Showing respect in China is of vital importance in social interaction. There are two different ways to say “you”. Therefore, when you are speaking to a stranger, elder or high authority, you are supposed to use the formal one. It doesn’t matter that much if just between friends.
In Chinese culture, the oldest person in a family or an organization has the most respect, honor and dignity.So when the elder is talking, you should never interrupt or question him/her. Chinese people not only respect the elder, but also admire them. It is commonly said that Old men, who walk more roads, eat more rice, read more books, have more experiences, enjoy more happiness, and endure more sufferings are experienced and knowledgeable, with rich life experience. So in China, you are expected to offer your seat to the elder on a bus or subway.
When giving a gift to a Chinese friend, do not expect him/her to open it right in front of you. In western culture, it is common to open the present immediately and show surprise and tell the person how much you like it; however, in China, people will say thank you and put the present aside and keep talking to you. Do not feel offended by that. Because Chinese people think it is impolite to open the gift immediately rather than talk to their friends.
Leave your chopsticks vertically in China is definitely a “NO”. It is very inappropriate and disrespectful to put your chopsticks vertically on the rice. It symbolizes death and funeral. It is very unlucky. To show respect, you should really watch your table manners in China.
One may say that by the influence of Confucius’s philosophical thinking, the Chinese have become more reserved or at least the gestures expressing emotions are comparatively less expressive. In China, couples do not show public affection to each other. It is preferred that people do not use too much hand gestures when talking. However, nonverbal communication traditions change over time. The young generation encourage themselves by that “if you love him/her, say it loud enough to let the world know”. But kissing in public is still considered “degrade social conduct”.
For greetings, when you meet your professor, you should lower your head and bend slightly to show respect. The same posture is also used when a young man is greeting an old man. And shaking hands is also a way of greetings. It is not used between people of radically different status, but between socially equal people, friends or businessman. Nodding of the head or slightly bow is also sufficient. Hugging can be used between close friends, but not usually with the opposite sex. Kissing is very rare for greetings in China.
One of the interesting Chinese nonverbal communication customs is the gestures for counting. The gesture for 1, 2, 3, and 5 are similar to the corresponding European gestures but the rest are different. For example, this is 6 .
Most of the counting gestures come from the Chinese characters for the numbers. The other thing that I noticed is “V”. In America, “V” stands for peace and friend, whereas in China or Japan, young people use the palm-outward V sign when posting for informal photographs. And it pronounces like “yay”, which also means something like “yay” too.
Power distance is the degree to which less powerful members of an organization tolerate unequal distribution of power. So in a high power distance culture, people tend to accept the inequalities between employers and employees, or parents and children. In the opposite, people from a low power culture cannot easily tolerate the unfairness. Uncertainty avoidance is the tendency to behave so as to arrange things in a way that minimizes unforeseen consequences. In a high uncertainty avoidance culture, people value traditions and routines, whereas in a low uncertainty avoidance culture, people have a propensity to change. It is easier for them to adapt to new things.
According to Hofstede’s cultural Dimension, China sits in the higher rankings of PDI, at 80. People in China don’t always agree on “all men are equal. They respect or even fear of the elderly and authority. Children are expected to “behave themselves”. However, China has a low score on uncertainty avoidance. It can be well explained just by the rapid and amazing changes China has made in the past 30 years. With 30 years of reform and opening to the world, China has quickly accumulated tremendous riches that makes the national power boost up and the international status further improved.
Doing business in a high power distance culture, like China, requires the preparation to be real professional. People are expected to be called by their title and last name. So be specific about the titles. During a meeting, be a good listener. Don’t interrupt or question in the meeting, especially do not question authorities. When at a business dinner, learn about the dining rules ahead of time. But since China is a low uncertainty avoidance culture, new ideas and technology are always very welcome. So be open-minded to new ideas and keep up!