The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

By Tom O’Malley · Illustrations by Lia Strasser · June 20, 2017

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

By Tom O’Malley · Illustrations by Lia Strasser · June 20, 2017


Don’t point your chopsticks. Hold your business card with two hands. Even once you’ve mastered the basics, do you know how to behave like a local? A longtime resident shares his wisdom.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

Getting to Know You

On your first encounter with a Beijinger, don’t be surprised if you’re quizzed about your salary, age and marital status—often in that order.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

How Low Can You Go?

When saying “cheers,” Beijingers show deference by clinking the rim of their glass lower than the rim of their host’s. This can get ridiculous when both parties are attempting to out-respect the other.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

Awaken the Palate

When dining on Peking duck at its source, it’s traditional to dip your first bite of crisp, lacquered skin (no meat) into a tiny bowl of sugar to stir the palate.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

Shout For Your Supper

Need to catch the waiter’s attention? A nod or raised eyebrow is too subtle for Beijingers, who bellow like drunken pirates. Cries of “Fuwuyuan!” (service person) and “Mai dan!” (check please) are the soundtrack of the city’s restaurants.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

Navel Gazing

Why are all those Chinese men walking around on a hot day with their shirts hiked up just under the nipples like an ‘80s crop top? Exposing the belly is considered the most efficient way to cool down. No six packs either: here, the more bountiful the better.

The Expat’s Guide to Etiquette in Beijing

Drink Like a Local

Forgo coffee—Beijingers sip jasmine green tea. For something fizzy, Bei Bing Yang (Arctic Ocean) is the city’s beloved retro alternative to Coke. Or slurp a clay pot of nai lao, a traditional northern Chinese yogurt drink.

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Written By: Tom O'Malley

6.5.17

Locations: Beijing

See more: Travel Intel

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