Official Name: People’s Republic of China

Picture of China Flag

Geography: World’s 4th largest country (after Russia, Canada, and the United States)

Population: 1,336,715,015 (July 2011 est.) *country comparison to the world: 1

Language: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua), plus many local dialects

Religions: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3-4 percent, Muslim 1-2 percent

Capital City: Beijing

Climate: Extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north

Currency: Yuan* 1 Chinese yuan = 0.1522 U.S. dollars (March 2011)

Differences between China and America

  • Students cannot call parents or teachers by their names directly.
  • The teacher is always right. Even when a student knows the teacher is wrong, to be respectful, the student probably would not point it out or argue the point.
  • China has more requirements for classroom behavior than in America. For example, students must sit straight when teachers are lecturing and cannot wear hats in the classroom.
  • The Chinese do not cross people’s names out of a list in red. In early times, only a dead person’s name would be crossed out with red. The Chinese also do not prefer writing names in red.
  • Most of the time, students are not allowed to write the test in red, because that is the color the teacher would grade the test.
  • Before a person from China gets married, his or her parents will support the student completely, including paying for school. But when the parents get old, children must support and take care of them.
  • The Chinese junior high and high school schedule is pretty much from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. The 9 p.m. schedule is usually for seniors. There are 10-minute breaks for every 45-minute class, an hour lunch break, and an hour supper break. Thus, most of the time is studying time.
  • Being humble is considered a moral behavior in China. People usually say they just know a little about something even when they are quite knowledgeable.

Chinese Society and Culture

The Importance of “Face”

The concept of “face” roughly translates as “honor,” “good reputation,” or “respect.” It is critical for the Chinese to avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all times.

Non-Verbal Communication

  • Since the Chinese strive for harmony and are group dependent, they rely on facial expression, tone of voice, and posture to tell them what someone feels.
  • Frowning while someone is speaking is interpreted as a sign of disagreement or confusion. Therefore, most Chinese maintain an impassive expression when speaking.
  • It is considered disrespectful to stare into another person’s eyes. In crowded situations, the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy.

Chinese Etiquette and Customs

Meeting Etiquette

  • The oldest person is always greeted first.
  • Handshakes are the most common form of greeting in formal meetings.
  • People do not prefer long and direct eye contact.
  • People are addressed by an honorific title and their surname. If they want to move to a first-name basis, they will advise you which name to use.
  • The Chinese have a terrific sense of humor. They can laugh at themselves most readily if they have a comfortable relationship with the other person. Be ready to laugh at yourself given the proper circumstances.
  • People usually do not start talking until they are somehow introduced.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • In general, gifts are given at Chinese New Year, weddings, births, and more recently (because of marketing) birthdays.
  • A nice fruit basket (or flowers) will make a great gift.
  • Do not give scissors, knives, or other cutting utensils because they indicate the severing of the relationship.
  • Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs, or straw sandals because they are associated with funerals and death.
  • Do not give special kinds of white flowers, because many Chinese associate these with funerals.
  • Six and eight are the luckiest numbers, so giving six or eight of something brings luck to the recipient.
  • Always present gifts with two hands, and gifts are not opened when received.
  • Gifts may be refused no more than three times before they are accepted for courtesy.
  • Wrapping is as important as the gift itself.