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China 10 Jun 2016

Unique Chinese cultural norms and customs 10 Jun 2016

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The depth and complexity of Chinese culture, with its rich heritage, is fascinating – it is incredibly diverse with large variations in culture, language, customs and economic development. That’s why, we’re changing tact this post, and focusing on some unique customs and cultural norms that are not only interesting, but essential for successfully engaging with Chinese people … particularly if you’re hosting.




Historically certain numbers, or combinations of numbers, have been considered as either lucky or unlucky, based on the similarity to some Chinese words. There is a particular fondness for even numbers, including:

  • ‘6’, which symbolises smooth going
  • ‘8’, which symbolises wealth

The exception is ‘4’, which sounds like ‘death’ in Chinese.

For example, when allocating hotel rooms to Chinese guests, try not to allocate any room with the number 4, particularly 4 and 14, which means ‘you are going to die’. On the other hand, rooms with ‘8’ signify good fortune and the prediction of wealth.

Another good idea to appeal to Chinese clients and visitors is to set your pricing with a number ending in 8, i.e. $18.88 or $888.


Red and gold are favourite traditional colours. Red signifies ‘celebration, happiness and goodwill’, while gold signifies ‘luxury, wealth and splendour.’

Black is a popular subtle colour which is regarded as sophisticated while not drawing attention. All official government vehicles are black.

China is also open to embracing colour influences reflected by global trends.

Food and beverage

The importance of collectiveness in Chinese culture is best evidenced at mealtime.  Meals are a shared experience and are an important element of personal and business life in China.

Certain foods hold extremely important meanings, for example:

  • Long noodles signify longevity and are often served at birthdays to symbolise a long and healthy life
  • Fish symbolises wealth and prosperity and is served especially at Chinese New Year
  • Lobster and abalone are served as a delicacy for important guests

The Chinese have started to follow Western trends in the consumption of wine. Red is preferred over white as it is associated with health, sophistication and a public sign of an openness to, and adoption of Western ways.

Tea culture

Tea is the drink of choice and is synonymous with Chinese culture. It is a good idea to have a variety of quality Chinese tea available to offer your guests and have appropriate cups, saucers, teapot, etc., to show respect for Chinese tea culture traditions.

Always have hot water available and try to pour tea for your Chinese visitors as frequently as possible. This is seen as a sign of respect, politeness and friendliness.


What is your experience with some unique Chinese culture and customs? Have you utilised this knowledge in your past dealings with clients and visitors?


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