Chinese courtesies have always been formal
and follow strict rules. Despite this there are times when the Chinese seem to
be impolite according to Western norms in public places. To more understand
understand the Chinese, we all should be aware of the following:
- Mianzi (Face)
The idea of shame, usually expressed as 'face' could be loosely
defined as the 'status' or 'self-respect' in Chinese and by no means
alien to foreigners. It is the worst thing for a Chinese to lose
face. Never insult, embarrass, shame, yell at, or otherwise demean a
person. Since all these actions would risk putting a Chinese in a
situation that he might lose face. Neither try to prove someone
wrong nor shout at him in public. In order to get a successful
effect without letting a Chinese lose face, any criticism should be
delivered privately, discreetly and tactfully, or else, just
opposite to an outcome you desire may result.
- Guanxi (Relationships
Throughout much of Chinese history, the fundamental glue that has
held society together is the concept of guanxi -
relationships between people. It is very important for the Chinese
to have good relationships. They often regard good social relations
as a symbol of personal ability and influence. Someone who has no
connections would be despised and is only half-Chinese.
Keqi not only means considerate, polite, and well mannered, but also
represents humbleness and modesty. It is impolite to be arrogant and
brag about oneself or one's inner circle. The expression is most
often used in the negative, as in buyao keqi, meaning "you
shouldn't be so kind and polite to me," or "you're welcome."
Chinese seldom express what they think directly and they prefer a
roundabout way, or like to show their emotions and feelings in
public. They rarely greet people with a handshake, (although this is
changing within the business world) although this is very popular
among foreigners, to say nothing of embracing or kissing when
greeting or saying good-bye. Consequently,
it is better not
to behave in a carefree manner in public, even though you are well-intentioned.
Also, it is advisable to be fairly cautious in political
discussions. Do not push yourself forward, or else you may feel
To sum up, do in Rome as Rome does, but you need not worry about
these cultural barriers since most Chinese are hospitable and
amiable and will not mind your non-proficiency.