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Texas ISD School Guide
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Travel, Teach, Live in China

Chinese Culture Tips
By:Susan King

China is an large, beautiful country with a history that extends thousands of years. The Chinese people are very proud of this history and are happy to share their homeland with foreigners. Spending time with the Chinese, however, can be a little tricky if you don't take the time to learn a little about their culture and etiquette. Mainzi, or "face," is very important and you never want to cause your host to "lose face" or become embarrassed by your actions. A little research can easily prevent such problems from occurring.

Food is an important part of the Chinese culture and, as a foreigner, you may be invited out for many meals. Your host will never order or serve just four dishes as it is unlucky and rude. Never set your chopsticks in a bowl of rice; it resembles incense at a funeral and is considered unlucky. If you clean your plate, it will be refilled. Leave a little to show that you have had enough and don't be surprised if the table is still full after a meal. A good host always has more food than the guests can finish. This shows his prosperity and your importance as a guest. If there are no utensils to serve the food from the serving dishes, turn your chopsticks around and use the end that doesn't go in your mouth. Never leave your chopsticks on the table. Use the chopstick holder if there is one, otherwise set your chopsticks on the edge of your plate. Place them together at the 6 o'clock position when you are finished. Feel free to enjoy your food by making noise. Bones can be spit right on the table. Slurp your noodles and tea, it is a sign you are enjoying your meal.

Traditionally, the Chinese give "hong bao" (little red envelopes filled with money) as gifts. These are given at weddings, baby showers and birthdays. Other gifts are given too, and there are a few rules for gift-giving. Never give a clock; it is considered rude and unlucky. Never wrap a gift in white paper since white is color of mourning in China. Wrap gifts in red or gold paper instead. A gift may be refused two or three times before it is is accepted by the receiving party. Do not be surprised if the receiver doesn't open the gift in front of you. And be aware that some gifts have strings attached: A gift may mean that you are about to be asked a big favor by the giver.

It is always a good idea to bring small gifts with you from your home country to your business associates. Items unique to your area, pens, items with your company logo and T-shirts are good gift items. Always give the best gift to the highest-ranking person in the room, and address her first in every meeting. Always introduce your colleagues to her first as well. Have lots of business cards on hand to exchange with Chinese businessmen. Take the card in both hands and be sure to look at it before putting it away or taking the next one. Likewise, give your cards or brochures using two hands, beginning with the top associate.

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