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Business and Social Etiquette In China


Home -Information Centre - Business and Social Etiquette In China - Entertaining

Business lunches are growing in popularity in China. Business breakfasts, however, are not a part of Chinese business culture.

Evening banquets are the most popular occasions for business entertaining. Generally, these events start between 6:30pm and 7:00pm and last for two hours. If you are the guest, you should arrive on time. If you wish, arrive around 15 minutes early to a banquet; your Chinese hosts and counterparts will probably be present before the proceedings officially begin.

Banquets are hosted with varying degrees of extravagance, usually in a restaurant.

Seating Etiquette

Wait to be seated, as there is a seating etiquette based on hierarchy in Chinese business culture. Generally, the seat in the middle of the table, facing the door, is reserved for the guest of honour. The host sits directly to the left. Everyone else is seated in descending order of status. The most senior member sits in the centre seat. Follow this seating pattern if you are hosting a banquet or a meal in your residence, whether for business or purely social reasons. The host is the first person at the table allowed to begin eating and drinking. Then, the rest of the company can proceed with the meal.

Business is not discussed during the meal.


It is not uncommon for a host to order enough food for ten people at a table of five. He or she loses face if there are not plenty of left-overs at the end of a meal. Rice, considered by many Chinese to be filler, is generally not served until the end of a meal. So, if you want to eat rice with your meal be sure to ask the waitress to serve it early, particularly if the food is spicy.

During a meal, as many as 12 courses can be served, so try not to eat too much at once. The best policy is to lightly sample each dish.

Leaving a "clean plate" is perceived to mean that you were not given enough food - a terrible insult here. On the other hand, leaving a food offering untouched will been seen as impolite; even if you find a dish unappealing, try a small portion.

Tea drinking

One important part of Chinese business entertaining is a tea drinking ritual. It is used to establish rapport before a meeting or during meals.

If you do not want a "refill" of tea, leave some in your cup.

If you are served food that does not require utensils, you may be given a second cup of tea for the purpose of dipping and cleaning your fingers.


It will be appreciated if you use chopsticks. When you are finished eating, place your chopsticks on the table or a chopstick rest.

lacing your chopsticks parallel on top of your bowl is believed to bring bad luck.

Sticking your chopsticks straight up in your rice bowl is considered rude because in this position, they resemble the joss sticks that are used in Chinese religious rituals.

Do not put the end of the chopstick in your mouth.

When eating rice, follow Chinese custom by holding the bowl close to your mouth



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