We all like to go to the Chinese restaurant we trust, and maybe even with a certain regularity, and let the waving lucky cats invite us to eat at least eight treasures and other Asian delicacies. Such exoticism on the doorstep of course has comparatively little to do with the real China, the level of information in this regard is often enough based on general knowledge of demographics that is not entirely free of prejudice (“There are so many of them.”), Economics (“They copy everything. “), Culture (” They built this huge wall. “) And cuisine (” They eat… you know. “).
Beyond knowing the menu, the diversity of China disappears behind prejudice and half-knowledge, although this huge country has so much more to offer than sweet and sour duck and fake iPhones.
Anyone who thinks a visit to the Chinese restaurant is a culture shock should better prepare for a visit to the home of the host. A visit to the local gastronomy is certainly not sufficient preparation for what can actually be expected in China.
Travel preparations before departure
Before leaving, there is not only the mental preparation for the surprises of another culture, there are also some pragmatic matters to be clarified. For example, to enter China, in addition to a valid passport, a visa is required, which must be applied for at a consulate in Germany. A visa is not required for a stay in Hong Kong or Macau, provided it is purely touristic in nature and does not exceed 90 days. In any case, it is advisable to always have proof of identity with you.
Speaking of leading: German and international driver’s licenses are not recognized in China, so travel options are limited to taxis, public transport or renting a car and driver. If you run out of money on that, that’s not a problem. The ATMs accept Eurocheque or credit cards, but plastic is rarely used as a means of payment. A doctor’s visit can, however, be paid for with a credit card. So that it doesn’t get that far in the first place, it is better not to drink tap water right away, for example.
Correct Behavior: Tips on Chinese Etiquette
The handling of the Chinese themselves could possibly sometimes be unexpectedly delicate. Some basic aspects of social life in China should therefore be made clear to travelers in advance in order to avoid misunderstandings from the outset.
This includes one of the most important pillars for interpersonal relationships, the preservation of the face. This principle applies both to oneself and to the other person and may even be effective in the case of banal inquiries, which always involve the embarrassing danger of not knowing. Questions in general can therefore quickly become uncomfortable.
In their day-to-day interactions, gentlemen of the old school will find that women are not necessarily given priority, in contrast to older or higher-ranking people, who are to be shown respect. Also unusual is the extensive renunciation of “please” and “thank you”, which are considered superficial in many situations. In addition, smiling has a different status in China than in Europe, because it is, among other things, a means to save face, i.e. to hide states of mind beyond joy.
In order to avoid embarrassment while eating, it is advisable to examine the customs at the table. A little practice with the chopsticks is an advantage in this regard, but they should not be put in a rice bowl – this brings bad luck, because it is reserved for the offerings for the ancestors. Self-service with an invitation is also impolite, because that is the responsibility of the host. The motto “Eat your plate empty, otherwise there will be bad weather” does not apply in China either: Completely emptying the plate indicates that the guest has not been full and is therefore considered impolite.
To do this, a few taboos should be observed. These concern, for example, the feet, which are not allowed to point at something or to push anything in front of you. Pointing your finger or hand at someone is also rude, touching such as hugs or the like is at least perceived as strange. Before entering private houses and religious sites, shoes must be removed. With this knowledge in hand, major interpersonal incidents can be safely avoided.
The full Chinese life naturally takes place in the large metropolises, almost all of which are located along the coast. From Macau, all you need to do is follow the coastline north to visit China’s largest cities.