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Social Observations - Chinese People
The aim of this section is to give those travelling to China for the first time an insight into the lives of ordinary Chinese People
About Chinese People

This concept is fundamental to how Chinese people see themselves. It is all about image and self-respect, honour and nobility

Whilst this is a very large and fascinating subject, I will not dwell here on the specific details - as these would need an entire book dedicated solely for the purpose. Instead I will give a few common examples

1. - New is extremely important. If something is old and used, it has little value and no Face, (with very rare exceptions)
   a. This holds true for mobile phones, computers and especially laptops and PDA's, similar gadgets, clothes, fashion, and watches.
   b. You will also notice that food is invariably very fresh, and often you choose which particular chicken or fish etc you want to eat = fresh = new, immediate = Face.
   c. Cars are a prime example of Face. Owning a brand new micro car normally carries more Face than owning a larger second-hand model. In fact, there isn't really a second-hand car trade, yet. Showrooms only sell new cars. I think a lot of used cars go for export. Top models are usually Benz (Mercedes is too difficult to pronounce) and BMW, excepting the exclusive market
   d. City homes are crazy! Owning (Renting) a new apartment is vital - even if it is only a refurbished flat in an old building. A new apartment or house in a new development we call 'Gardens' is considered Top! Western thinking can be similar at times, but not to Chinese extremes. In UK we often consider an older house as being better-built, more substantial, and having stood the test of time. This concept is unknown in China. To put this into perspective, I live in a large and airy 3-double bedroomed, 3-bathroomed apartment. It is old, and features some beautiful wooden paneling. Associates are horrified I do not live in a nearby development, because it is brand new. I have seen these of course - and the entire apartment would fit in my living room with space to spare. These also cost more than my current place. I simply don't get it? This is Chinese Face!

2. Biggest, Largest, Best - Having accepted that only new things have any value, the next criteria is size. This is easiest to explain by taking cars as an example. Cars need to be big - not because space is required, but because of Face. Car companies make special models for the Chinese market - these being top of the range +, and nearly all are models with traditional boot (Trunk).

3. Latest. When you mix the concepts 'New' and 'Time' together, you begin to realise just how important 'New' is to Chinese people's Face. This is exemplified by having 'The Latest + object'.

4. Location - is also a very important component of Face. Cheaper areas for things like offices and apartments have no Face. Companies will manufacture in the countryside, but have expensive offices in Guangzhou simply for Face. Without these plush offices they think they cannot make International sales? To me, it just makes their products more expensive. Housing is similar: Why live in a spacious apartment within 5-minutes walk of everything you need for daily life, when you could live in a brand new 'Garden' miles from anywhere? In China, the Garden has Face!

5. Money. Showing you have money is an important part of Face. Chinese deal in cash almost exclusively. They like to have 'a big roll', and show it when paying for things in company. 'Going Dutch' is totally unacceptable, and will cause offence to all except a 'Brother or Sister'. Somebody must always host a meal, and pay for it themselves. You can give them money of course, but it has to be in special red envelopes called 'Lai Xi' or Lucky Money. To give cash publicly is offensive!

6. Restaurants. More to do with etiquette here, but small measures of Face are:
   a. The host should sit opposite the door
   b. The host should pay for the meal (Or be seen to pay for the entire meal)
   c. You should occasionally select the best pieces from dishes and serve them to your honoured guests
   d. Tell the serving staff who is the honoured guest. They will then present dishes as served, and rotate the 'Lazy Susan' to in front of that person as each new dish arrives
   e. You should ensure all guests have enough to drink - either top up with tea, beer or rice wine yourself; or normally better to tell a waitress to do it for you.
   f. If a guest wants something not on the menu (Especially soft drinks), then tell the staff to go and buy it
   g. You should order far more food than can be eaten (Except with practicing Buddhists! - they never waste anything, and eat all of each meal!)
   h. The Top Dish is normally Fish. To impress you should get your staff to ask a Bosses staff what their favourite food is - often a specialty such as marinated goose foot served at table by a chef, similar...
   i. This implies you have also checked first to find out which restaurant is most suitable for your guests?
   j. You should give smokers a packet of premium brand of cigarettes each
   k. The meal doesn't finish when you leave your seats. Your Face ends when you have seen them to their car, or You have personally hailed a taxi for them, ie. seen them safely home; and even on foot as necessary!
   l. As host, you should arrive first and be the last to leave. As a Boss, you should send a staff to the restaurant half an hour before time, and arrive yourself 15 minutes early

7. Numbers. Sometimes Westerns consider the number 13 to be unlucky? In China this number is 3, although for Buddhist related things, 3 is very good. Ask advice when the number 3 is involved - like buying a flat in a development that has only 3 buildings = very unlucky. 8 by contrast, is a very lucky number. Numbers associated with your life can form a part of Face

8. Feng Shui. This is a consideration, and not a general way of life as such. It is certainly not taken to the extremes re interior design as it is in the west. However, it is taken into account re situations, such as where you live in a broader sense.

9. Etiquette is part of Face, but is dealt with in a dedicated section

Eating and sharing food is very central to the Chinese Psyche - which is why I repeated this line twice! Instead of saying 'Hello, hasn't the weather been blahblahblah' as Brit's do, Chinese will say 'Hello, have you eaten (rice) today?'

Leading on from this, I have developed a compliment which works very well: ' I hope you have many children, and that your dogs grow fat and lazy'. (Mongolians will say horse instead of course)

Both are related directly to having abundant food; and imply wealth, virility, longevity, etc. This is emphasised by the mention of dogs, which are still man's best friend in China, but here they either work or are eaten. Very few people are wealthy enough to have them as simple pets

This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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