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Mandarin Go | Things are not to do in China

Even if the habits and rules of courtesy tend to relax with the younger generations, you might as well be aware of certain rules of politeness in order to avoid a moment of embarrassing discomfort, especially during a business meal, or with your in-laws!

1/ Never accept a compliment graciously

You may find yourself at a loss for words when you congratulate a Chinese host on a wonderful meal, and you get in response, "No, no, the food was really horrible." You hear the same thing when you tell a Chinese parent how smart or handsome your son/son is – he responds to the compliment with a rebuff of "No, he's really stupid" or "He's not beautiful at all. "These people are not evil... just humble and polite. Moral of the story here: feign humility, even if it kills you!

2/ Never get upset in public

Public outbursts of anger are frowned upon by the Chinese and are very uncomfortable for them, especially if the people who get angry are foreign tourists, for example. The Chinese attach great importance to group harmony, so foreigners should try to be polite and settle their account privately.

3/ Never address people by their first names first

The Chinese have first and last names like everyone else. However, in China, the surname always comes first. The family (and the collective in general) always takes precedence over the individual. Jean Dupont in France is known as Dupont Jean (or equivalent) in Shanghai. If a man is introduced to you as Lî Míng, you can safely refer to him as Mr Lî (not Mr Míng). Unlike people in the West, chinese people don't feel very comfortable calling themselves by their first name.

4/ Never take food with the wrong end of your chopsticks

The next time you gather around a table with a Chinese host, you may discover that serving spoons for the many common dishes are non-existent. This is because everyone uses their chopsticks to take food from the main courses before putting the food on the individual plates. First, don't serve yourself or start eating before the host or distinguished guest, or the elder at a family meal. Serve yourself in the dish closest to you, without "stepping" over the guests sitting next to you, and do not stretch out to choose your piece. Then, it is very frowned upon to play with your chopsticks, to plant them in your bowl of rice, or even to lick them because they will serve you to draw the dishes from the common dishes ... And of course, always use them in the right way!

5/ Never drink until you have toasted

Chinese banquets include eight to ten courses and plenty of alcohol. Sometimes you drink light rice wine, but sometimes you drink baijiu, Máotái for example, known to put a stranger or two under the table in no time. One way to slow down alcohol consumption is to observe Chinese etiquette by always offering a toast to the host or someone else around the table before taking a sip. This does not completely prevent you from drinking too much, but also shows your gratitude to the host and your respect for the other guests.

6/ Never arrive empty-handed at an appointment

Gifts are exchanged between Chinese, and not only on special occasions. If you dine at someone's house to meet a potential business partner or for any other pre-arranged meeting, the two parties usually exchange gifts as small tokens of friendship and goodwill. Westerners are often surprised by the number of gifts offered by Chinese hosts. The general rule is to bring many small gifts to China. Since you'll never really know when you'll meet someone who will present you with a special memory, then it's best to arrive with yours at every invitation.

7/ Never take the first "No, thank you" literally

The Chinese automatically refuse to drink or eat, several times in a row - even if they are really hungry or thirsty. Never take the first "No, thank you" literally. Even if they say it once or twice, offer them again. A good guest is supposed to decline at least once, but a good host is also supposed to make the offer at least twice.

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