and more importantly, in most parts of the country tipping taxi drivers is actually illegal.
Tipping in general isn’t common in China and therefore not expected, and in fact many establishments have a no-tipping policy, however, this is only mainland China not Hong Kong and your tips will be appreciated there.
As with most Asian countries, table manners are incredibly important and you can easily, though unintentionally, offend others by failing to exhibit the correct manners at the table.
For the most part dining etiquette won’t affect you unless you’re eating with locals, however it’s good to have an understanding of Chinese dining etiquette just in case, plus dining etiquette, due to the importance placed on meals in China, is very interesting and helps foreigners to gain insights into this remarkable culture.
All dishes, with the exception of soups, should be eaten with chopsticks and it should come as no surprise that the Chinese are very particular about the use of chopsticks.
This includes gesturing with them, pointing at others, licking them and even stirring food with them, and don’t stick them in the centre of the rice or leave them standing up as this is considered extremely inauspicious.
Moreover, if dining with locals the meal may only commence once the host and all the guests are seated, so don’t start until you notice others eating no matter how appetising it looks and smells!
Handshaking is a common practice in China, though before you extend your hand to greet someone or wish them farewell, bear in mind there’s etiquette involved.
Therefore take note of these considerations, though don’t be overly worried about who should extend their hand first as it’s unlikely you’ll cause offense simply by extending your hand in greeting or farewell.
As a general rule, the elder, the female, the married or the superior should extend their hands first. In social situations on China holidays in which you have to shake hands with more than one person, shake hands in succession with the senior to the junior, from the nearest person to you to the furthest from you.
There are, however, a few things to avoid when shaking hands, including refusing to shake hands, shaking with the left, crossways, with the other hand in your pocket or when seated and shaking hands whilst wearing a hat, gloves or sunglasses.
It’s hoped that you have found these travel etiquette tips enlightening and that they help you to get more out of your time spent in China, and of course avoid offending the locals!
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