If you are lucky, while in China, you will have the opportunity to visit a Chinese family and have a local experience. In order to get the most out of the visit, try to bring along a digital translator. Your smart phone will work if you have the right apps! Next, observe the local customs, and be prepared with some planned conversation and good questions to ask. You should then have a valuable intercultural encounter, providing a deeper insight into Chinese culture and local life.
When entering the house you should:
- Offer your gifts, which will probably be taken away or placed on a table unopened, as is the Chinese custom. Fruit is very popular, although confectionery or souvenir products from your country would also be welcomed. Be sure to check out which gifts are acceptable and which are not. The Chinese are very superstitious, and some gifts would be considered bad luck.
- Greet all members of the household. Start with the seniors, if possible, then proceed down the social scale. Children would normally be expected to greet you rather than the other way round. A simple hello in English, or ‘’Ni hao’’ would suffice.
- Take your shoes off and change them for a pair a pair of slippers that is waiting for you by the door.
Once inside the house…
- You will usually be asked to sit down. If you have any belongings such as a bag or coat that you wish to take off they will usually be given a seat too. Placing bags on the floor is a huge no – no (the floor is considered unclean, though it seems fine from a Western perspective) and coat racks are uncommon in China.
- You will then be offered something to eat and drink. Plain hot water is widely popular, especially in poorer households, where all water is boiled. The alternative is usually Chinese tea of some sort. The first food offered will most likely be fruit, with peanuts and candy if it’s a festive time of the year. Accept the food/drink, or put them down on a table in front of you if you don’t want to have them immediately.
- Then the conversation begins… Your host will try to keep you entertained and ask you a few questions first. Then it is your chance to reciprocate. Have those questions ready and keep the conversation flowing!
Lastly, just enjoy yourself and the company of your friends and their family. It’s an honor to be invited into someone’s home, just like in any other culture. So have fun and enjoy your blooming friendship.