Key facts

Capital: Beijing

Government: Communist State

Official Language(s): Mandarin Chinese. There are eight different linguistic groups in addition to hundreds of dialects and variations

Population: 1.3 billion (2017)

Ethnic Make-up: 91.51% Han and 55 minority groups. Major groups include Zhuang (16.9 million), Hui (10.5 million), Manchu (10.3 million), Uyghur (10 million), Miao (9.4 million), Yi (8.7 million), Tujia (8.3 million), Tibetan (6.2 million), and Mongol (5.9 million)

Religions: The government of the People's Republic of China officially espouses state atheism, though Chinese civilization has historically been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring religio-philosophical traditions of the world. Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism constitute the "three teachings" that have shaped Chinese culture

Culture and Society: Since ancient times, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism and conservative philosophies. Chinese culture has long emphasized a sense of deep history and a largely inward-looking national perspective. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. With the rise of Chinese nationalism and the end of the Cultural Revolution, various forms of traditional Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have seen a vigorous revival.

Dress: Currently, most Chinese wear western style clothing in their daily lives, not much Traditional attires are only worn during certain festivals, ceremonies or religious occasions. Many of the country’s ethnic minorities wear their traditional costumes in their daily lives and the styles historically played important role in the traditional Chinese clothing.

In recent years, renewed interest in traditional Chinese culture has led to a movement in China advocating for the revival of ancient Han Chinese clothing. Red is a popular color found on traditional garments because of the beliefs that it brings good luck.


Food: Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, drawing on several millennia of culinary history and geographical variety, in which the most influential are known as the "Eight Major Cuisines", including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by the precise skills of shaping, heating, colorway and flavoring. Generally, China's staple food is rice in the south, wheat based breads and noodles in the north. Pork is now the most popular meat in China, accounting for about three-fourths of the country's total meat consumption. There is also pork-free Buddhist cuisine and Chinese Islamic cuisine. Southern cuisine, due to the area's proximity to the ocean and milder climate, has a wide variety of seafood and vegetables; it differs in many respects from the wheat-based diets across dry northern China.



  • The traditional family structure is still highly valued and holds a prominent position in the culture

  • Traditional family values feature very clear-cut, different roles and rights for men and women

  • The family structure has traditionally been rigid and hierarchical, with elders still receiving the largest degree of reverence, respect, and obedience - -a practice that has continued into the modern age

  • A significant aspect of life in the Chinese family is showing the proper amount of respect to the appropriate members of the family

  • Although the policy has become more relaxed in recent years, the Chinese “One Child Policy”, which was first implemented in the late 1970‘s, allows parents only one offspring, leading to an upset in the traditional structure of the family. Instead of the usual bottom-heavy structure, one child is now supported and brought up by two parents and four grandparents, resulting in an inordinate amount of attention and pressure placed upon the child.


  • In the West, the guest typically tries to respect the ways of the host. However, in China the guest is treated with great kindness and respect by the host and guests are encouraged to do what they like.

  • On the first meeting Chinese will often refer to someone as their “friend” if they wish the relationship to develop, or something beneficial to come out of the acquaintance

  • Visitors who outwardly do not appear to be from China will be seen as guests to China as a whole, and therefore any Chinese citizen may feel obliged to behave like a host. For example, seats may be offered to a perfectly able traveler by a less able Chinese person acting as a host.

  • Either the host or guest or both may give gifts and the value of a gift is often governed by the price - leaving the price tag on is in many cases a deliberate act to demonstrate the value of the gift.

notes for foreigners

key phrases

Welcome: huānyíng guānglín

Hello: nǐ hǎo (informal), nín hǎo (formal)

Goodbye: zàijiàn

Thank you: xièxie

Social Etiquette, Customs and Protocol

Meeting and Greeting

  • Man greeting Man – Men generally shake hands when greeting and departing, sometimes accompanied by a nod of the head

  • Woman greeting Woman - Most women will shake hands when greeting and departing, sometimes accompanied or limited to a nod of the head. Good friends and family may engage in a light hug

  • Man greeting Woman - At a first meeting a handshake or nod of acknowledgment will do

  • Most Chinese speak in an indirect manner. There's usually a deeper meaning of their words and sometimes what they mean is opposite to what they say

  • Chinese tend to favor direct eye contact over indirect

  • Eye contact is considered polite, and when dealing with an unfamiliar elder one may lower their head as a sign of respect

Gender Dynamics

  • Although still a male-dominated society, women are becoming more and more equal, holding various positions of power in business and government

  • Although many women work, they are still expected to do the child rearing, cooking, cleaning and other housework

  • Shaking legs while sitting, snapping fingers, and whistling are generally unacceptable behavior for women

Personal Space and Touching

  • Chinese tend to be comfortable standing a little less than an arms length from one another. One and a half to two feet is common. When meeting strangers this distance is farther.

  • In conversation, there is little to no touching, unless it is with families, close friends or romantic relationships

  • It is common for women who are friends to hold hands or link arms while walking

Business Meetings

  • Arriving on time or 5 minutes early for a meeting is important as punctuality is highly valued

  • It is always best to defer to the most senior person in the room when it comes to beginning and guiding conversations

  • Beginning with small talk helps establish a base for the relationship, after which discussion of business matters can begin.  It is best to allow your host to begin the business discussion

  • Periods of silence are considered acceptable and are to be expected.  Avoid interrupting and talking over someone, if possible.


  • Using your feet to move something or putting one’s feet on the furniture is considered extremely rude.

  • Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as it is reserved for funerals. Avoid sucking and biting your chopsticks as well.

  • Avoid whistling or finger snapping at someone