Chinese Culture Points

Chinese Appellations


The Chinese system of names and titles is by and large complicated. Titles may be used to address each other among one’s colleagues, e.g. “màizǒng and Liú Jīnglǐ”. For acquaintances personal names and surnames may be preceded by “lǎo” (old) or “xiǎo” (young). Formal patterns of address include “xiānsheng” (mister,Sir). “nǚshì” (Ms or Mrs), “tàitai” (madam or Mrs) and “xiáojiě” (miss).

For example:
colleagues greet to each other: Good morning, wánɡ jīnɡlǐ!
Conversation between acquaintances: xiǎowánɡ, pass me that cup of tea.
Formal pattern: The waiter opened the hotel door and said, come in, please, Miss.

Chinese Expression of Good Wishes


Chinese good wishes are expressed on holidays and festivals, or at birthday parties. Such expressions vary from one to another. The most commonly used ones are “shēngrì kuàilè (Happy birthday), “zhù nĭ jiànkāng chángshòu” (Wish you good health and long life), “zhù nĭ fú rú Dōnghăi, shòubĭ Nánshān” (May your happiness be as boundless as the sea and longevity comparable to that of the hills), “yílù píng’ān” (Bon voyage), yílù shùnlì” (Have a good trip), “lǚtú yúkuài” (Have a peasant journey), “yílù shùnfēng” (Have a plain sailing), “xīnián kuàilè” (Happy New Year), “xīnnián jíxiáng” (Have an anspicious New Year), “xīnián hăo” (Happy New Year), and “hé jiā xìnɡfú (Wish your family every happiness).

Difference Between “nĭ” and “nín”

“你”和“您”都是第二人称单数的面称用语。“你”是一般的称谓,用在同辈或比自己辈分小的人身上,还可以用在较熟悉的朋友之间的互称;“您”是用在对长辈或上级的面称,表示尊敬。Both nĭ and nín are pronouns of “you”. The former is generally used with colleagues of one’s age, younger people, close friends or acquaintances. The latter is applied to elders or higher-ranking officers as a respectful form of addressing.

For example:
Tom asked Peter: Will you go to the cinema?
The secretary told her manager: You have a meeting at 4pm.

How do the Chinese manage their money matters

Traditionally the average Chinese are careful with their budgeting. Instead of spending more than their monthly income, they try to keep their daily expenditures by depositing the unused money in a bank. Therefore purchases are often made when usable cash is on hand. Credit card holders, by and large, consider it unwise to call upon a bank account overdraft.

Privacy of Chinese people

Among close Chinese friends the topic of conversation may be unlimited, varying from one’s age, income, marriage etc.. Don’t be embarrassed, as a matter of fact, they are not so intereted in your personal secrets. Instead, they just want to show you their care by widening the topic. You don’t have to respond precisely when asked questions such as “chī fàn le ma” or “nĭ qù nǎ’ér”.

Gift exchange among the Chinese People

Gift exchange is common in personal or business communication. Chinese people often present souvenirs to one another as a reminder of their friendship. Generally they are concerned about the usefulness of the gifts, ranging from daily necessities to other small items. Pears and umbrellas are taboo as gifts to friends. Customarily clocks may, if sent as a birthday gift to aged people, elicit ill feelings.

What is meant by “cheers” in Chinese

The Chinese equivalent to “cheers” (gān bēi) is “drink up every drop given” or “empty one’s glass”. However on formal occasions one may proposal a toast by drinking spirits in sips, rather than gulps if one is not a heavy drinker. At an informal party acquaintances often encourage one another to drink their fill by saying “gān le” (let’s drink it up). This is generally understood as an expression of friendship and hospitality. One may drink it up if one has a good capacity for liquor. Thus the drinking may go on round by round. If one is a light drinker or doesn’t want to drink any more, one may take a small sip, drink half of it, or quit with an apology.

Chinese Festivals and Holidays

Of the traditional Chinese festivals the most important one is the Spring Festival the 1st day of the 1st lunar month). In addition there are festivals such as the Lantern Festival (the 15th of the 1st lunar month), Tomb – sweeping Day (Apri 3,4,5,6, observed as a festival for worshiping at ancestral graves), the Dragon Boat Festival (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month), the Mid-autumn Festival (the 15th of the 8th lunar month), the Double Ninth Festival the 9th day of the 9th lunar month). The commemoration days are the New Year’s Day (January 1), Women’s Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), Children’s Day (June 1), the Anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (July 1), Army Day (August 1), Teachers’Day (September 10), and National Day (October 1).

When does one say “Thank you”?

Traditionally a Chinese says “thank you” only when a favor has been done for him. His thanks goes, for example, to a person who returns him a lost item, or someone who offers him a seat on the bus or in the subway. Unlike westerners, Chinese people don’t often verbalize their thanks for complimentary remarks. Chinese consumers do thank waiters for their service, but the latter seldom return their thankfulness. Similarly, a Chinese person of high authority doesn’t often acknowledge a favor, however impressive it may be, to his/her junior partner.

