China is a nation with a fascinating culture and a rich history, but many westerners who visit the country for the first time are hit hard with culture shock. If you’re planning to visit China anytime in the near future, here are some tips that will make your trip much easier.
Money in China
One of the first things to remember if you’re visiting China is that almost all merchants and businesses prefer cash. More and more hotel chains and restaurants are accepting Visa and Mastercard in China, but you should be prepared to pay in yuan or RMB, which is the official currency in China. You can exchange your cash for RMB at an ATM or a bank.
Tipping in China
If you go out to eat at a restaurant in China, don’t leave a tip. The Chinese do not tip, so neither should you. In fact, tipping your waitstaff is something that mostly is not done outside of the United States.
China has the world’s largest population, which means personal space is relatively limited. The Chinese are used to sharing smaller living spaces with one another and being in close proximity to each other when they go out. This can come as a shock to those who are used to having a large bubble of personal space at all times.
However, the Chinese are not as comfortable with physical contact as someone from another country might be, so refrain from back-slapping or touching someone’s arm unless you know them very well and you know they’re comfortable with you.
You will probably notice the biggest cultural differences when you eat out at a restaurant in China. Don’t be surprised to hear people loudly slurping their noodles when they eat, and don’t expect to share a restaurant bill – the host will always be expected to cover everyone’s meal, and you could embarrass them if you pay some or all of the bill yourself.
When you go out to eat, don’t sit down until your host tells you where you can sit. Seating arrangements are important in China, with the oldest and most distinguished guests often seated to the right of the host.
Food is mainly eaten with chopsticks, which can be tricky for some westerners. It’s okay to ask for silverware if you really can’t handle chopsticks, but if you decide to eat your meal with these traditional Chinese utensils, there are some rules to follow. First of all, never stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. It makes the bowl resemble an incense offering to the dead and is considered bad luck. Second of all, never point at someone with your chopsticks or drum them against your dish. Pointing is rude, and drumming against your dish is something that beggars do when they want food.
Finally, sample everything at the table, but don’t completely clean your plate. Leaving a little bit of food is a way of telling your host that they ordered enough food to fill you up, but eating all of your food is an indicator that there wasn’t enough of it for you. Leaving too much food is also rude since it tells the host that the meal wasn’t good.
These are just a few of the things to remember if you are visiting China. Most Chinese are fairly understanding of visitors who don’t understand their customs, but you should still make an effort to behave appropriately. After all, you are a visitor in their country, and you want to show that you respect their culture.