Being a Polite Backpacker when Travelling in China

If you travel anywhere in the world, it is always worthwhile taking time to know the local culture and etiquette.

Image by whatleydude via Flickr

Image by whatleydude via Flickr

When you travel to a foreign country, it is always advisable to familiarize yourself with the local culture and customs. This is very true for China. Compared to many western cultures, the Chinese culture may seem very strange. Getting familiar with the customs before you go will mean there will be less of a culture shock when you arrive. And it will help you to have an enjoyable time whilst you explore this vast country with your backpack. And it will help you to have an enjoyable time whilst you explore this vast country with your backpack. But, first of all, don’t forget that if you are planning to stay in China and get a work, or start your own business, you will need a China Work Visa as explained here by NH Global Partners.

Learn the Language

One of the best ways to get immersed within the local culture is to try to speak the language. There are many modern gadgets which can help immensely with this, such as Smartphones and Tablet PCs.

There are many applications that you can download, which will help you learn the basics of the language. Some of these are paid for, and some are free applications. If you do a bit of research in the first instance, then you can easily find something which is suitable for you.

If you actually try and make an effort to speak the local language, then you will not only find things easier, but you will also enjoy a much more welcoming response from the locals, even if they are laughing at your terrible accent.

Smartphones and Tablet PCs are also good to help you do currency conversions, so you know exactly how much you are paying for things.

Eating in Public

As a foreigner, you will be given a lot of leeway when it comes to etiquette within the local culture when you are being shown around through private guided China tours. However, what is required will depend if you have hosts, or not, or are dining in a public place.

Typically round tables are much more popular than rectangular or square ones. This is because everyone gets to face everyone else, whilst they eat. Nobody is allowed to eat until everyone is seated and the host starts, and the place of honour is always given to the right hand side of the host. Most dishes are usually eaten with chopsticks, including rice, but as a foreigner you can get away with asking for a spoon or a fork.


If you are with a host who is introducing you to their friends, or acquaintances, then you must wait for them to introduce you; otherwise, it may be considered rude to introduce yourself. If you are meeting someone for the first time, then a common way to greet each other is the western style of shaking hands. Usually, a person who is considered to be most senior will offer their hand first, so sometimes you do have to make a judgment call.

Losing Face

All across Asia there is the concept of face. If you cause somebody to lose face, then you could find yourself in a situation. Try and avoid all types of confrontation, and remember that you are a visitor in a foreign land, so act accordingly. Try not to raise your voice, point or use large arm movements, remain calm and speak softly whenever you encounter any confrontation. Sometimes due to the concept of face, you need to be a bigger person and take the first step backward, in order to stop a confrontation from becoming nasty.

Remain Calm

It is the same when you visit any new country for the first time. You have to take time and adapt to the local way of life, and embrace their customs and traditions. If you do come into a confrontation, then you must remain calm, do not raise your voice, or move your arms too much, and try to sort out the situation calmly. This is another time when translation software comes in extremely handy!

Remember above all to enjoy yourself and have a great time whilst you explore this fascinating country, and embrace the people and the culture on your visit.