A Guide to Chinese Etiquette and Customs

A Guide to Chinese Etiquette and Customs

Foreign teachers and others interested in the topics of business and social etiquette in China should direct their attention to books dedicated solely to these subjects. Many excellent books are available for you to be prepared for living in China, including Chinese Business Etiquette by Scott D. Seligman. This article doesn’t intend to go over every feature of Chinese social etiquette and customs, but it will cover a few that foreigners will probably encounter in their first six months in China. Lucky and Unlucky Numbers Many Chinese believe success is the result of good fortune more than it is the result of hard work and self-sufficiency. Most people in China function from day-to-day with a view of an external locus of control (fate and fortune). In contrast, many people in Western countries function with an internal locus of control (success depends on our own hard work, talent, and determination). With this in mind, lucky and unlucky numbers hold even more importance in Chinese society. The Chinese believe the numbers six and eight (especially eight) are very lucky numbers. To get an idea of how lucky the number eight is, one phone number with a string of eights (138-8888-8888) was selling in a city for 50,000 yuan (that’s $7,000 in the United States)! Unlucky numbers include four and fourteen because in China the spoken words “to die” and these numbers sound very similar. In fact, the number fourteen is thought to be so unlucky that a floor number inside a recently built Guangzhou apartment complex was replaced with 13A. It’s not uncommon to see a multitude of fortune tellers alongside...