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Shanghai Briefing


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A short guide for expatriates
living and working in Shanghai, 2003

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Shanghai Briefing

  1. 1. A Short Guide for Expatriates Living and Working in Shanghai
  2. 2. Chi nese Puzzl es – Int roduct i on There is no straightforward formula for foreign business(wo)men and their families to succeed in China. Pretending otherwise risks failing in business and/or private relationships. Thus, each old China hand will advise green-horns differently, according to their personal experience of what works or not. However, such advice doesn’t, but should, come with the health warning that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. So:   lesson 1: seek a second opinion, then a third from a Chinese person, and finally a fourth from someone who really knows, understands and is A private audience with respected by both sides Rt Hon Sir Edward Heath   Beijing, September 1998 lesson 2: beware of self-styled “China experts”, or “consultants” - i.e. anecdotally, but sometimes true, expatriates who ve been in or visited China for 30 minutes, or longer than you, respectively! Andrew and Eileen Williamson have spent many years abroad, first as language students and then working with Commercial Union and the British Council respectively. In that spirit, rather than waste time regurgitating the In the late 1990s, they were posted to Beijing, when time-worn advice repeated in the plethora of books on Andrew was appointed CU’s Director and Chief China (see Page 37: Bibliography), we prefer to offer Representative for China, and where Eileen joined the personal insights, based on our and others successes local staff of the British Council. In recognition of his and failures services, Andrew was appointed Visiting Professor of Insurance by the then Shanghai Finance College. Now semi-retired, following the merger of CU and GA, they try Do not underestimate the Chinese … we still have to keep up-to-date their links with China much to learn from them Chi nese Puzzl es - Index Page 01 Brief History 20 Dogs 02 Opium Wars 22 Giving Gifts 04 China for Business 23 Health and Hygiene 05 China for Pleasure 25 Maids 07 Accommodation 28 Meeting and Greeting 08 Avoid 29 Negotiating 09 Banqueting 31 Recreation 11 Business Meetings 32 Support Services 13 Climate and Clothing 33 Transport 15 Communications 35 Work Practices 16 Cost of Living 36 Notes 17 Cultural Differences 37 Bibliography ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson
  3. 3. Chi nese Puzzl es Bri ef H i st o ry 221BC The first Chi’in Emperor begins to build the Great 1908 Death of Dowager Empress Tz’u Hsi, the last Wall of China in order to keep out northern effective Manchu Ruler. Her fierce repression of barbarians. During his reign, 1200 miles are built. change leads to the Boxer Rising against In later centuries, it stretches 1500 miles. It is 25ft foreigners, and to the downfall of the Manchus. In high, with watchtowers every 200 yards 1912, China becomes a republic, and the 2000- year rule of the dynasties is over 1930 Missionary Gladys Aylward spends her life savings going to China, gets a job campaigning against the foot-binding of women, and set us the Inn of the Sixth Happiness orphanage 995AD The Chinese invent printing with movable type. Their tradition of innovation is long: in about 1000AD they also invented gunpowder; and the magnetic compass, a giant leap forward in navigation 1274 Marco Polo reaches Kublai Khan’s court in China. He described paper money, paddle-boats and a black stone which burns: coal. He is away from his Venice home for 25 years. When he returns a millionaire is called the “Man of a Million Lies” 1966 Cultural Revolution – student “Red Guards”, 1725 The Manchu emperor Yongzheng commissions the waving Mao Tse Tung s Little Red Book, hunt out largest encyclopaedia ever, with 10,000 chapters. bourgeois ideologies, humiliate intellectuals, and The Complete Works of the Four Treasuries is still riot. Thousands die in the violence consulted today. Scholars researching it also destroyed all books considered harmful to the empire 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. 100,000 students demonstrate for democratic reforms. Tanks are sent in. One image goes around the world: a lone 1839-60 Opium Wars (see Pages 02-03: Opium Wars) demonstrator defies, on his own, a line of tanks 1873 Taiping Revolution – the most bloody civil war in history. Its leader, Hing Xiuquan, believes himself to be the brother of Jesus Christ. Infuriated at failing the Civil Service entrance exam, he rebels against the Manchu Emperor. Between 20 and 30 million people are killed 2001 China successfully bids to host the 2008 Olympic Games; and joins the World Trade Organisation th Source: Daily Mail Weekend Supplement, 9 June 2001 ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson “Chinese Puzzles” – Page 01
