Chinese Culture: Styles of Communication - LaowaiCareer (2022)

Although China is fastly modernizing, there are still vast differences in the ways in which Chinese interact with Western people and the world at large. The key function of Chinese communication strategy boils down to maintaining existing relationships between individuals while emphasizing and adhering to status and role differences, with the ultimate aim being to preserve harmony within the group.

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Geert Hofstede Analysis for China

Geert Hofstede analysis for China is similar to Hong Kong’s, with long-term orientation being the highest ranking factor. China ranks the lowest compared to other Asian countries n the factor of individualism which is greatly attributed to the Communist rule which reiterated on the collective culture. The high long-term orientation ranking is an indication of the society’s attitude of perseverance and time perspective, meaning they overcome challenges with time, if not by strength and will.

China ranking lowest in the individualism factor is mainly attributed to the high level of a collective society by the communist rule. The low individualism ranking manifests that Chinese value being a member and close to a group, be it a family, extended family, or extended relationships. China thrills in stronger relationships where each and everyone is taking responsibilities of their group and loyalty is quite important. Chinese like to successfully integrate with others and conflict must at all cost be avoided. Communication in China should strengthen relationships and not challenge them.

China also has significantly high power distance which is a clear indication of the high level of inequality in wealth and power within the society. It’s important to note that this condition is willingly accepted by the society as their cultural heritage and not necessarily forced upon them.

Nonverbal Communication in China

(Video) Chinese Culture: Styles of Communication | LaowaiCareer | China Job

Nonverbal communication includes facial expression, eye contact, gestures, and tone of voice. This plays such a vital role in our day-to-day life and at some point, it’s even more powerful than the verbal communication. Different nationalities have their specific emotions and gestures that have a different meaning. It’s imperative to understand the basics of nonverbal communication since they might mean something totally different in another culture.

China is one of the largest countries in the world, and it’s where civilization and ancient culture was born. Since the Chinese are greatly influenced by Confucius’s philosophical thinking, they’re more reserved and their gestures less expressive. However, non-verbal communication in Chinese speaks volumes. The Chinese greatly advocate for peace and collectiveness, and they rely on tonal voice, facial expression, and posture to know how the person is feeling. Frowning when someone is speaking can be viewed as a way of disagreement hence the Chinese try and maintain quite an impassive expression during the speech. It is also disrespectful to be staring into another person’s eyes and in crowded scenarios the Chinese shun eye contact to provide some privacy to themselves.

Non-Verbal Communication

Gestures

Polite nods are common when greeting someone but due to the restrained style, the gestures are not as frequent. Unlike in the United States, pointing is done with the entire hand rather than one finger.

Touching

The Chinese people prefer not to be touched, but it is accepted in public places when not avoidable. With the same gender and close friendship, there can be touching, and women can hold hands and walk arm in arm. Young couples in cities like Beijing are often affectionate in public, which is a change from previous generations.

Space

Minimal physical contact is much preferred but in the public area, it is accepted that crowds force people close together leaving no personal space. In private, formal recognition of space is the norm, particularly for the elderly who are treated with reverence.

(Video) Chinese Culture- Oral and Interpersonal Communications

Chinese Communication Style

Chinese may consider the Westerners to be upfront in their manner of speaking. This often causes a lot of misunderstanding or sometimes even hurt feelings of some Chinese people, especially if they are very sensitive. The Chinese people value a slower, less aggressive approach, and would prefer to slowly conceptualize an idea before commenting on it. Some of the preferred Chinese communication styles include:

Indirect Communication

Chinese communicate in a way that you need to read between the lines to get to know what exactly they imply. Westerners are encouraged to defend their ideas which may even lead to a confrontation or debate for the purpose of getting the other person to agree with their way of thinking. The Chinese people would in such a scenario just nod on your opinion even if they don’t agree with what you are saying. They do this to honor and respect other’s opinion since being too direct may be perceived as humiliating, and the other person may come across as rude. Blunt communication makes Chinese quite uncomfortable, so they prefer the subtle, indirect ways of delivering their opinions and thoughts.

