Different Manners (and Mannerisms) from Around the World

It’s a topic covered in textbooks in language classrooms everywhere: “How to great someone from X-country or Y-culture”. Today we’re going to take you through rules and customs of different people, some more tongue-in-cheek in their seriousness and others we hope are informative. Whether or not you really learn something new, we hope you come away with a renewed appreciation for how to approach other people, as well as a few useful Chinese words and phrases!

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1. The Handshake

How to do it

At approximately 1 meter away from the other person, stand straight, lean forward slightly, stretch out your right hand. Grasp the other person’s hand, close your fingers around their hand using moderate strength, shake up and down gently 3 or 4 times, then release.

握手 (wò  shǒu): v. to shake hands

Simple, overly-detailed instructions for something that has become synonymous with business deals throughout the world—if you’re reading this then chances are you know how to do it and have practiced thousands of times in your life. Is there anything you do differently than described above?

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When to do it

In China, when shaking hands between men and women, the man should wait for the woman to reach out before shaking. If the woman doesn’t reach out or doesn’t want to shake hands, the man can nod or bow instead.
A host should reach out to welcome the guests first.

Younger people should wait for the elder to reach out first.

Juniors should wait for their superior/senior to reach out first in order to show respect.

上一辈 (shàng  yi  bèi): n. ancestors/one’s elders

While shaking hands is not a native Chinese custom, in present day it’s hard to find a part of the country, or even the culture, that doesn’t recognize the gesture.

How strong to do it

When shaking hands, it’s appropriate to use a moderate level of strength in order to show warmth and friendliness. In terms of handshake length, if we had to put a number on it let’s say if you’re meeting someone for the first time the handshake shouldn’t last more than 3 seconds; as a general rule, especially if you’re not sure of local customs, avoid holding the opposite sex’s hand for a long time. Of course, keep in mind that if the handshake is too short, you may be seen arrogant, cold, or perfunctory.

力度 (lì  du): n. strength

2. Cultural Differences When Greeting Others

When Westerners meet each other, they usually don’t ask each other long and involved questions. The topics of conversation between the two sides are generally not painful, and often superfluous.

A: Good morning, Peter!
B: Good morning, David!
A: Nice to meet you!
B: Nice to meet you, too!
A: It’s a nice day today.
B: Yeah, it wasn’t so good yesterday.
A: Bye, have a nice weekend!
B: The same to you, bye!

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If both people are Chinese, however, the topic of conversation can get very personal, very quickly.

hēi, lǎo   lǐ,zěn  me  zhè  me  qiǎo ?
嗨, 老     李,  怎   么   这    么   巧?
Hi, Li, What’s the coincidence!

zhè  bú  shì  xiǎo  wáng  mɑ ?   qù   nǎ   ér    ɑ ?
这    不   是     小      王      嘛?    去    哪   儿  啊?
Isn’t this Xiao Wang? Where are you going?

qù  gōng  sī  jiā  bān .
去     公    司  加   班。
I’m going to the company to work overtime.

zhōu  liù  hái  jiā  bān ?  lǎo  pó  méi  yì  jiàn ?
周      六   还   加    班?     老   婆   没   意   见?
Do you still work overtime on Saturdays? Doesn’t your wife mind?

méi  bàn  fǎ ,  tā  dài  hái  zi  chū  qù  le .
没    办     法,  她   带   孩  子  出   去   了。
Can’t do anything about that. She went out with the kid.

hái  zi  duō  dà  lɑ ?  nǐ  xiàn  zài  zhù  nǎ   lǐ ?     fáng    zǐ   mǎi   le   mɑ?
孩    子   多   大  啦?  你    现    在    住   哪  里?     房    子    买     了    吗?
How old is your kid? Where do you live now? Have you bought a house?

mǎi  le  2   nián   le .
买    了    2   年    了。
We bought one 2 years ago.

(kāi  shǐ  chá  hù  kǒu)     àn   jiē    de  ? shǒu   fù   duō   shɑo  ?
( 开   始    查     户    口 )   按   揭   的 ?   首      付    多     少?
(Looking at the registration) Mortgaged? How much is the down payment?

yào   huán  30  nián , shǒu  fù  20%,  suǒ  yǐ  yào  jiā  bān  ɑ ,xiān  bù  liáo  le , gǎn  shí  jiān , gǎi  tiān  liáo
要      还     30    年,   首     付   20%, 所    以    要    加    班    啊,先   不  聊  了, 赶    时    间 ,   改    天    聊
Still 30 more years with a 20% down payment, so I have to work overtime. Sorry I can’t talk right now, I’m in a hurry. Let’s chat another day.

hǎo  de ,zài   jiàn !
好     的,  再    见!
OK, goodbye!

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No matter which country you’re in, the important thing is that everyone is comfortable when they meet other people—there may be different standards and boundaries, but as long as you’re considerate and polite the details aren’t so important.

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“5 Psychological Phenomena You Probably Haven’t Heard About!”
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