  4. 4. Chi nese Puzzl es Opi um W ars Fi rst Opi um W ar ( 1839- 1842) The A dvance o n Peki ng The wealth of China is used to profit the Mutual ignorance between the two sides was barbarians. By what right do they send the almost total. In the first place, the Chinese thought poisonous drug opium to injure the Chinese they were adequately armed with their matchlock people? So wrote the Chinese official Lin Tse- muskets which fired not by pulling a trigger but Hsu to Queen Victoria, protesting at the opium by applying a lighted match and swords and trade which was making a fortune for her empire, pikes. They were astonished and traumatised by and enslaving the nation of China – through western weapons, as when a single rocket from a addiction – in the process. It is not known if Her British warship burned their admiral s junk and Majesty ever read the letter, but Lin Tse-Hsu was killed all on board. The Chinese leaders also gave ordered by his Emperor to stamp out the opium their men not-very-sound advice about fighting the trade. So he seized opium from British ships, and British. You have to deal with a people who wear disposed of it in trenches of salt and lime along the breeches so tight that once the soldiers fall they sea coast. He was rewarded with an exquisitely cannot get up by themselves. Paint your faces as prepared dinner of roebuck venison, a message fantastically as possible, and make the most signifying “Promotion Assured”, and a hand- hideous grimaces to frighten them and make them painted silk scroll from the Emperor. But it did him tumble down. Yet the misconceptions on the little good. In reprisal for the destroyed opium, the British side were almost as great. The Chinese despised “Foreign Devils” waged the first Opium general was San Ko-lin-sin which led British War (1839-1842), defeated the Chinese, and soldiers to believe their enemy was led by a grabbed a lease on Hong Kong as a reward. “You renegade Irishman named Sam Collinson have caused this war by your excessive zeal”, wrote a furious Emperor to Lin Tse-Hsu. “Now a thousand unending problems are sprouting…” Lin ended his life in exile S co nd Opi um W ar ( 1856- 1860 ) e The S m m er Pal ace u Still the Chinese resisted the opium trade. The The British called it the Summer Palace; the second Opium War began in 1856; it led to the Chinese called it the Yuan Ming Yuan, the Garden burning of the Summer Palace in 1860. First, of Perfect Brightness. It was the seat of Imperial British and French troops advanced to the capital; government, and a pleasure palace. Five in charge of the British contingent was Lord Elgin Emperors of the Manchu dynasty had successively the son of the Elgin who took the marbles from the embellished it over more than 150 years. It was a Parthenon in Greece. On the march, the bodies of massive complex, 3000 structures all together, 18 European envoys who had been sent ahead to museum, storehouse, palace, all in one. The main Peking to negotiate were returned to the advancing Imperial residence was built on nine artificial troops. They had clearly been tortured before their islands to signify the Nine Realms of the Empire; deaths. Then a British soldier, Private Moyes of within lay the Courtyard of Universal Happiness; the Buffs, was captured and refused to kow tow adjoining was The Stone for Repose by the (bow) before the Chinese; for that, he was Stream. One pavilion was called Peace and beheaded. These were the reasons that Elgin was Harmony in Ten Thousand Directions. It was to give for the burning of the Summer Palace. It shaped like a swastika, the Chinese symbol for was not an act of vengeance, but of justice and the 10000. There were bridges, straight, crooked, zig- least objectionable of the courses open to me , he zag, humped; there were tea-houses and summer- said. History, and even his own conscience, it houses. There were also extraordinary elements seems, would not judge it that way of fantasy in its 850 acres. Eunuchs toiled as pretend farmers, pretend shopkeepers and pretend thieves in a miniature pretend village built to complete the view ________________________________________________________________________________________________ “Chinese Puzzles” – Page 0 2