High Context

In China, background information is assumed depending on the nature of the relationship. When developing a relationship with the Chinese, no topic is actually off limits from what business you are in and how much money you make to family life. The Chinese value relationships and networking are highly regarded, especially in the business world, commonly referred to as guanxi. They value building a relationship first before doing business.

Formal

Never forget that you should communicate officially, especially when communicating with individuals at the highest on the hierarchy. Informally treating them before their peers would probably ruin a prospective deal. Chinese people also prefer one-on-one meetings rather than telephone or written communication.

Restrained

(Video) How To Communicate In Chinese Culture (Nonverbal)

The Chinese are cultured to avoid the display of emotions. It is also very hard for a Chinese person to say no, hence they would give you an impression of maybe when they are not sure that they will deliver but never out rightly let you know. It’s all about saving face and remaining loyal.

Factors Affecting The Way Chinese Communicate

The Chinese culture has complex communication patterns. Movement of body parts, facial expressions or even the style of dress affects how Chinese communicate and how a person from other culture responds to them. For Westerners, the Chinese appear to be humble and reserved, so much concerned about their image that they tend to avoid in all possibilities the discomfort of being embarrassed or humiliated. To understand why Chinese behave and talk the way they do, it is paramount that we understand the factors that affect how they communicate. They include:

Tonal language

Chinese has its syllabic structure and phonemics that differ from other cultures language, so when they try to speak a foreign language such as English, they will give a different tone and pronunciation (unless they are very skilled in English).

Typological Differences

China has their way of organizing ideas, connecting facts or even stressing points. Moreover, their language has no distinction between plural or singular forms. Thus, when translated to foreign language, they would appear absurd, blank, or unrelated.

Early Education for Children.

Young children are early nurtured to include others in their conversations by avoiding talking too much about themselves. Also, they are taught to be cooperative and humble. Teachers would make a choral presentation in nursery schools instead of requiring students to do recitals on their own. This attitude is expected to be brought into their adult’s lives.

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When trying to adapt to a more interrelated world, it is imperative to know how the Chinese communicate and think. Although the language style in China might seem complicated, it is important to choose the correct style of communication. For the Chinese, communication is more than the exchange of just words. It is more about establishing harmony and building a relationship with the community.

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Yuri Khlystov

CEO and Co-Founder of LaowaiCareer. Originally from Belarus, Yuri has been living in Beijing for the past ten years where he has turned his passion for helping foreigners into a successful business. He enjoys football and once had a pet pig when Beijing was less of a modern city than it is today.

(Video) Group1_Communication, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication in China

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FAQs

What is China's communication style? ›

Indirect Communication: As an extension of the need to maintain harmonious relations, the Chinese rely heavily on indirect communication. They rely less on words and are more attentive to posture, expression and tone of voice to draw meaning. Their speech is often ambiguous, and they may understate their point.

How many types of Chinese communication are there? ›

There are eight major dialects Chinese use which have a unified writing system; however, this becomes unintelligible when spoken by the different ethnicities (i.e. Mandarin, Hakka, Cantonese). Some scholars consider these dialects as separate languages.

What are 5 cultural characteristics of China? ›

The Chinese traditional cultural values of harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety are embodied in China's diplomacy through the concept of harmony, the most important Chinese traditional value.

How do Chinese communicate non verbally? ›

Nonverbal communication in China

People will sometimes avoid eye contact in China during conversations, especially when talking to those of the opposite sex or to strangers. They will also not talk about feelings directly, but rather communicate them with facial expressions, tone of voice, or body posture.

How do you communicate with someone in China? ›

Smartphone Apps
  1. WeChat (or Weixin 微信) WeChat is one of the most popular free messaging apps in China and provides many features compared to other social messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger. ...
  2. WhatsApp. ...
  3. QQ. ...
  4. WeCom. ...
  5. Weibo (Not Blocked) ...
  6. Snow (Not Blocked) ...
  7. Twitter (Blocked) ...
  8. Reddit (Blocked)
5 Mar 2021

What is the main culture of China? ›

Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest cultures, tracing back to thousands of years ago. Important components of Chinese culture includes ceramics, architecture, music, literature, martial arts, cuisine, visual arts, philosophy and religion.

