Cultural Etiquette Tips To Know When Traveling To China

Go Global By Christine Wardlaw September 1, 2016

China is a fascinating country to visit, allowing travelers a look back at ancient history at sites like the Great Wall and Forbidden City, and also a glimpse into the future in cities like exciting Shanghai. Traveling to China is a wonderful experience, but you want to make sure you’re familiar with Chinese customs before going so that you can have the most enjoyable visit possible. To help with your trip, Western Union (WU) has put together some tips on Chinese etiquette to know when traveling to China.


Age and status are revered in China. It’s proper to greet the eldest person in a group first, and to address adults by their titles if they’re professionals or government officials, or by Mr., Mrs., or Miss, plus their family names. It’s important to note that married women retain their maiden names.

It’s common to shake hands or nod upon meeting someone new, although neither is necessary. When conversing, it’s not unheard of to be asked personal questions about your marital status, family, children, salary, or even weight. If you feel uncomfortable answering, politely evade the questions, but if you do feel comfortable, you might find yourself bonding with people over your common ground.

Family enjoying meal in traditional Chinese clothing


Punctuality is valued by the Chinese, so if you’re invited to a dinner, banquet, holiday event, or even a business meeting, be sure to show up on time.

When dining, seating arrangements are important in Chinese etiquette. The seat in the center of a table facing east or facing the entrance is considered the seat of honor, and is reserved for the host of an event, or for the person with the highest status. Those with the highest status or closest relationship to that person sit closest to the seat of honor, and then the remaining guests sit outward from there.

However, when a family hosts a banquet or dinner, the seat of honor is reserved for the guest with the highest status, and the head of the household takes the least prominent seat. At all times, the guest of honor or eldest member of a party must be seated first before others may sit, and this person also indicates when everyone may begin to eat.

When dining, be sure to avoid sticking chopsticks vertically into your food when not in use, as this is considered rude.

Giving the perfect gift


If you bring a gift to an event, it’s considered polite to bring a gift for everyone present. Don’t be surprised if your gift is not opened; it’s customary to open gifts after guests leave. If you are given a gift, graciously accept and save it to open later, or if you can’t wait, ask the giver permission to open it earlier.

When wrapping gifts, wrap them simply, and choose red or festive wrapping paper rather than white or black. When presenting a gift, offer it with both hands, and do the same when receiving one.

These etiquette tips will help you fit in and make the most out of your travels in China. Have any more travel tips for visitors to China? Let us know in the comments!