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Say It Right Series

Have a Talk with Chinese

Posted by huaseliuding March 16, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Before your visit, it is worthwhile to know some aspects of Chinese culture, history, and geography, for your hosts will appreciate your initiative.

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It is important, during the course of the conversation, to be aware of the speech culture in China. Negative replies are considered impolite in China. Never say "no". Instead, you can respond with "I'll look into that”, 'I'll think about it' or 'maybe' etc. You'll find that the Chinese will do the same. When your Chinese counterparts smilingly and politely or even enthusiastically say 'No big problem' or 'The problem is not serious', they usually mean 'There are still problems'.


If you are asked of intrusive questions concerning your age, income, and marital status and you don't want to tell, also you'd better remain polite and give an unspecific answer. Don't show anger to the questioner, since 'losing face' has such negative implications in this culture. Never inquire of your Chinese hosts' family except some questions like 'How old is your child?', 'How long have you been in the work force?' or 'Where is your child studying?' as a means of determining their marital status and age.


The question 'Have you eaten?' or 'Where have you been?' are mentioned in China as well as 'How are you?' in North America; it's just a superficial inquiry that does not require a literal-minded, detailed answer. Simply answer, 'yes', even if you haven't actually eaten or simply smile and say 'thank you'.


It is a good idea to make an effort to learn and use a few words in Chinese; your initiative will be noticed and appreciated. Make sure you know the meaning and appropriate occasions for what you say.


You can make general inquiries about the health of another's family, such as 'are all in your family well?' During a meal, expressing fond of the food you are eating is a welcome and usually expected topic of conversation. 'Small talk' is considered especially important at the beginning of a meeting; any of the topics suggested in the next set of points will be appropriate for this occasion.


Popular Topics


Chinese scenery, landmarks


Weather, climate, and geography in China


Chinese art, antique


Food, shopping etc. in China


Your travels in other countries


Your positive experiences traveling in China


Topics to Avoid


Refrain from using the terms such as 'Red China', 'Mainland China', and 'Communist China'. Just say 'China'.


Never say "the Republic of China"; instead, at meetings, say "Taiwan".

More information about China    

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