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Public Behavior


Handshakes are popular in China, however, wait for your Chinese counterpart to initiate the gesture. The Chinese will sometimes nod as an initial greeting. Bowing is seldom used except in ceremonies. Visit to school, theater, or other workplace is likely to be greeted with applause as a sign of welcome. In turn, you should respond by applauding back.

You should avoid making expansive gestures and using unusual facial expressions. The Chinese do not use their hands when speaking, and will only become annoyed with a speaker who does, so make an effort not to use your hands to illustrate your speech (talking with your hands). However, some hand gestures are necessary. For example, to summon attention, you can turn your palm down, waving your fingers toward yourself and use your whole hand rather than your index finger to point.

Do not touch your Chinese colleague, do not even pat him on the shoulder. The Chinese, especially those who are older and in positions of authority, dislike being touched by strangers.

Acknowledge the most senior person in a group first. Try as well to refrain from looking straight into the eyes of your Chinese colleague: this is particularly offensive during a meeting and will offend your Chinese colleagues' feelings. An offense or insult is a proven formula for failure of the meeting.

Smiling is not as noticeable in China, since there is a heavy emphasis on repressing emotion. Members of the same sex may hold hands in public in order to show friendliness. Public displays of affection between the sexes are frowned upon.

Do not put your hands in your mouth, as it is considered vulgar. Consequently, when in public, avoid biting your nails, removing food from your teeth, and similar practices.

Pushing and cutting ahead is common in lineups among Chinese, but they do not appreciate being cut in front of themselves. Spitting in public is no longer acceptable. It is subject to a heavy fine now. Blowing your nose with a handkerchief is also acceptable, but it is advisable to turn away from people while doing so.


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