As far as travel destinations go, China needs little introduction. It’s one of the most popular destinations for backpackers, explorers, and bucket-list tickers, all looking to immerse themselves in ancient and fascinating culture, spliced with stunning scenery, centuries-old traditions, and modern cities and technology. Here you’ll discover an eclectic mix of travel delights, and for good reason too!
China is one of the oldest countries in the world, the cradle of an early and important civilisation that is as powerful today as it was then. It’s also the most populated territory on the planet, home to a staggering 1.4 billion people regularly going about their daily lives. And coupled with such a colourful and turbulent history stretching back thousands of years, China is a melting pot of traditions and customs that will blow your mind! So, that’s what we’re going to do!
In today’s post, we’ll guide you through the top 8 fascinatingly strange Chinese customs you probably didn’t know!
While this custom is also practiced around the world, it is the Chinese who are particularly passionate about it. It involves exactly what the title says – marrying someone who is deceased. This can be for a number of reasons including when someone dies unbetrothed, they’re married in a ceremony that’s like combining a wedding and a funeral, so their ghosts won’t be lonely in the afterlife. Spooky!
In the west, we might well be obsessed with tanning and sun-worshipping to a borderline unhealthy degree, but to the Chinese, that’s a horrific thought! They believe the whiter you are the more beautiful, and they go to great lengths to keep their skin out of that nasty sun.
A more recent custom, facekinis are like a balaclava you wear to the beach to protect your face from those harmful UV rays and have been spotted in coastal regions since 2004.
The old adage that “it’s better out than in” seriously applies in China, and burping, spitting, and breaking wind are all acceptable cultural norms. Chinese docs apparently believe that what feels like it should be outside the body – should be outside the body. Don’t be offended if someone lets rip next to you on the subway. Burping after a meal is a sign of gratitude to the chef and is actively encouraged too.
In the west and particularly the states it is common for you to hug and/or kiss your dearest and dearest. Mothers, sons, fathers, and daughters all regularly show their love for one another by kissing on the cheek or giving someone a squeeze.
Not so in China! Parents aren’t likely to tell their offspring that they love them either, as they’re just not particularly adept at expressing such emotions.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a knife and fork in China, with chopsticks being the nationally favored way of consuming food. However, woe betides you if you put your chopsticks upright in the bowl as it’s considered extremely bad luck with roots in a burial ceremony.
Don’t wave them about like a Harry Potter wand either – and certainly don’t play drums with them. You’ll have some very irate Chinese people staring daggers in your direction if you do
They might have one of the most popular takeaway foods in the world (largely thanks to Chinese Americans adapting it for western tastes), but China has their fair share of rather interesting culinary choices. A slight warning – this isn’t for the easily offended. In eastern regions of the country, it is considered a delicacy to eat boiled eggs simmered in the urine of virgin boys. Now, we might have said we’d try anything once and we’re open to cultural experiences – but I think we’ll draw the line there.
Tea might well be the greatest thing humankind has ever cultivated and the Chinese practically worship the stuff. You’re likely to never run dry whenever ordering tea in any establishment, as they will ensure your cup is always full to the brim.
You’ll also see the rather delightful (but often mistaken for impatient) gesture of tapping the table as the tea is being poured. This is actually to say thank you for the top-up rather than demanding the server hurry up and serve the delicious beverage.
Now, this can be something of a cultural minefield. When giving a gift in China, the recipient will most likely refuse the offer initially, in order to show that they are gracious. Eventually, they will accept, after several passes have been made. For westerners, this can be somewhat confusing, as it would be seen as impolite or possibly even rude.
And just how many times do you offer before it’s accepted or you just take it back to the shop and pocket the cash yourself? Three times is apparently the going rate.
To go through all the ins and outs of strange Chinese customs would take several articles, but at least we’ve given you some basics here. It’s a culturally rich country, but they can be particularly sensitive about certain things and you need to watch what you say and how you act. Don’t talk about death, don’t wear a green hat, and don’t kiss someone you don’t know as a greeting. Just a few bonus customs that are useful to know, but if you’re planning a visit, it’s worth brushing up on a whole lot more!
Have you had any experience of strange Chinese customs or any strange customs from around the world? Let us know!