Customs and Etiquette

As a country with much ceremony and splendid civilazation, China keeps its unique customs and etiquette. When traveling in China, please remember an old saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do” and learn something about Chinese ceremonies. Most of the Chinese customs and etiquette, like greetings and dining may be searched online, so the followings are some other ceremonies which are useful, interesting and may be met during your trip in China.

When Going to the Toilet
Quite a lot of the public toilets in China are squat toilets.
Quite a lot of the public toilets in China are squat toilets except for that in 4 and 5 star hotels, deluxe restaurants and some department stores. Therefore, please be well prepared for squat toilets before visiting China. However, most of squat toilets around downtown, scenic spots, restaurants and some shops where you may visit are clean and tidy. Why “your western-style toilets” are not so popular in China? One of the explanations is most of the Chinese people can squat easily, not touching it.

1. If you plan to visit remote areas or go hiking outdoors, squat toilets are different from that in the city. Lots of them are just outhouses. Squat toilets there may be very simple and untidy, with only a big hole below and two boards above. Sometimes, you even cannot find a miserable toilet outdoors if you go hiking. At this moment, you need to find underbrush to go to the John.

2. Some public toilets in China need to be paid for 5 jiao or 1 yuan at a time.

Toilet paper will not be provided in most of the public toilets.
Toilet tissues will not be provided in most of the public toilets, such as the toilets in department stores, some restaurants, scenic spots and shops. It is better for you to take a pack of tissues with you when you travel in China.

When Seeing a Baby Wearing Open-seat Pants
When visiting China, you may often see babies wearing pants with open crotch, especially in the countryside areas. Please don’t feel strange or embarrassed.

Historical records show that open-crotch pants have been written during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring State Period (over 2,500 years ago). At that time, open-seat pants were popular and most of people wore them. As a result of historical changes, trousers were instead of open-crotch pants from Han Dynasty (about 2,000 years ago). However, the kids were still worn them by their parents. In ancient China, in parents’ opinion, open-seat pants were very convenient and good for babies’ health because there were no disposable infant diapers at that time.

As time passes and one generation yields to another, open-seat pants have been come down as a kind of unique Chinese customs in many places in China. Even today, babies with open-crotch pants can be seen easily. Nevertheless, more and more parents are aware of the privacy of the babies and do not buy open-seat pants for their babies. In future, open-seat pants may be disappeared in China.

When Meeting a Wedding or Funeral in China
As the reform and opening up going into depth over more than 30 years, China is becoming a modern nation. Today, the weddings and funerals in China are quite different from the traditional Chinese styles.

Chinese wedding today
Preparation: Most of the couples go to the local Civil Affairs Bureau for registration before wedding ceremony while some couples go to register after wedding. The wedding date is selected according to astrological book by groom’s family when it would be proper and propitious to hold the wedding ceremony.

Picking up the Bride:
On the wedding ceremony day, most grooms and brides are wearing western-style wedding dresses. In the morning, the wedding convoy will go to the bride’s home and the groom picks the bride up after giving some money (often 888 yuan or other amount of money with lucky number) to the relatives and friends of the bride. Then drive to their new home.

Wedding Feast: Wedding feast plays an important role in the whole wedding schedule. The bride and groom will change another dresses before the feast. Then they will stand in front of the gate of the hotel or restaurant to welcome the guests. The groom will light up a cigarette for every male guest while the bride is holding a plate with candies for female guests. At this time, the guests will give red packets to the couples. Before entering the dining room, the guests will write down their own signatures on a large and red paper. When most of the guests arrive, the feast begins. The bride and groom will make a toast to every guest during the feast. Then the whole wedding ceremony comes to an end.

1. The time of wedding feast varies in different places. Generally speaking, the feast starts at noon in North of China while most people in the South like holding the feast in the evening. If the feast in the North is held in the evening, it means that the bride or the groom remarries.

2. Some traditional ethnic weddings are quite different. Each ethnic group has its unique wedding ceremony and rules. Before visiting ethnic villages or areas, please do some researches on their wedding customs.

Chinese funeral today
Since ancient China, funeral has been considered as an important rite. Funerals in different places have various rules or customs, especially in ethnic areas. Meanwhile, many rules are still the same in most parts of China. The followings are some common rules and customs of funeral in China.

According to traditional Chinese cultures, the burial rite of a senior citizen passed away over 80 years old, calls Xi Sang (blessed funeral), which means “a funeral for an old man with a natural death”.

The deceased is dressed grave clothes and the direct relative should put on mourning apparel of white color. Generally, the mourning period should be at least three weeks to 3 years at most. During the 3-year mourning period, the relatives should go to visit the grave on the Tomb Sweeping Day and the death anniversary every year.

The forms of burial vary in different areas. At present, cremation is much more common than burial in China. However, burial is still the first choice in rural areas and ethnic areas. Celestial burial (disposal of a body by exposing it to birds of grey) is popular in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

In rural areas, joint burial urn can be seen easily and the graves are large. People determine a good location for graves based on philosophy of Fengshui. They believe that a good location for the deceased could have a positive influence on the fortune of their family and offsprings. In urban areas, cemeteries are popular because the land is finite. Therefore, the space for each grave is much less than that in rural areas.

When Hearing Speaking Loudly
When visiting China, you may hear that some people speak loudly in public places, even some females. Please don’t be nervous and angry. In most cases, speaking loudly doesn’t mean they quarrel with each other or it is rude.

Generally, people living in the North and West speak more loudly than that in the South and East basing on the regional factors and food habits. In some places, speaking loudly means hospitality or is just the personality of the locals, such as Sichuan and Hunan. Meanwhile, sometimes, a person who speaks loudly is frank and straightforward.

When Taking Photos in China
Please ask for permission before taking a photo, especially in ethnic areas. Moreover, sometimes, please don’t take photos of senior citizens because they think that being photographed by a stranger means unlucky. However, most of the time, you can take photos at any time. We suggest that it is better for you to get consent before photographing.

As is well known, red is the lucky color in China which means auspicious and joyous. The followings are some other customs or etiquette in China.

Lucky numbers:
In general, 3, 6, 8, 9 are lucky numbers for most of the Chinese. “Three” means “high above shine the three stars” while the three stars include gods of fortune, prosperity and longevity. “Six” represents smoothness or success. Many young people choose the dates with “six” as their wedding days, such as the 6th, 16th and 26th. “Eight” sounds so close to the word for wealth that many people believe eight is a number that is linked to prosperity. So it is no surprise that the opening ceremony for the Olympics started at 8:08:08 pm on the 8th, August 2008. “Nine” is also regarded as a lucky number with the meaning of everlasting.

Note: “Four” is a taboo for most Chinese because the pronunciation in Chinese is close to “death”.

Three friends of winter
Three friends of winter, including pine, bamboo and plum, are regarded as the symbol of the lasting friendship since ancient China. Besides, there are also the themes of traditional Chinese paintings.

Twitches of the eyelids
There is a saying, twitching of the left eyelid refers to fortune or wealth while jerking of a right eyelid means disaster or something bad would be happened.

Tipping Etiquette in China
It is customary to tip service providers in travel industry in Asia, at approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected - though not compulsory - and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. When only local guides are employed in the trip (group size less than 5), you may do this individually or as a group at the end of each destination. When a tour leader looking after the group (group size more than 6), he/she will offer to collect the money and tip with the group tipping kitty. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from $2-$3 USD per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask your tour leader for specific recommendations based on the circumstances. Also at the end of each trip if you felt your CET Tour Leader did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $2-3 USD per person, per day can be used.

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