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China's Habits

Learn the important customs and the Chinese habits!

The Chinese culture is over 3500 years old. Ways of thinking and convictions are often ancient and considered “untouchable”. However, recently the society started to transform various habits and rules at a fast pace. These notions were traditionally determined by the emperor for centuries but have undergone many drastic changes during the last hundred years.

Many aspects of Chinese culture may be irritating to us “Westerners”. Whether in public space, in metros, in banks, in restaurants or at work, we witness or directly participate in situations that may confuse us as they are difficult to understand. We help you to prepare for these cultural differences in advance. We point out where these habits come from and how you or your employees can respond best to them. We want to prevent the culture shock and its associated effects.

Habits and superstitions
China is a country of many different customs and folk beliefs. Numbers play a significant role, thus many decisions are made based on them. You have to keep in mind that there are good and bad numbers in China. When it comes to luck, the 8 is a “magic” and a special number. This is a result of the pronunciation of the number 8 and the pronunciation of the word for “prosperity” sounding similar in Chinese. The more eights are in a combination of numbers, the better! In contrast, the number 250 is very negative, as it stands for “fool”. Therefore, use of this number should be avoided. You will never see a price tag of RMB 250 in China.

Colors are another point that is important as each of them is given specific values and meanings. There are colors that are considered positive and there are the ones that are negative. When choosing colors for logos or business cards, there are many things to keep in mind. In general; it can be said that the color red is “THE” color in China as it symbolizes happiness and joy. Therefore, red is used disproportionately often compared to the others. However, there is also a small exception with red; it is considered very offensive to sign with a red pen. Take home message is: when signing contracts, do not use a red pencil!

We are happy to advise you on these “little things” because they make the difference!

Ritualization and this-worldliness
Many actions, procedures, and processes of daily life in China are subject to traditional regulations. Deviations from these “norms” are avoided, resulting in spontaneity and improvisation still being very rare traits in China. This increased pressure to conform is also supported and shaped by the fear of losing face. Where DIY-books or the “learning by doing” methods are very popular in Western circles, it is still in its infancy in China. Learning new skills in China must be done through a “master” who sets the “right” path for you. The “copying” of a master is, therefore, very popular in China. Consequently, the “out of the box thinking” and creativity are still difficult concepts for many Chinese.

Another very pronounced orientation of Chinese culture lies in the “here and now” and the Confucian “this side principle”. As a Chinese, you would rather wish for long life and immediate wealth – than retirement plans or long-term investments. This is exacerbated by negative experiences in recent Chinese history, such as famine, crop failures, or civil wars, as a result living in China today is more about living with what you have now. Material desires are often in the foreground, thus one wishes primarily for wealth, a lucrative position or “ten thousand-fold” luck. The demonstrative consumption, as well as the pronounced appreciation of food, reflects this very clearly. Entertaining success and the “quick money” often play the central role in life as it is believed that one can never be sure of what the future will bring.

In the metro or on the street
During the rush hours, between 07.30 and 09.30 in the morning or between 5.30pm and 7.00pm, the subways are jam-packed. You have to assert yourself and claim your right to get on or off. Even though the ground markings indicate how to get in and out, this is rather considered as a recommendation, because very few Chinese will stick to it, as the fear of “missing out” is very strong among the Chinese.

The traffic in China’s metropolises can rob you of your last nerve. The driving habits are different than we are used to, so you always have to be careful. Preceding or giving priority to someone is considered more as a weakness than a gesture. Rein to Darwin: the stronger wins.