Avoid talking about any form of politics or any form of religion.   Good topics: Chinese food, sports or places to visit. Follow the feeling of the person you are talking too. If the Chinese side initiates the discussion, it’s OK to follow. Do not try too hard to “go Chinese”. Chinese do not expect you to know all of their etiquette, and they make allowances for foreigners. Keep the guidelines in mind, but above all, be yourself.

You need to expect problems, and have patience in solving them. Expect the unexpected, and have patience.

The Basics


Being such a crowded culture used to living together in tight quarters, the Chinese comfort zone of personal space is much tighter than those of Westerners. There’s almost no concept of personal privacy, especially same-gender privacy. The concept of lining up, or queuing, is not known to most Chinese. Frequently, a Chinese person will walk to the front of a crowd to ask for what they want. No one will complain. People will push in large crowds and do not mind being crowded, or bumped. Chinese people are used to being crowded in stores, buses, elevators, etc.


The Chinese are not comfortable with physical contact, so refrain from any back-slapping or arm-touching. They will be uncomfortable with your touches, hugs, back slaps or other types of contact. Once you are familiar with a Chinese person, they may feel very comfortable to take your hand or arm when guiding you along the street or talking to you. The exception is with close same-sex friends: You might see women walking arm-in-arm or holding hands or a guy with his arm draped around his buddy.

Hands & Pointing

Never point with your index finger.   The Chinese point at objects with an open hand instead of the index finger. Beckoning to someone is done with a palm facing down and move your fingers in a scratching motion. Never use your index finger to beckon anyone.   Snapping fingers is considered very rude.


In China, people are more aware of the fact that the public ground is dirty and unhealthy. One of the reasons for this is because spitting is a common hygienic habit amongst traditional Chinese people. Most Chinese remove their shoes before entering their home and would request you do the same. Consequently, it is easy to understand that shoes are considered dirty. Therefore, never put your feet up on a desk or a chair and never cross your leg so as to have the bottom of your foot toward a person.