1. BRING BUSINESS CARDS – you will need a lot of these and will need to hand them out to everyone at work situations. It is good to hand them to everyone even though you will see some managers only hand them to a few people. Handing out many shows you are no better then anyone. USE TWO HANDS to give them to someone, as in both corners of the card. Watch the receptionists at the hotels and you will see what I mean. Try to be first when handing the card, especially to someone of importance, this shows respect. If you end up doing it at the same time, try to be BENEATH their card. This also shows respect. It is all about getting off on the right foot. Also, get business cards from everyplace you plan to go again. It is easy to show the taxi driver the next time.
2. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR MOUTH WITH YOUR HAND – it is considered very crude, rude, and gross for you to touch your mouth with your hand. This is in everything from picking your teeth, to yawning, to sticking the chopsticks in. The theory is that the bathroom situations tend to suck and people do not wash their hands often. The theory is that they also use their left hand, so if you have to use a hand use your right. They also smoke like crazy, so their hands are always dirty. Touching the mouth with this dirt is gross. NOTE: You will see the Chinese eat with their mouth open, pick their nose, blow their nose in piles on the street, and spit, all of these are normal and for some reason NOT gross.
3. DO NOT PUT YOUR BAG ON THE GROUND – this is for two reasons. First you can see that people like to spit and snot on the ground, so you do not want your bag in this mess. If you do put it down, some woman will inevitably come to pick it up for you. The second is that in ShenZhen and Guangzhou they have a big crime problem, so there it is just common sense. Speaking of which, seeing as my wife has a penchant for losing her passport, it is a VERY good idea to make a photo copy of your passport and tuck it in your suitcase or other location that your passport is not. You could even scan it and save it on the web somewhere. I hear a story a month of some foreigner who came here and spent most of the time wondering how they would get back because their passport was stolen.
4. DO NOT ASK FOR MORE FOOD – eating is very special here. You may discuss business, but only rarely. Usually, it is about getting stuffed with food. Even though it does not look like it in the beginning of the meal, you will get 10x as much food as you can eat. It is custom to leave food on the table. If you ate everything it would symbolize the host did not order enough. For this reason, there will always be plenty. Around the time you are stuffed they bring out the real dishes.
5. NEVER ASK FOR RICE – This is an insult. The host should be responsible for ordering any side dishes or rice. If they ask, do you want some rice? You can say yes, but do not ask directly to a waiter yourself.
6. WATCH FIRST – I have a great tip that I use all the time. Watch first. I read this book and it told me to do so and has helped so many times. In Hong Kong and ShenZhen sometimes things are not what they seem. For example: They pour tea, but the 1st tea may be for cleaning the chopsticks and silverware. Then you will throw this tea out and get a new cup of tea. If you do not watch what others do, you end up drinking the nasty tea. Another example is the meals. Chopsticks are hard enough, but the foods can present even more challenges. Think peanuts. You may be tricked into using chopsticks to pick up 1 peanut at a time. I think this is a game they play on Laowai (foreigners). If you watch carefully, you will see that the Chinese actually use a spoon to scoop peanuts. If they don’t they may be having fun with you to see what your chopstick skills are. Remember, no hands, so no touching of the peanuts and then putting them in the mouth. Since you will probably be the guest when you eat with the Chinese, they will invite you to eat first. This is a good custom, but hard to know how to take the food to the plate. You can say, “Qing Chi”. It sounds like “Ching Che” like CHIcago with a CH sound instead of SH. So not Shicago CHicago. CHING CHE. This means please eat. You can tell them to show you how and this is good because it shows you are humble and that they know more then you. It helps. You will see many dishes of food and need to understand how to go about getting them to your plate.
7. BOWLS AND PLATES – In Hong Kong they eat all of their food out of a bowl in the center of the plate, and throw/spit the bones and such on the plate under the bowl. In mainland China they eat off the plate and the bowl is for rice and soup. Again, watch in HK. You will see the locals use a small bowl in the center and the underneath plate for bones. Remember, spit the bones out. You do not touch your mouth. This is perfectly acceptable. In Shanghai it is fine to raise the bowl to your mouth and to spit on the table cloth.
8. PEE JOE – It actually is Pi Jiu. It means beer, but you can think if you drink too many, you will be a JOE that has to PEE. PEE JOE – means beer.
9. TAXI – the HK taxi should not jip you as they can speak English, but be careful in SZ and GZ. Same for Shanghai, they are very good at dealing with foreigners. Make sure you either agree on the price up front or he uses the meter. Ask the hotel bellhop how much a taxi fare can be. They sometimes charge double if not triple if you do not check it. In Shanghai, you should not have much of a problem. Even if a taxi goes the long way around it will be an extra $.50. In Beijing it could be a real problem as taxi drivers often try to speak to foreigners. If you do not understand, you are getting taken the LONG way around. Ask the hotel or your friends how much the fare should be.
10. NO BATHS – You do not want a “bath”, “massage”, or “Special Karaoke”. Maybe you DO want, but you do NOT want. Do your own bathing ;) Special Karaoke is where men go, pay 300 yuan for a lady to come sit with him, drink scotch, sing, and then hopefully you pay another 500+ yuan and take the lady home. Be wary of karaoke if only men are going. If it is a large group for business no problem, but be aware that they may try to buy you a woman at the end of the night. It may be difficult to refuse. (You and they may lose face). You are better off saying you have some conference calls in the hotel due to the time change. The word is “quay” for money. As in on the River Quay. The written and formal word is yuan, but nobody says that. ~7 quay is $1USD. 100 quay is $13USD.
11. FACE – face is very important here. Inevitably you will do something to “lose face”. You are foreign. It happens for me like every 30 minutes. The key is to be humble and agreeable. This means if someone says, “Ohhh, that is beautiful”. You say, “Yes, very beautiful”. You do not offer your opinion. You also need to act humbly. If they say, “Ohhh you speak/look/smell/etc… very good”. You say, “no, no. This is new/old/not mine/I just showered/I speak terrible/etc…”. Basically any comment on others is meant for you to agree with. Any comment on you is meant for you to refuse and reject as you do not deserve such compliments.