  5. 5. The Loo t i ng The Inferno The Emperor fled the advancing barbarians the It was the French who began the looting. It was British. The Summer Palace itself was protected the British who ordered the palace to be burned. It only by a small force of eunuch guards. Yet one was a clear, still autumn day; soon a black pall of English soldier was astonished to find the French smoke rose and hung in the cloudless sky. “There general, Montauban, already there. He was sitting were soldiers with their heads in red lacquer-boxes on the floor of the Emperor s throne-room, from the Empress’ chamber,” wrote a witness; surrounded by a litter of curios, sorting them into “others were wreathed in masses of brocade and different piles as present for Queen Victoria and silks; some stuffed rubies, sapphire and crystal into Napoleon III. Sent to Europe were jade their pockets; and hung their necks with pearl ornaments, statues and carvings; a water clock necklaces. Other hugged clocks and clock-cases. with brass heads of oxen and monkeys; vases Every now and again the cry of ‘Fire’ rang out; the commissioned by the Emperors. English soldiers flames were licking the sumptuous walls padded joined the looting; so did the Chinese peasantry with silks and damasks and furs. It was like a outside “a scrum of all the races of the world scene from an opium dream” hurrying, pushing, cursing, returning laden with their loot …” wrote an onlooker. Clocks, scroll paintings, the poems written by the Emperor on The A ft erm at h silken screens, all went; men hacked the faces off jewelled clocks, believing the quartz numbers to be made of diamond. A small Pekinese dog was The burning destroyed for ever the prestige of the found and pocketed, sent to London and presented Manchu Emperors. Bloody civil war broke out. to Queen Victoria. She called it Lootie, and it Then at the turn of the century came the Society of survived for many years the Righteous and Harmonious Fists known as the Boxers. In a last fling of the old regime, the Manchu Dowager Empress tried to manipulate the Boxers to massacre foreigners in China. When that, too, failed, the Manchus were finished and China descended into an anarchy of squabbling warlords. The Summer Palace, meanwhile, became a ruin picked over by peasants for whatever they could find. A poem described the fate of its treasures, and the ruin of China: A rare book from the Song dynasty Lies in an old woman s basket; On the wall of a herdsboy s hut Hangs a valuable painting. Ask not the fate of scriptures Written on precious leaves; For have not even the pages Of the Encyclopaedia of the Four Treasuries Been scattered to the Four Winds? Source: Daily Mail Weekend Supplement, 9th June 2001 ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson Chinese Puzzles Page 0 3
  6. 6. Chi nese Puzzl es Chi na for Busi ness 1. Banqueting: if you haven t a strong stomach, 7. Interpreters and Drivers: besides being status ask for another posting! Food in the PRC, symbols, interpreters and drivers may enjoy especially when still alive, barely resembles that close, even intimate, relationships with their served in Western Chinese restaurants. When principals and wield influence in their own right. in doubt, don t ask: it may be better not to know Especially if younger and of the opposite sex, what you re eating. And if your host serves you ensure your relationship with them is above directly, even from his plate … grin and swallow! reproach: some male drivers consider foreign - to refuse is an insult females fair game 2. Face: well documented in the standard 8. Laobanism: the boss ( laoban ) is always right. textbooks, face is so important to the Chinese That s why he s the boss: otherwise he wouldn t that your local staff may care more about their be, even if only by virtue of being older. Thus: own face than that of foreigners, and try to save your local staff may stand by and watch you face at your expense. And remember: no is a make all the mistakes in the book and lose face, no-no whilst ensuring they do not lose their own 3. Favours: don t ask your host for favours he can t 9. Meetings: don t remind your Chinese host what deliver (see above: Face) which explains why you ve already done for him, or tell him what meetings can only ever be arranged at the you re going to do for him or want him to do for eleventh hour, when he knows that his diary is you. Besides revealing your hand, this free (besides being his way of showing who s demonstrates a total disregard for his need and boss). Conversely: don t make rash promises face (see above: Face). Even worse: don t tell you can t keep or have no intention of keeping: a him what he needs and that you ve got the light-hearted invitation to look you up next time solution. Rather: find out what he needs and he s in London could cost you an airfare & hotel what you could do to help him; and then sell bill for an unexpected mini-delegation your product or service as the solution. Make your solution his idea 4. Gifts: when in doubt, consult your Chinese advisors, for whom exchanging the right gifts 10. Privacy: some Chinese especially from large may be the most important task in planning a or poorly educated families have little concept delegation or meeting of personal space, which is alien to their home experience. Thus: beware of maids who try to