What are the types of Chinese language? ›

Chinese language

What are the characteristics of Chinese language? ›

Chinese has an extremely simple structure. Each word is expressed by one syllable that knows no declension or conjugations; there are no articles and it isn't necessary to indicate masculine or feminine gender or plurals. The words, in Chinese are therefore constant: there are no inflections.

How did the ancient Chinese communicate? ›

Chopsticks were invented as well. Calligraphy was an art form (and still is.) In ancient China, calligraphy was a means of communication, a way to write things down.

What is the importance of Chinese culture? ›

Chinese culture is important, as it plays a significant role in defining every aspect of a Chinese individual's life. This includes the way the individual conducts business, how one treats the family and elders, how responsibilities are distributed in a family, and so forth.

What are the traditions of Chinese people? ›

China also has Lantern Festival, Qingming Festival, Double Seventh Festival, Double Ninth Festival, Winter Solstice, Laba Festival, Chinese moon festival, and many more. Chinese festivals are very important parts for Chinese people, they fully highlight their Chinese culture & traditions in their festival.

What influenced Chinese culture? ›

Confucianism, Buddhism, and the Chinese language and writing system had the most significant impacts. China's size and large population throughout history gave it influence across East Asia.

What is an example of indirect communication? ›

For instance, if Tina and Carlos are coworkers and Tina disapproves of Carlos' eating habits at his desk but does not know how to communicate this directly to him, she may emit loud, exasperated sighs or glare at Carlos disapprovingly–examples of indirect communication.

Is eye contact rude in China? ›

In China and many other East Asian cultures, it is considered rude to maintain direct eye contact in a conversation.

How do Chinese people greet each other? ›

In Chinese, the most common way to say “Hi” is “你好(nǐhǎo)”. Sometimes we may use “您好(nínhǎo)” to show respect to our teachers or the seniors. Besides “你好(nǐhǎo)” and “您好(nínhǎo)”, there are other ways to greet others in daily life.

How do Chinese colleagues communicate? ›

How to communicate and work with Chinese people
  1. Give Chinese a lot of guideline/direction at work. ...
  2. Do not ask the Chinese whether they have questions, test them. ...
  3. Listen patiently with positive encouragement. ...
  4. Show a lot of compliment to people from Mainland China(PRC), but not too much for people from Hong Kong.
26 Oct 2013

How do Asians communicate? ›

In the literature on cultural differences, Asians are generally considered “high-context” communicators, because meaning is not explicit but rather implicit. Body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and gestures can convey as much as spoken or written words.

How do you show respect in Chinese culture? ›

If you are meeting someone in a business context, shake hands and smile. If it is someone older than you with some sort of rank, you may do a very slight bow from the shoulders (as opposed to a full-fledged bow from the waist) as a sign of respect. Do accept business cards with two hands. It's a sign of respect.

What are 5 facts about China? ›

Here are a few incredibly fascinating facts about China;
  • China has the world's largest population. ...
  • Chinese is the most popular language worldwide. ...
  • China is the fourth largest country in the world, after Russia, Canada and the United States. ...
  • China has the largest army. ...
  • China is home to all pandas.
26 Jul 2018

What is the most popular tradition in China? ›

Here are eight for your list:
  1. Spring Festival. ...
  2. Tomb Sweeping Day. ...
  3. Dragon Boat Festival. ...
  4. National Day. ...
  5. Peach Blossom Festival. ...
  6. Shanghai Longhua Temple Fair. ...
  7. Lantern Festival. ...
  8. Laba Festival.
14 Mar 2017

How do you introduce Chinese culture? ›

Explore this article
  1. Give a brief overview of Chinese history.
  2. Describe the importance.
  3. Introduce other cultural taboos.
  4. Discuss numbers that are considered auspicious.
  5. Discuss some common cultural practices.
  6. Present the history of Chinese science.
  7. Discuss the depth and complexity.
29 Sept 2017

How do Chinese speak? ›

More than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are also several other major dialects in use in China: Yue (Cantonese), Xiang (Hunanese), Min dialect, Gan dialect, Wu dialect, and Kejia or Hakka dialect.

