Living In China
How to Feel at Home, Make Friends, and Enjoy Everyday Life: A Brief Introduction to the Culture for Visitors, Students, and Business Travelers
by Lin Wang and Xiaohua Wei

ISBN 10: 0-86647-267-3;
13: 978-0-86647-267-8


Living In China

1.9 Eating Customs and Cultural Differences

The main difference between Chinese and western eating habits is that in the West, each person has their own plate of food, but in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares.

* When you are invited to eat in a restaurant by a Chinese friend, it means they will pay the bill. Chinese do not "go Dutch" as often as Americans do.

* When you eat in the home of a Chinese friend, they will certainly encourage you to eat more, picking up pieces of food with their chopsticks and placing them in your bowl or on your plate. While you are eating, your Chinese host will always say, "Help yourself. No good food to eat." This seems odd since there is plenty of good food prepared, but your host is being modest, pushing you to eat while admitting that there isn't much and it isn't good. Typically your friend will also keep encouraging you to drink more alcohol. This is a very common and polite way of treating guests in China, so your host may not notice if it makes you uncomfortable..

* Usually in the U.S., when a guest arrives, the food is already prepared, and you sit with your guest talking or sharing drinks. But in China, when you are invited to dine, you will find that your host will often leave you alone with a cup of tea, asking you to sit or watch TV while they are busy cooking in the kitchen. This may seem rude to you, making you feel uncomfortable. However, in Chinese cuisine, many good dishes need to be cooked right before they are served, to keep the best, freshest taste. Typically you will see steam coming up from the plate or bowl as it is served.
Facilities and service

Hotel rooms are normally equipped with a telephone, TV, internet connection, hair dryer, iron, and refrigerator. You will be provided with towels, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, and a comb. Breakfast is not included. We don't give tips in the hotel, but many foreigners give small tips to those who help them carry their luggage to their room when they check in. There are no tips for the waiters/waitresses and the taxi driver, because a service fee is charged already. If you receive very good service and want to express your appreciation, you may write a brief comment in their Customer Comment Book, and they will certainly enjoy reading it.

Table manners

Chinese pay a lot of attention to how they eat at the table. While table manners may vary from place to place, the following are common ones:

* Do not just take any chair to sit down at the dinner table. Wait till the host gives you a position to sit at the table.

* When exchanging business cards, hold yours with two hands and let your title face the receiver.

* When a toast is proposed for you, drink it up and show to your host that the cup is empty to show respect.

* Before you move the revolving table with different dishes, make sure no one else is getting food from the plates on the table.

* Do not stick two chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice. It is a big taboo because the shrine for the dead has a bowl of rice with two sticks of incense stuck straight.

* Chinese like to use toothpicks at the end of a meal to clean their teeth. If you feel a need to do so, try to cover your mouth with both hands while doing it. Then put the toothpick down discreetly.

* To show their hospitality, many Chinese hosts like to pick up the good food with their own chopsticks and put it onto your plate. When this happens, try to eat it and say how good the food is. If you cannot eat so much or do not feel comfortable, just thank the host and leave the food there.

* Do not tap on your bowl with the chopsticks, because beggars used to do it.

* When your host pours tea or wine into your cup or glass, tap the table gently with your hand to show "Thanks." (This is a widespread practice in southern China.)

* If you are a host, offer the seat facing the door to your most senior or distinguished guest. Make sure the teapot spout does not point at anybody.

4.3 Eye Contact and Body Language

At the negotiation table with your business partners, look into their eyes when they talk to show your sincerity. Have a notebook in front of you to take some notes. This will present a very positive image to the Chinese side, as it is considered standard manners at meetings at various levels in China. During the negotiation, do not take a nod from your potential business partner as an agreement. It more often means they are listening to you carefully.

5.3 Deciding What You Want to Do in China

This can be a very difficult decision to make. An American professor of biology or economics can end up teaching very basic English conversation at a college that offers a teaching position in the Biology or Economics Department. Of course, you may teach your real subject in an M.A. or Ph.D. program in more prestigious institutions of higher learning. But it is often the case that you will spend a lot more time teaching your students how to pronounce difficult words and how to communicate in English. Foreigners with a liberal arts background and teaching experience are particularly welcome by the English and other departments of a college or university. Those with an M.B.A. and management experience are more welcome to work in companies and enterprises jointly run by Chinese and foreigners. No matter what you have already decided to do in China, be prepared to make an adjustment, because the concept of job assignment in China is very different from what you have in the U.S., where you just sign a contract and start doing what is specified in the contract.
5.7 Job Offer and Contract

After the Chinese side agrees to employ you, you will receive a job offer with general terms of employment. But this is by no means a contract; that will be signed after you arrive in China. After you arrive, you will talk face to face with your Chinese employer, who will show you the actual contract with a detailed job description. You need to read your contract very carefully, especially about your benefits such as pay, holidays, medical insurance, and air tickets.


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