clean the bathroom while you re using it or join 5. Guanxi: a cross between the old boy network your coffee mornings; and girl-friends who offer and Newton s Cradle, and despite being well to accompany Western ladies to the toilet! documented elsewhere, guanxi defies definition. To build it is difficult; to destroy it is easy. For example: if you continue to meet a 11. Sex: rather than being jealous, pity the gullibility friend of a friend, keep the latter informed and of the many elderly Western men in international appear grateful, otherwise he could turn the hotel lobbies sporting trophy Chinese girls on former against you their arms: all these want is a passport to the West. By the same token: beware of the maids who approach the husband while the wife is 6. Interpreters: even if you speak Chinese, take away. If married, take your spouse with you to your own interpreter to meetings, rather than rely China: otherwise, we ve seen too many on your host s: otherwise, he may consider marriages fail you re not senior enough to warrant one and, therefore, not his equal. Don t assume your host needs an interpreter and make sotto voce 12. When all else fails: be patient! To quote Milton comments to your colleagues: many senior out of context: He also serves, who only sits Chinese have studied abroad. Avoid and waits interpreters who not only misinterpret but also have their own say: by including another Chinese speaker in your delegation who can Source: Minim Consulting, based on personal experience intervene ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Chinese Puzzles Page 0 4 Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson
  7. 7. Chi nese Puzzl es Chi na f or Pl easure Po pul at i o n Rel i gi o n China is the world s most populated country with Confucius (born in 551 BC) is the greatest 1.266 billion people living on 9.6 million square influence on Chinese ethics, emphasising family kilometres of land. Only just bigger than the USA, loyalty. Buddhism is widespread, and has st China has almost five times as many inhabitants. diverged from its 1 century AD Indian roots. It is The people are of many different nationalities (over also distinct In Tibet from the rest of China. 56), some living in remote areas such as Mongolia Taoism, stressing mysticism and promising and Tibet. It helps, therefore, to think of China as immortality, was repressed during the 1960 s a collection of countries, like Europe Cultural Revolution Roman Catholicism, although state-controlled, One Chi ld Po l i cy flourishes but can cost its followers their livelihood. Foreigners may attend local churches, but Chinese Feeding so many people is a problem. One are banned from foreign Christian meetings on solution is to restrict married couples to having pain of these being outlawed. Evangelists are only one child, with severe penalties for additional prohibited and subject to extradition. The State or illegitimate children. As a result, there are a lot demands allegiance to itself before God or the of spoilt only children in China, nicknamed little Pope emperors . For example: a Chinese newspaper reported recently that young Chinese soldiers could not look after themselves, such as make their beds; and the Daily Mail, that they cannot tie shoe-laces Cl i mat e China lies on a similar latitude to the USA and its climate varies just as much. The north is a dry plain, with very cold winters; whilst the south is Tiananmen Square, Beijing lush green. In the whole country, summers are hot and humid; and spring is unpredictable. The best time of year, therefore, is the autumn To uri sm H i st o ry China is rapidly becoming a centre for tourists keen on seeing her many historic sights, especially China is a very old country, with a 5000 year-old the Great Wall, 6000 kilometres long, which was civilisation that boasts the invention of paper, built over 1000 years ago in an unsuccessful printing, gunpowder & the compass. In Chinese, attempt to keep out northern invaders. The Wall is China means Middle Kingdom , signifying that it claimed to be the only man-made structure visible is the centre of the world. Thus, the first of the two from space. Another favourite tourist attraction are Chinese characters for China is a square with a the Terracotta Warriors, a life-size army of clay vertical line through it, like a globe on its axis figures built to guard the tomb of the first Qin th emperor In the 19 century, China was a popular source of drugs for European countries, with which she became embattled in the so-called opium wars . As a result, Hong Kong was ceded to Great Britain in 1842, and not handed back to China until 1997 The emperor was deposed in 1911; and then, after periods of invasion by Japan and internal unrest, the Communists - winners of the civil war - founded the modern People s Republic of China on st 1 October 1949; whilst the losers retreated to the island of Taiwan and set up a rival regime The Great Wall of China ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Chinese Puzzles Page 0 5
