2016, The Chinese Year of the Monkey + Etiquette Tips When In China
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Wan Shi Ru Yi (恭喜发财,万事如意)!
Fear not, I'm not raining any curses on you, and I could almost hear my Nigerian friends saying 'What year of the Monkey, this is our year of Supernatural Upliftment and Unimaginable Prosperity'.
Chill people, I've simply said "Congratulations on your good fortune and may all your ten thousand wishes come true!" This is the official Mandarin greeting for the Chinese New Year, which was on February 8. The New Year celebration lasts for 15 days and dogs get special treats on day one of the celebrations.
China overtook the US as the World's Largest Economy in 2014. Gone are the days when if an item had 'Made in China' on it, you're most likely to scrunch your nose at it as a fake or poorly produced item. The odds are that in today's world, and irrespective of where you are or what you do, you're likely to be involved with the Chinese economy.
Here's a true story, or so I heard. A City Lawyer was having a business meeting with a Chinese Client, to finalise a huge deal. The Lawyer ordered some rice, and before eating, dipped the chopsticks into the middle of the rice. The Client walked out and that was the end of the business relationship. The reason? Apparently it's a taboo to dip your chopsticks into your bowl, as this relates to death and funerals. Oh well, thank goodness I haven't mastered the chopstick and I always use a fork.
We recently had a Chinese New Year event at work and had a live Lion Dance! It was pretty cool, even though I really didn't understand it, and I'm sure I wasn't alone. Anyway, being married to another culture (catch up here and here) and since I believe in respecting and making an attempt to adapt to people's cultures, here's a few tips and knowledge that may be useful for your next business/social meeting.
- At no point should your chopsticks be upright in the bowl. Also don't tap your bowl with your chopsticks. These relate to death and funerals.
- If you can stomach it, eat it! It’s polite to sample all the dishes, and at the end of the meal you should leave a little on the plate to demonstrate the generosity of the host.
- Ain't no 'going Dutch', the host pays for the entire meal! Way to go people. But don’t let him pay without fighting for it a bit, and offering to pay.
Giving and Receiving Gifts
- Present and receive things with both hands.
- Apparently, you should reject the gift twice at least before accepting it, and only when the giver insists.
- Do not open the gift in front of the giver.
- When wrapping gifts, avoid using white or dark wrapping paper, and avoid wrapping elaborately. Consider festive colors. Red is your best bet. The Chinese love Red, and brides often wear red dresses!
- Clocks, fans, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, scissors and other sharp items are no no gifts. Sharp items signify separation.
- Don't give gifts in fours (including money, so you can't give someone 1400 Yuan). Connotes death. You can give gifts in sets of 8 though. Symbolizes good fortune or wealth.
- Green hats are a taboo gift. This is because the phrase "to wear a green hat" means 'to be cuckold by one's unfaithful wife'. Oops!
- You don't have to bow, a handshake is fine.
- Preferred conversation starter - Food, Drinks and all things China. Not Weather!
- Avoid the 3 Ts - Conversations about Taiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen. In addition, conversations regarding politics and state leaders are considered sensitive.
- For your own good, do not compare China with Japan.
- Say "nin hao" to greet older Chinese people.
- Do not write in red ink, especially peoples names. For some reason, I think Nigerians don't like this as well.
- Do not for any reason loose your temper or get upset.
- When in China, feign humility and do not accept compliments graciously. So if someone says oh 'Your coat is pretty', You should not say 'I know! It's so pretty'. Rather say 'oh I think it is rather ugly'.
- In China, every year is represented by one of 12 animals. 2016, is the Year of the Monkey
- Half of all pigs on earth live in China
- The World's First Paper Money was created in China 1,400 years ago.
- Chinese white dolphins, which live off southern China, are often pink.
- The word 'ketchup' may come from a Chinese word for pickled-fish sauce.
- The artistic writing called calligraphy was invented in China.
- All pandas in the world are on loan from China. The giant panda lives in the misty mountains of central China and nowhere else on Earth.
- The Great Wall is more than 2,300 years old. The official length is 21,196.18 km. The mortar used to bind the Great Wall’s stones was made with sticky rice!
- In 2010 a 2,400-year-old pot of soup was unearthed in Xi'an, China
- Put together, all of China’s railways lines could loop around earth twice!
In retrospect, I'm rather disappointed at myself that I had two Chinese flatmates, and a few Chinese classmates at Cambridge and I still didn't have much of an experience. My experience is limited to Chinese buffets...Love me some Chinese Fried Rice!
Have you guys had any experience with Chinese folks and expectations/etiquette? How did it go? Please Share!
pS: Now I really really really want to go to China. Anyone interested? More importantly, any one willing to pay?