What should you absolutely not do when visiting China

So you’re thinking about vacationing in China? With many landmarks steeped in history, including the Great Wall, the country is the perfect destination to immerse yourself in a new culture. China is a world away from the States, and we’re not just talking about distance. Life in the East Asian state is nothing like what we’re used to here. As a result, there are some things you need to keep in mind when visiting the country that you should never do.

Don’t greet people wrong

The way you interact with the people of China is incredibly important. It’s easy to offend the locals if you don’t act appropriately around them. Don’t call people by their first name, as this is something only close friends and family members do. Instead, refer to them by their surname. Moreover, be careful with the level of affection you show around strangers. The Chinese are not a touchy-feely people and contact can make them uneasy. Stick to a handshake if you must, otherwise just nod. You don’t want your first impression to be a bad one.

Keep in mind as well that whenever you’re meeting a group of people, it’s the oldest that you greet first. It’s another way to show your respect.

Don’t mess up your gift giving

The Chinese love gifts. Who doesn’t? They seem to give them away at every possible opportunity, including at dinner parties or business meetings. You’ll likely receive several of these gifts during your time there, so it’s necessary to come prepared so you can return the favor. However, you need to take great caution with these gifts. Don’t wrap them in anything white or dark, because these colors symbolize bad luck or death. Opt for something safer like red or yellow.

Be careful with the gifts you give them because they might interpret some badly. This includes clocks, umbrellas, scissors and even green hats. Also, make sure to accept and receive gifts with both hands, to show respect to the people you’re with. If someone refuses your gift, don’t give up either. It’s customary in China to reject the first offer as it shows the recipient isn’t greedy. If you take the gift back after its first refused, you could offend them more than you think.

Don’t talk inappropriately

Being careful with what you talk about in China is essential. The politics and history of the country don’t make for appropriate dinner table conversations. Discussing these can make the people you’re with feel incredibly uncomfortable. Other topics to avoid include death, religion and comparisons with Japan. If you’re someone who struggles with casual conversation topics, then China might not be the destination for you.

Don’t have lousy dining etiquette

So you’ve been invited out to dinner by some of the locals. That will be an interesting experience for you, and one that’s easy to mess up. There are some things you’ll need to keep in mind if this happens. When ordering, it’s the host who takes charge. Unless they ask you, they’ll order your food for you, which could be a disaster. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with what you’re given. Otherwise, you’ll cause a scene. Furthermore, don’t try and pay the bill. Even if a lot of food has is ordered, it’s the host’s duty to cover everyone’s meal. Remember that if you invite people out for food.

You should also take care with how you handle chopsticks. Don’t use them for anything other than eating, which includes talking with your hands. Once you’ve finished, place them flat on top of the bowl. If you stick them straight up, your fellow patrons might interpret that as a curse. That’s not what you came to China to do.


This is a lot to take in, and it’s important to remember all of it. While a vacation in a new country is exciting, it’s important to be respectful of the local culture.

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