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How to Dress Properly in China

Increasingly in China people are dressing like in the West, however three things to you may need to dress differently for are: 1) the weather, 2) respecting local cultures, and 3) special occasions. Let us help you understand how to dress in China for whatever situation you find yourself in.

Everyday Traveling

a tourist couple on the Yellow MountainsDress for the occasion when traveling in China.

Normally, we say that tourists in China should "dress as in the West." This means that whatever you wear on a normal day back home is generally an okay choice for your everyday travel itinerary in China as well. 

Of course, you will want to take into account the local weather situations when packing your traveling wardrobe. But for the most part, there's no reason to buy totally new outfits specifically for your trip. Comfortable walking shoes, weather appropriate layers, and helpful accessories like secure bags and useful hats (warmth or sun protection) are all perfectly acceptable choices. 

Some Exceptions To The Rule

There are, of course, some instances where in order to dress properly you may need to make a few changes to your traditional wardrobe. But not to worry. We've gathered all you need to know about these unique situations here in this article to ensure you are always dressed properly for your adventures in China. 

Religious Sites

photo with a Chinese monkRespect is key when visiting religious sites.

When frequenting temples and other holy sites, it is customary to wear more modest clothing. Making sure your shoulders and knees are covered is the most important rule. Wearing this type of respectful clothing is encouraged when touring religious sites such as Buddhist temples and shrines. Occasionally, you may be expected to remove your shoes when entering a religious site. 

Pay attention to your surroundings and try to follow along with what the people around you are doing. There may be signs in English telling you how to proceed, but if not the people around you can be your best teachers. Hats and other nonreligious head coverings are generally discouraged. 

Weddings Dress

Chinese wedding ceremonyChinese wedding ceremonies are always considered formal events.

If you're lucky enough to attend a traditional Chinese wedding, it is sure to be an experience you won't soon forget. Weddings in China are extravagant affairs that usually take place in hotel ballrooms and other rented spaces. As with all weddings, your clothing choices should respect the bride and groom above all else. 

It's a bad idea to wear anything too flashy, revealing, or untidy. If the wedding is a traditional, Western, or combination of the two; you can be sure it will be a classy event. Ladies, tasteful dresses in colors other than white are appropriate. Brides in China will often have two dresses, a traditional red and a modern white for different parts of the ceremony. You don't want to be matching the bride so avoid these colors. For men, slacks and a dress shirt and tie at the minimum is encouraged. 

Visiting Families

Visiting a Chinese FamilyIt's an honor to be invited for a visit in China.

Being invited to share a meal or visit the home of a Chinese family can be an honor. If you're expecting to visit with Chinese families on your trip, we want you to be prepared. The typical Chinese home varies whether you find yourself in a rural or urban setting, but one rule is universal

The Chinese do not wear their shoes inside the home and instead opt to wear slippers at all times. When you enter a home in China, you should take your shoes off immediately at the door. Most families will keep a stockpile of slippers near the door in various sizes for guests. If you are wearing socks, it is appropriate to keep them on inside the slippers. 

If you are visiting during the Chinese New Year celebrations, there is one tradition that could change your wardrobe choices. Typically, during the celebrations people in China will buy new clothes to symbolize the new year. If you are attending a party for this festival, a new outfit would be the right choice. 

Minority Areas

Uyghur GirlChina is home to many unique ethnic groups.

China's many minority areas are home to ethnic groups that vary greatly compared to the urban populations of Beijing and Shanghai. Many historically Muslim ethnic groups can be found throughout China and typically adhere to common Islamic dress codes. 

When you are traveling in these areas, it is best to be respectful of the local culture and dress modestly with very little skin showing. Ladies may feel more comfortable bringing a headscarf along when visiting such areas. While it may not be expected for you to cover as an outsider, bring one along incase entering a certain area requires a covering. 

Plan Your Visit To China

If this article already has you wishing you were packing your bags for a visit to China, let us help you out! 

China Highlights offers pre-packaged tours of China's greatest wonders, as well as customized tours for travelers looking for a unique experience. Take a look at what we have to offer and plan your trip today. 

Here are the most popular itineraries to get you started:

  • THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE — Visit the must-see sights of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai your way (8 days).
  • CLASSIC WONDERS — Discover the wonders of Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, and Shanghai in 11 days.