Why is Chinese language so different? ›

Chinese is the only modern language that doesn't have an alphabet. The writing system is “logosyllabic”, meaning each character represents a syllable of spoken Chinese and can be a word by itself or combined with other characters to create another word.

What are the 3 interesting facts about Chinese language? ›

Let's take a look at 10 facts you should know about this complicated and very different language.
  • Chinese is the most used mother tongue. ...
  • It's Considered One of the Hardest Languages to Learn. ...
  • Chinese Has Different Calligraphy Styles. ...
  • Chinese Has The Most Similar Sounding Words. ...
  • It's the Only Modern Pictographic Language.
4 Aug 2022

What language is most like Chinese? ›

One of the most apparent similarities between the two languages is that they share similar characters; kanji in Japanese and hanzi in Chinese. In fact, the two languages have more than half of its characters in common.

How does Chinese language work? ›

Unlike English, Chinese does not use an alphabet to record the written word; instead, it uses a system of ideogrammatic characters – 汉字 hànzì in Chinese. With this system, every character represents one syllable and each syllable has its own meaning.

What is ancient Chinese language called? ›

Old Chinese, sometimes known as “Archaic Chinese”, was the common language during the early and middle Zhou Dynasty (11th to 7th centuries B.C.), whose texts include inscriptions on bronze artifacts, the poetry of the “Shijing”, the history of the “Shujing”, and portions of the Yijing.

What language was spoken in ancient China? ›

language of China is called Archaic, or Old, Chinese (8th–3rd centuries bce), and that of the next period up to and including the Tang dynasty (618–907 ce) is known as Ancient, or Middle, Chinese. Languages of later periods include Old, Middle, and Modern Mandarin (the name Mandarin is a translation…

What is the origin of Chinese language? ›

Chinese is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family, a group of languages that all descend from Proto-Sino-Tibetan. The relationship between Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages is an area of active research and controversy, as is the attempt to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan.

How is our culture different from China? ›

Chinese society is all about the group, while Americans celebrate the individual. The United States is a meritocracy in which individuals can shine, while in China, any success is regarded as a success for the company, or the family, or the team.

What is the concept of relationships known as in Chinese? ›

Guanxi is often translated as “connections”, “relationships” or “networks”. However, none of these terms do justice to the fundamental and complex concept of guanxi and its central role in Chinese culture.

Why is family important in Chinese culture? ›

For many, their family provides them with a sense of identity and a strong network of support. In China, the family is largely understood through Confucian thought. In Confucian thinking, the family contains the most important relationships for individuals and forms the foundations of all social organisation.

What is disrespectful to Chinese culture? ›

Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact. Clicking fingers or whistling is considered very rude. Never put your feet on a desk or a chair. Never gesture or pass an object with your feet. Blowing one's nose in a handkerchief and returning it to one's pocket is considered vulgar by the Chinese.

What are the Chinese beliefs? ›

Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are considered the “three pillars” of ancient Chinese society. As philosophies and religions, they not only influenced spirituality, but also government, science, the arts, and social structure.

What are the two main belief systems in China? ›

Confucianism and Taoism (Daoism), later joined by Buddhism, constitute the "three teachings" that have shaped Chinese culture. There are no clear boundaries between these intertwined religious systems, which do not claim to be exclusive, and elements of each enrich popular or folk religion.

When did Chinese culture start? ›

China is one of the world's four ancient civilizations, and the written history of China dates back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), over 3,000 years ago.

Where did the Chinese culture originate? ›

The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang.

