Social Courtesies

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:
  1. 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.
  2. Guanxi (Relationships between People)

    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.
  3. Keqi

    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 unwelcome.

    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.

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