To do business successfully, one has to understand the customs and traditions of their business partners. Therefore, be it as a host or as a guest, it is important for us to understand some customs we have in China when it comes to hospitality. Here is a brief guide to what we should take into consideration.
In the realm of hospitality, it is customary for hosts to provide their guests with exceptional care and attention. Simultaneously, guests are anticipated to demonstrate respect towards their hosts by adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by the host. They are also expected to exhibit proper guest etiquette as a sign of respect.
However, in China, the dynamics shift slightly. Hosts are not only expected to welcome their guests warmly but also to treat them with the utmost respect and kindness. Conversely, guests are encouraged to make themselves feel at home and engage in activities they enjoy, albeit within reasonable limits.
This places a greater burden of politeness on the hosts, as they are responsible for ensuring their guests' comfort and satisfaction throughout their stay.
In Chinese culture, certain customs and norms dictate appropriate behaviour in social interactions.
Bowing as a greeting or farewell is not obligatory and is typically reserved for showing respect to elders or superiors. Additionally, it is important to refrain from physical contact, as it is considered overly familiar or casual.
Displaying physical contact with strangers or acquaintances is generally regarded as disrespectful. While handshakes have become more accepted, they are not as common as in Western cultures. If a handshake is offered, it may be noticeably weaker than the firm grip associated with traditional Western handshakes, symbolising humility.
These cultural practices reflect the importance of maintaining decorum and respecting personal boundaries in Chinese society.
As a host, there are several responsibilities that come with ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of guests.
In Chinese culture, it is especially so, and the host will often go above and beyond. One such duty is to keep the guests fully occupied throughout their stay. This involves taking charge of planning the itinerary beforehand, ensuring that there are engaging activities and experiences lined up for the guests.
Additionally, a considerate host may even go the extra mile by personally seeing off their guests. This may involve accompanying them to the streets and even to their vehicles, ensuring their safe departure.
Furthermore, providing food is an integral part of hospitality. Hosts often take it upon themselves to prepare and offer meals to their guests, reflecting their generosity and care.
These acts of attentiveness and thoughtfulness contribute to creating a warm and welcoming environment for guests.
Gift-giving customs in Chinese culture involve certain considerations and taboos.
Chinese people often intentionally leave the price tag on gifts, as they believe the value of a gift is closely tied to its price. Hosts, in particular, demonstrate their generosity by giving more than they consume.
However, there are specific items that should be avoided as gifts. Shoes, for instance, symbolise the recipient walking away from the giver. The Mandarin word for shoes, 鞋 (xié), sounds similar to 邪 (xié), meaning 'bad luck' or 'evil.'
Similarly, watches or clocks should be avoided as they represent the ticking away of time.
Handkerchiefs, considered a gift of parting, imply a permanent farewell.
Sharp objects like knives or scissors are also discouraged, as they are often associated with the phrase, “一刀两断”, which symbolises severing ties or ending friendships.
Another example is pears, as the Chinese word for pear, 梨 (lí), sounds similar to 离 (lí), meaning 'parting.' Thus, it can be interpreted as a reference to saying goodbye.
By being mindful of these cultural nuances, gift-givers can ensure that their gestures are well-received and appreciated.
In Chinese hospitality, certain phrases are commonly used to warmly welcome and bid farewell to guests.
Upon arrival, guests are often greeted with the phrase "欢迎" (huān yíng), where "欢" conveys happiness and vigour, while "迎" means to welcome. The phrase signifies the host's delight in welcoming the guest.
To offer a seat to the guest, which is a customary gesture in Chinese hospitality, hosts typically use the phrase "请坐" (qǐng zuò), which translates to "Please have a seat."
When it is time to bid farewell, the phrase "再见" (zài jiàn) is commonly used, meaning "See you again." Additionally, hosts may express their continuous hospitality by using the phrase "我们随时欢迎你" (wǒ men suí shí huān yíng nǐ), which translates to "We are pleased to welcome you anytime."
These phrases exemplify the warm and welcoming nature of Chinese hospitality, ensuring that guests feel appreciated and valued throughout their visit.
Chinese culture is rich with superstitions, and certain beliefs are observed when it comes to hospitality for Chinese guests.
In terms of numbers, it is advised to avoid association with the number four, as its Chinese pronunciation is similar to the word for death. Conversely, the number eight is considered lucky, as its pronunciation is akin to the word for prosperity.
When it comes to colours, it is best to refrain from wearing black and white while hosting festivals or celebrations. Black is associated with evil, disasters, sadness, and cruelty, symbolising misfortune and bad luck, while white symbolises death and mourning in Chinese culture.
Additionally, it is considered unlucky to open an umbrella indoors, as this act is believed to bring bad luck and may suggest that the guest wants to leave or that the host is eager for their departure.
Another belief relating to dining etiquette is to avoid leaving chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. This practice resembles the incense sticks that Chinese people traditionally offer to their ancestors, and thus it is considered inauspicious and disrespectful. Instead, it is customary to place chopsticks horizontally on a chopstick rest or on the side of the bowl.
By being mindful of these superstitions, hosts can create an atmosphere that is culturally respectful and harmonious for their Chinese guests.