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Greetings in China

Address a person using his or her family name only, such as Mr. Chen or Ms. Hu. The Chinese family name comes first and is usually one syllable. A one or two-syllable given name follows a family name. For example, in the case of Teng Peinian, Teng is the family name and Peinian is the given name. In some instances, Westernized Chinese might reverse their names when visiting and sending correspondence abroad. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask a native speaker which name is the family name.

 

For business purposes, it is traditionally acceptable to call a Chinese person by the surname, together with a title, such as “Director Wang” or “Chairman Li”. Avoid using someone’s given name unless you have known him or her for a long period of time. Formality is a sign of respect, and it is advisable to clarify how you will address someone very early in a relationship, generally during your first meeting.

 

Do not try to become too friendly too soon, and do not insist that your Chinese counterparts address you by your given name. The Western pattern of quick informality should be resisted.

 

The Chinese way of greeting is a nod or slight bow. However, when interacting with Westerners, Chinese usually shake hands. Bear in mind that a soft handshake and a lack of eye contact do not necessarily indicate timidity. It only implies that the person is not accustomed to the firm handshakes commonly used in the West.

 


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