Traveling to China? Check this post first!

shanghai-chinaChina attracts visitors in swarms every year. With a monumental 26.29 million visitors in 2013, China is gradually becoming the hub of tourism for the rest of the world despite the language barrier. Estimates suggest that in less than a decade, China will eventually become the world’s top tourist destination attracting the largest number of tourists every year.

Are you planning on visiting your provider or looking for a new vendor and thus travelling to China any time soon? Then this is the right blog for you. Read on to find out a few tips on the customs, traditions and the routine of the Chinese people and what you should avoid doing whilst on your sojourn to this exciting outsourcing destination.

The Do’s and the Don’ts to Be Mindful of When Traveling to China

The Right Moves:

  • Apply for the visa well before you plan to visit China. Also, keep in mind that some Chinese cities such as Shenzhen require special permits / additional visas in order to be visited.
  • Be prepared to face some bureaucracy. Keep calm when dealing with officials, especially in tense situations, don’t get angry or raise your voice. Easy does it.
  • If you can afford it stay in five-star hotels, their staff will speak English and will be extremely helpful in catering to your needs and requests.
  • Be prepared to navigate around the country with assumption that nobody speaks English (you will be pleasantly surprised once in a while). A great idea is to have a few cards with most common requests (where is a restroom?) handy. Keep cards with addresses of your hotel, office, etc. Don’t expect that a cab driver will understand your pronunciation.
  • I found that the people of China are very friendly, and surprisingly the police. Chances of police speaking English are relatively high, in particular in large cities. So if you are stuck somewhere finding a policemen and talking with them could be the best bet.
  • Keeping a scanned copy of your passport with you at all times.
  • Always use Chinese currency. While credit cards are now accepted in many places cash is still the king.
  • Present your business card to people with both hands. Take business card with both hands as well and treat them as precious jewelry.
  • If you receive a gift be emphatically thankful but do not hurry to open it. Also, make sure you refuse any gifts at least two to three times before accepting them.
  • Don’t be surprised if random people approach you and ask to practice their English. If you prefer decline politely with a smile, if you decide to speak do it slow, stay away from jargon, and annunciate well.
  • If you find yourself in less official situation, for example visiting someone at their home, make sure that you exude respect, in particular respect to elders. Remove your shoes when entering a Chinese home or temple; greet the eldest person in a Chinese family first.
  • Eat what your host offers and orders, including alcohol unless you absolutely can’t help it. Eat all of the rice in your bowl. And fill your companion’s tea cup when it’s empty. Note in many parts of China making slurping sounds while having soup or tea is a sign of feeling welcomed.

The Wrong Moves:

  • Displaying disrespect to anyone is a big no-no in business and casual settings. Even stating something obvious and supported by various facts that simply points out that someone was wrong could be very damaging to everyone involved.  See my older post about saving face.
  • Making political comments and speaking lightly of Chinese history. In particular being casual about Chairman Mao.
  • Being offended by what Americans consider impolite questions and comments such as Are you married? Oh, no so old and still single? I can’t believe you gained so much wait since I saw you last time!
  • Driving in China is not something I would encourage since there is a huge disparity in whether to follow the rules or not.  For example I noticed that most drivers stayed ~5 km/h under a speed limit yet made some really risky moves, turns and unexpected stops.
  • Expecting that pedestrians have the right of way over motorized or bicycle traffic.
  • Giving too much attention to an object someone else owns. I heard that like in some other countries the person may feel obligated to give this object to you. I saw once a pair of expensive earring change hands at the party.
  • Eating in cheap restaurants, trying street food, and in indulging on local rice wine. Unless you have iron laced intestines things can deteriorate quickly and keep you from doing business for quite some time.
  • Leaving your chopsticks upright in your bowl or taping your bowl with them.
  • Making out in public… Not like that has anything to do with outsourcing. So just keep in mind that public display of affection is unacceptable neither in business or casual settings.
  • Touching people, in particular their head is highly inadvisable. At the same time you have to really squeeze into the line in order to secure a place for yourself. Also, it’s OK to gently push the person ahead of you to keep the line moving.
  • Giving books as gifts. I hear that to ‘give a book’ sounds like or means to ‘deliver defeat.’
  • Writing anything in red ink unless you’re correcting an exam. I understand that red ink is used for letters of protest.

What has been your experience?

If you ever been in China and especially if you were born there or lived a long time please share your thoughts, add some pointers, suggest your thoughts, ideas and Do’s and Don’ts. Help your fellow readers to have the best possible experience in that fascinating country which could be on its way to the number one outsourcing destination.  Please leave your comments below or send me an email at

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