  8. 8. Travel Travelling to and within China is not difficult, as long as you enjoy excitement. Aeroplanes may be less modern and comfortable than in Europe, but at least their pilots are first-class. Trains are the best way to see the countryside, especially for those with time on their hands to travel between Beijing and Moscow or Hong Kong. Cruises along the Yangtze River are a popular means of A Plumber s Shop, Guangzhou (Canton) exploring inland China. In the cities, besides buses, taxis are abundant and cheap but driven erratically; with plenty of pedicabs and rickshaws H o usi ng, S ho o l i ng and H o spi t als c for tourists. The number of private cars is steadily growing; and, in cities such as Shanghai and In many cities, foreigners may still be required to Guangzhou (Canton), they now compete with live in specially designated housing-compounds or motorcycles for road-space apartment-blocks. This also applies to mixed King of the road is the bicycle, the most popular marriages: if the wife is Chinese, her Western make being the “flying pigeon”. Wherever you go husband may not be allowed to live in local in China, there are hundreds upon thousands of housing but have to move with her to a foreign cyclists, supposedly in special cycle lanes as big compound. There is, however, some consolation: as roads but usually in the roads themselves, often she may have more than one child. In cities, most going in the wrong direction and never with lights. Chinese live in tower-blocks, provided for them by Indeed, cycle lights are illegal: image, if all bicycles their employers; their children attend schools had lights they would blind the cars! A treasured provided by their parents employer; and all receive possession, costing a month’s wage, a bicycle is a medical attention from similarly provided hospitals. means of family transport: the crossbar for the However, this cradle to grave provision by the child, and the rear parcel-carrier for the wife, even state, nick-named the “iron rice bowl”, is being when transporting goods to market. One theory phased out to be replaced by greater self- why Chinese dresses have slits down the side is to sufficiency. At the same time, state-owned allow ladies to pedal their bicycles! companies are being reformed – another word for “privatised”. China may have a Communist political regime, but her economy is slowly Clo t hi ng becoming capitalist Young and middle-aged Chinese have adopted Western dress; whilst many of the older generation Po st S ript c still wear Mao style suits, even the women. Bright colours are favoured for small girls – perhaps to The way to succeed in China is by slowly make them stand out more, since boys outnumber developing close and lasting personal girls about 5 to 4. Bright yellow, once the imperial relationships: “guanxi” – rather like the English “old colour, is popular. Older Chinese are not adverse boy network”. However, failure befalls anyone to mixing colours which clash by Western using the word “no” standards Out and A bo ut In the main cities, large Western-style department stores with Western goods jostle with small Chinese shops selling traditional produce and products. 5-star international hotels with gourmet restaurants compete with traditional lodgings and local eating-places. O’Malley’s Irish Pub, Mac- Donald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hard Rock Café, Pizza Hut etc. abound and attract more Chinese than Westerners. Whilst visiting business-persons are treated to banquets of snake, sea slugs, fish-heads, jelly fish and the like, their hosts have probably had a Big Mac meal for lunch costing about £2/US$3! The Middle Kingdom ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Chinese Puzzles Page 0 6 Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson
  9. 9. The China Syndrome - Accommodation Introduction New or Old? This article deals solely with accommodation for Older property may not only have sub-standard expatriate business(wo)men - since for diplomats electricity, plumbing, heating and gas, but also and teachers (the other main categories of foreign need constant repair. Hence, it is probably better workers) accommodation is normally provided in to choose new property, even though standards of special compounds or by their Chinese employer, construction and finishing may be only superficially respectively acceptable. Indeed, since most engineering effort appears to be channelled into building rather than Availability maintenance, the secret is not to stay around long enough to watch property decay In some cities (e.g. Beijing and Shanghai), expatriates can now live quite legally in Chinese housing. Nevertheless, foreign