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Nations & Customs
Social Customs
 

Business Cards

Business cards have a far more important social meaning in China than they do in the West and anyone of significance is expected to not only have them but to carry them on their person for introductions and greetings. If your school doesn"t automatically provide you with name cards, ask if you can purchase them from the school or have someone take you to a stationer"s to have them made. They are relatively inexpensive here.

In China, it is considered polite to both receive and offer business cards with both hands (gently grasp each end of the card laterally between your thumbs and index fingers and extend both arms), especially when receiving them from and offering them to anyone who is of a higher social rank. When receiving a business card, take a few moments to examine it before putting it in your pocket¡ªthis denotes both interest and respect. This practice of using both hands to receive or pass anything is quite common, and you will notice that waitresses, for example, will often receive your money and provide your change with both hands.

Lucky Eight

The Chinese believe that the number eight (especially), and also the number six are lucky numbers. One mobile phone number with a string of eights, i.e., 138-8888-8888 was selling in one city for 50,000 yuan (USD $7,000). The number four is considered very unlucky in China as the spoken words for "to die" (si3) and the number four (si4) are separated by only one tone.

Related, one will commonly see an array of fortune tellers positioned along the city"s main streets selling their insights into your future for 20 yuan. And although most Chinese of the younger generation dismiss the significance of astrology in their day-to-day lives, the majority of college students we surveyed indicated that they will most definitely consult an astrologer before getting married for the purpose of selecting a "lucky day." Given the heavy influence of guanxi in their lives, most Chinese believe that success is as much (or more) the result of good fortune than it is self-efficacy and hard work. Restated, most Chinese operate in their day-to-day lives from the perspective of an external locus of control while most Western people function from an internal locus of control, i.e., we believe that hard work, talent, and determination account primarily for success in life: As a rule, the Chinese do not.

House Calls

One custom you should brace yourself for is that if you are particularly valued at your place of employment, and you must call in sick one day, you can expect a visit from a small delegation of school personnel varying in status depending on what your perceived importance is to the school. This delegation will typically come bearing fruit or some other food items, and they will only stay for about 20 to 30 minutes or so. For most Westerners, about the last thing they want to do when they are sick with fever, or some other ailment, is to have to get out of bed to receive guests, but this is the norm in China. The visit is intended to demonstrate both respect and concern, and you should be gracious about it no matter how miserable you may be feeling at the time.

 
   
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