Etiquette & Taboos in Chinese Culture — Part 2

“When in Rome, do as Romans do.” And when in China, do as Chinese people do. When you are learning Chinese, you should know taboos in China. In Chinese culture, there are many taboos that you should never try, because they may bring BAD luck! Below, we’ve outlined some basic etiquette rules. Apart from helping you put your best face forward, they offer interesting insights into Chinese culture.


There are a number of conversation topics that are best avoided by foreigners in China. Do not bring up the following issues:

Sino-Japanese relations. The two countries have been fighting or at odds for much of the 20th century and are constantly walking on thin ice, so never compare the two neighbors.

The Three “T’s” — Taiwan, Tibet and the events that took place at Tian’anmen Square on June 4, 1989. There’s a lot of national sentiment that can be aroused by the first two, and frankly many people don’t know much about the Tian’anmen Square incident due to China’s strict censorship.

The Falun Gong or religious and human rights in general.

The Cultural Revolution, or what someone’s family went through during any of Mao’s campaigns. Just like any country, there are liberals and conservatives, so it’s best just to keep politics out of it because the conversation can get heated quickly.

Asking someone “How many children do you have?” There’s still a One Child Policy for most Chinese, and calling attention to it could make for awkward small talk.

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