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How to NOT offend the Chinese: 5 safe Chinese conversation topics

Chinese conversations are all part of a greater character assessment process and relationship building. For this reason, and in order to keep face, certain topics should be avoided.

When speaking with your Chinese associates, topics such as politics, current affairs and anything related to the communist government should be avoided. What the West consider appropriate, healthy discussions or debates, Chinese will feel uncomfortable discussing.

Luckily, listed below are 5 safe Chinese conversation topics:

Food, glorious food:

chinese food

The Chinese are very proud of their cuisine (rightly so). Thoughts about Chinese cuisine conjures up images of succulent Peking duck from Beijing, hot crispy spring rolls, fluffy fried rice and sticky, sweet noodles.

Que stomach rumbling…

However, most local Chinese meals will differ greatly to what’s on the menu at your local Western Chinese restaurant. Try not to be intimidated. Expand your horizons.

Your ability to discuss your culinary experiences, taste and preferences with Chinese locals will be well received because the Chinese love their food.

Did you know, a popular greeting in China translates to “Have you eaten?” (Chi Le ma?).

To really enhance your Chinese conversation skills, earn yourself easy brownie (or dangao) points by knowing the names of your favourite dishes.

Dumpling = Jia Zi

Fried noodle = Chaomian

Fried rice = Chaofan

Spring roll = Chunjuan

There’s a popular quote, “You have to taste a culture to understand it”.

Without a doubt this applies to Chinese cuisine. For instance, what’s on the menu will differ greatly depending on where you are in China. Regional cuisines are as follows:

Northern China: Simple and salty

Central China: Spicy

Southern China: Sour

Eastern China: Sweet and light

The discussion of food is a safe, fun and easy topic of conversation to have with your Chinese associates. With an open mind, full stomach and a little bit of research, you can easily strike up an engaging conversation.

Just prepare to feel hungry afterwards!

Culture:

Chinese culture is one of the oldest and most celebrated cultures in the world.

(Chinese New Year is celebrated worldwide)

Showing an interest in cultural topics such as tea ceremonies, zodiac and history will always be appreciated and well received by Chinese.

Curiosity will translate your respect.

Consider questions such as:

“How do you celebrate Chinese New Year?”

“Where can I experience a traditional tea ceremony?” and

 “What is my Chinese zodiac?”.

Because Chinese culture is so profound, we have created an enlightening Chinese Culture in Business Course, outlining everything you need to know about Chinese culture.

Family dynamics, festivals, symbols, clothing and traditions are just a handful of the various topics covered in the culture courses.

Landmarks:

You would be wrong to assume that China’s only landmark is the Great Wall.

Whilst the Great Wall of China is certainly a must-see, China boasts a collection of other truly iconic attractions.

Recounting your visit and experience will make any Chinese local feel proud (so long as you’re saving face), and this is a great way to genuinely engage with your Chinese partner.

Must-see landmarks other than the Great Wall:

-          The Forbidden City

-          The Terracotta Warriors

-          China’s giant Pandas

-          Mount Everest and many more

There are countless Chinese ancient wonders. By visiting these attractions, you will undoubtably also learn about China’s culture and history.

Essentially, visiting a country’s landmarks is an easy way to learn.  

A conversation about your new-found knowledge will serve to create a relaxed and safe discussion with any Chinese local.

Art:

Performing or visual arts, Chinese art is multi-faceted, encompassing many aesthetics.

Painting, calligraphy, architecture, pottery and sculpture are among many.

To list each in detail demands a separate blog entirely!

In fact, Chinese art is firmly intertwined with their culture. Hence, why learning about Chinese art during your culture studies, is so useful.

Did you know that Chinese art has represented class structure throughout history?

And

Did you know that the Chinese are said to have been the creators of paper?

As a means of expression, there are plenty of art styles to discuss with your Chinese associates.

Pop culture:

China is the consumerism capital of the world.

Media, television, sports, shopping, music and food all serve to highlight China’s rapidly evolving, colourful world of modern pop culture.

The chaotic and intriguing world of reality TV and game shows are the most popular television genre of choice in China today.

Chinese viewers love seeing their favourite celebrities participate in such shows for humorous value adding.

Particularly if you ever find yourself speaking with someone from a younger age group, discussing pop culture will be enthusiastically reciprocated.

Even more significant for conducting business in China, foreign brands are increasingly and ever competitively pursuing leading Chinese influencers from these shows to help advertise their products.

Successful pairing with Chinese influencers is every marketers dream.

~~~

If you can speak Mandarin, the world is your oyster and so long as you remember to keep face and remember culturally sensitive topics, you can talk about anything with your Chinese colleagues.

Intlang Marketing are specialists in Chinese engagement. If you need more information or help rising visibility to your brand in this promising market, then do not hesitate to contact Intlang today.

Gloria ZhangComment