Chinese Name.

A Chinese name consists of two parts: the surname precedes the given name. In Wáng Dàkĕ, for example, Wáng is his surname whereas Dàkĕ the given name. One-character surnames account for a great percentage of the total. Only a small number of surnames are formed by two characters, such as ōuyáng or Sīmă. There is a common choice between one character and two for one’s given name with the exception of a few such names containing three or more characters.


Customarily Chinese friends, colleagues and acquaintances shake hands with one another when they first meet or reunite after lone years of separation. Handshaking between men and women may be symbolically brief, but the initiative can be taken by either side although male eagerness often prevails.

The Chinese etiquette for the receipt of guests

You will receive a warm welcome during your visit to a Chinese family. You are likely to be treated to tea, sweets, fruits or refreshments. Just feel free to enjoy everything, for the sincerity and hospitality of the host should make you feel at home. Perhaps you think the entertainment is rich, but the host would insist that they don’t have much to serve, that you just have a taste of whatever you like. This modest attitude should not be taken that their receipt of the guests is below par. Before departure, inviting you to come again is often expressed as a friendly gesture for which the arrangement of a date may not be seriously made.

Introducing people

The Chinese expression “zhè wèi shì…” and “zhè shì…” are often used to introduce people to one another, but “tā shì…” is not preferred. “Zhè shì…” can also be used to describe objects to people. To explain your products to the customers, you may say “Zhè shì wŏmen de xīn chăn pĭn, zhè shì nánshì yòng de, zhè shì nǚshì yòng de…” (These are our new products… These are designed for gentlemen… and those are made for ladies…).

The proper sequence of an introduction

Generally speaking, Chinese people are not so particular about the personal order of any introduction on informal occasions. Positions and sexes do not suggest much difference. However, in formal introductions (e.g. at a conference or in negotiations) the precedence is always given according to ranking and seniority.

Chinese apologies

Chinese people say “I beg your pardon” or “sorry” for having done wrong, having disturbed people or having caused trouble. The apologetic expressions of “duì bù qĭ” (awfully sorry) and “hěn bào qiàn” (pardon me) are applicable to, for example, accidental damage, trampling on one’s toes or breaking an appointment. However it is unnecessary to say “duì bù qǐ” before one asks the way. Learn it with Live Teacher Now!

General holidays and daily schedule

General holidays in China are Saturday, Sunday, New Year’s day (one day off), the Spring Festival (three days off), Labour Day (May 1st, three days off) and the National Day (October 1st, three days off). What is known as the Golden Weeks includes the Spring Festival, May 1st and October 1st on which people take seven days off by connecting two weekends and the holidays together.

Under the Chinese system people work for eight hours daily and five days weekly. The working hours are arranged between 8 (or 9) to 12 am, and 1 (or 2) to 5 (or 6) pm. Many people take an aftermoon nap, therefore the lunch break in many companies can be as long as two hours.

Does “bú yònɡ” only mean one’s refusal?

“bú yònɡ le” may be used to avoid bothering someone. If you think your help is necessary, you’d better insist on your offer. Then your assistance is likely to be accepted with a “bù hăo yì si” (sorry to trouble you), “màfan nǐ le” (sorry to bother you), which implies that your offer is appreciated. If one feels it unnecessary to bother anybody, one will decline further.

Precedence and courtesy

Chinese people often give precedence to one another, especially according to seniority, in social communication. It is advisable for one to decline an offer if one can. Suppoing someone asks one to go first at an entrance, one may insist on him/her taking the precedence. If not, one doesn’t seem to have good manners. It also applies to table behaviour. Guests, especially aged members, are always invited to start a meal first. However Chinese participants will invariably try to be the first to pay the bill.

Chinese modesty

Traditionally the Chinese people do not like to show a high opinion of their own merits. Instead they are always modest about their achievements, or prefer a low-key statement to a display of their advantages. When you praised a chinese person, he may humbly tell you how deficient he is. Therefore the chinese reply “nă lĭ, nă lĭ” (well, it is nothing) to any complimentary remarks may not be interpreted as a denial of the truth. However grateful they are they may not verbalize their thanks, or they will be considered to be insufferable people.

Nowadays some people, especially young and educated Chinese, like to follow the English way and thank admirers for their compliments.

Seeing People Off

Chinese people are justly famous for their hospitality. A Chinese host often personally accompanies the leaving guests to the lift, or goes with them until they are out of his house or office, or even stands gazing after their parting. The farther the host escorts the guests, the greater an honour it will be. A good send-off is commonly given to the guests until they get into the car. It is unusual to immediately shut the door behind guests.

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