When a Chinese friend says Have you eaten yet to you what does he mean? ›

“It's an expression that Chinese used to greet each other 50 or 100 years ago,” Kwan adds. “When they saw each other on the streets they would say, 'Hey, have you eaten yet? ' and basically, it means, 'How are you? '”

How do Asians communicate? ›

In the literature on cultural differences, Asians are generally considered “high-context” communicators, because meaning is not explicit but rather implicit. Body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and gestures can convey as much as spoken or written words.

Is eye contact rude in China? ›

In China and many other East Asian cultures, it is considered rude to maintain direct eye contact in a conversation.

What language is spoken in China? ›

The official dialect of China is Mandarin, also call “Putonghua”. More than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are also several other major dialects in use in China: Yue (Cantonese), Xiang (Hunanese), Min dialect, Gan dialect, Wu dialect, and Kejia or Hakka dialect.

How do Chinese greet each other? ›

In Chinese, the most common way to say “Hi” is “你好(nǐhǎo)”. Sometimes we may use “您好(nínhǎo)” to show respect to our teachers or the seniors. Besides “你好(nǐhǎo)” and “您好(nínhǎo)”, there are other ways to greet others in daily life. We like to ask about a person's action.

How do Asians communicate with their culture? ›

Asian cultures usually practice high-context communication through the use of non-verbal elements such as body language, tone of voice and a person's status. Whereas in the American culture, information is communicated primarily through spoken language and rules are spelled out, reflecting low-context communication.

Does China have high or low context communication? ›

Chinese culture is a representative high context culture, which tends to rely on background and implicit hints in the communication process to convey information, rather than using many detailed words to explain everything.

Why is Chinese culture high context? ›

China is considered a high context culture as communication tends to be indirect and the real message needs to be interpreted according to the context. If you neglect the importance of context in China, you increase the chances of misunderstanding, confusion and even conflict.

What is disrespectful to Chinese culture? ›

Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact. Clicking fingers or whistling is considered very rude. Never put your feet on a desk or a chair. Never gesture or pass an object with your feet. Blowing one's nose in a handkerchief and returning it to one's pocket is considered vulgar by the Chinese.

How do you greet a Chinese woman? ›

Unlike what many foreigners think, Chinese etiquette does not include bowing when greeting Chinese people. A simple, soft handshake, a smile, and a friendly 'hi' or 'ni hao' (or 'nin hao' to greet older Chinese people) will often suffice.

Is burping in China a compliment? ›

2. Burping is considered a sign of gratitude. In China, burping is seen as a sign of satisfaction with the meal and is considered a compliment to the chef, so don't be surprised if it happens at the dinner table.

Which Chinese is most spoken? ›

Mandarin Chinese alone is the most widely spoken native language in the world: nearly a billion within China alone and 1.2 billion worldwide—a few hundred million people more than the next most widespread languages, Spanish and English.

Is Chinese the oldest language? ›

Tamil is the oldest language still in use today. By order of appearance, the Tamil language (part of the family of Dravidian languages) would be considered the world's oldest living language as it is over 5,000 years old, with its first grammar book having made its first appearance in 3,000 BC.

Why is Chinese language so different? ›

Chinese is the only modern language that doesn't have an alphabet. The writing system is “logosyllabic”, meaning each character represents a syllable of spoken Chinese and can be a word by itself or combined with other characters to create another word.

How do you show respect in Chinese culture? ›

If you are meeting someone in a business context, shake hands and smile. If it is someone older than you with some sort of rank, you may do a very slight bow from the shoulders (as opposed to a full-fledged bow from the waist) as a sign of respect. Do accept business cards with two hands. It's a sign of respect.

How do you become polite in Chinese culture? ›

Do
  1. Do Present and receive things with both hands. This is considered polite in Chinese culture.
  2. Do refuse a gift a number of times before accepting it. ...
  3. Do gift small items like books, music CDs, perfumes, cigarettes and candies from your home country (or a well-known Chinese brand).
13 Oct 2021

Why do Chinese bow 3 times? ›

Bowing three times in Chinese culture is way of showing respect to Heaven, Earth and all life. It is a gesture that humbles us to the mystery and power of what is vast and unspeakable.

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