Ten Things Not to Do in China

Any trip to China is filled with many things to do. The size and scope of the country can fill any traveler's schedule with must see sights and must do activities. However, there are also many things that visitors to China should remember not to do.

Don't Forget the Required Travel Documents

To enter China, you will need a valid passport and a visitor's visa. Some regions of China, like Tibet, require special permits. Those who plan on leaving mainland China and returning during their trip may need a multiple-entry visa. Make sure you have all of the documents you need in order to have a smooth vacation.

Don't Disrespect Homes or Temples

It is very important to remove your shoes before entering a home or temple. Don't worry about the safety of your shoes. They will be fine. Also don't worry about feet that are less than presentable. Hosts would be far more offended by shoes worn in the home than by a hole in your socks. However, it is also rude to show the bottom of your feet to others.

Don't Forget Table Manners

Don't leave any rice behind. This is viewed as bad luck. Don't ignore chopstick etiquette. Chopsticks are for eating only. They are not to be used for gesturing to items or individuals. They are also not to be used as drumsticks. Don't place chopsticks inside the bowl when finished. Instead, place the chopsticks on top of the bowl.

Don't Break the Law

China is a very peaceful country. You are very unlikely to experience any unlawful activity while abroad. However, if you commit a crime, you can be penalized to the full extent of Chinese law. Don't use or otherwise handle illegal drugs. Don't solicit a prostitute. Don't engage in prohibited religious practice. Don't drink and drive. Don't leave your hotel without your passport and visa.

Don't Expect Interpersonal Communications to Mirror the U.S.

Traveling to a foreign country can be an exercise in patience. Don't expect all, or even any, persons you encounter to speak English. Do your best to communicate in the language of the region you are visiting.

Don't point at people when communicating. Instead, motion with the palm of your hand. Don't touch or pat the top of someone's head for any reason. When greeting, a handshake or a slight nod is fine. Don't bow and never kiss hello or goodbye. Also, do not engage in public displays of affection while in China.

Don't Plan Too Much for One Day

China is a vast, amazing land. Packing too many activities into a short trip can lessen the enjoyment that each activity brings. Instead, find a pre-arranged tour that can offer a leisurely pace while still supplying many interesting sites and activities. See our China tours.

Don't Forget to Pack Appropriately

Your travel to China may take you to a land of extreme heat or extreme cold. Cities like Guangzhou are quite hot much of the year. Packing light and carrying sunscreen is a must for most places in summer. Traveling to Tibet may require cold weather gear, even in the summer months. Other spots, like Beijing, can vary depending upon the time of year. It is always wise to consult weather forecasts prior to any trip.

Don't Stop Offering Gifts

If your travels to China include meeting individuals, either for business or personal reasons, you may travel with a gift in hand. It is considered appropriate in China to refuse a gift that is offered. Don't be offended and don't stop offering once the gift has been refused. Generally it may take three offers before a gift is accepted. Likewise, it will not be opened in your presence.

Don't Offend With Your Gift

Be careful with the gifts you give. While gift baskets of flowers and fruit are common in the U.S., certain types of flowers and fruits are considered unlucky in China. It is best to avoid these altogether. Varying cultures ascribe different meanings to certain colors. It is best to choose either yellow or red for gift wrapping. Avoid any dark colors or white, as these can be seen as bad luck.

Don't Tip

Tipping is a practice that is not observed in China. Cab drivers, restaurant staff, and bellmen do not expect to be tipped and could even be offended if offered extra money.
The sole exception to this practice is a tour that is catered for foreign visitors. The individuals on these tours often depend upon tips for their income. Therefore, it is wise to budget for tipping guides and drivers, just as one would most other places in the world.

Don't Fail to Plan

Some tourists fall victim to tour-guide related scams. An individual might approach a tourist and ask to show them around the city. They will then be billed an outrageously high amount for a tour. It is best to stick to a pre-planned tour package that is purchased through a trusted entity.
Fortunately, there are many more do's than don'ts. Just remember the things you should not do and your trip to China will be one that is filled with fun and free from worry. Travel with China Highlights and our experienced and well-trained guides will help you avoid things you shouldn't do.

Further Reading

Hi, I'm Gavin Van Hinsbergh
I updated this article on April 9, 2014
See all my travel articles
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