tenants whose landlord refuses to register them - which is not uncommon, either through ignorance or distrust of the law – may be summarily evicted by the municipal authority if discovered during one of its periodic inspections In other cities, however, government policy is still Author’s house at Author’s house at to segregate foreigners from the local population, “Dragon Villas”, Beijing “Greenland Gardens”, Beijing and make them live in designated properties (e.g. foreign housing compounds) and “pay through the Furnished or Unfurnished? nose”. Thus, a dream cottage in the country or period house in the city may remain just that – a Except for hotels and serviced apartments, dream property may be rented furnished, hard-furnished or unfurnished. Choice Hard-furnished accommodation should include all Expatriates may choose from: hotels, aparthotels main white goods (e.g. cooker, fridge, dishwasher, (i.e. serviced apartments in an hotel), apartments washing machine, tumble dryer), major items of (serviced or not) and houses (linked and detached) furniture (e.g. lounge, dining and bedroom suites), with small gardens. Western designs abound, curtains, light fittings and television (linked to the including European and Spanish villas, Californian compound’s receiver, supplying international houses and neo-Georgian mansions; all built to foreign-language programmes). Furniture may be western standards using imported materials (e.g. imported, and of colonial or Mediterranean style hard-wood floors, Italian tiles and German air- Furnished accommodation should also include conditioning) – although, in some cases, what microwave, vacuum cleaner, iron, cooking utensils, constitutes “western” is imaginary rather than real! crockery, glassware, cutlery; and possibly table linen, bedding, lamps and some occasional Rent or Purchase? furniture; but probably not carpets, towelling or bed linen Although foreigners can purchase property, restrictions may apply as to what property (e.g. Most purpose-built accommodation for foreigners detached properties in Shanghai) and/or which has central heating, air-conditioning and two phone foreigners (e.g. overseas Chinese or Hong Kong lines: one for voice, and the other for fax/data residents). A further restriction, as a result of the state ownership of all land, is that property is Furniture leasehold only and reverts the state after 75 years. Purchasing automatically confers a permanent Unfurnished accommodation can be fully kitted residence visa – in theory but not necessarily in out locally, and not just at the main Department practice, given China’s fluid legal system Stores. Thus, there is really no need to take anything from the home country, apart from Given the superficial build quality of unscrupulous personal possessions. For the patient bargain- developers, and the poor maintenance of unskilled hunter and seasoned haggler, good-quality antique or unsupervised tradesmen, it is probably better to Chinese furniture - genuine and reproduction - is rent than purchase readily available at acceptable prices, and makes Page A1
  10. 10. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ excellent “souvenirs” back home at the end of the Accommodation posting (subject to export restrictions – see below) The alternatives range from: Purpose-built houses for foreigners often include: master bedroom with en-suite bathroom (with two ¾ locally-made plush, ornate, even gaudy new handbasins, shower and bath), family bedrooms furniture of varying quality and price, in an and bathroom, lounge, dining room, family room, attempt to emulate Western taste; through … study (converted bedroom), kitchen, utility room, ¾ imported or locally-made tasteful, if expensive, maid’s quarters, garage, balcony and storage area copies of colonial furniture, suitably - and (attic or basement) thankfully sometimes optionally - “distressed” or “aged” (e.g. in the “public” rooms); to … To protect the wooden floors (if your house has them): insist that everyone enters via the hall, and ¾ locally-made simple yet attractive, acceptable provide an assortment of “flip-flop” type slippers in and some even hard-wearing modern Chinese different sizes for them to change into furniture (e.g. in the “non-public” rooms) An alternative source of reasonably-priced good- quality household goods and furniture are Dining Room departing expatriates, who advertise in the various foreign-language magazines and/or on the notice Lounge boards in foreign housing compounds and/or supermarkets in Western-style hotels Kitchen Garage In other words: “you pays your money and you takes your pick” Hall For example: to furnish his unfurnished house with Maid a mixture of all the above, including antiques, the author was given a budget of US$30,000 (in 1998) Author s house at Greenland Gardens , Beijing - Floor 0 Bed Room Balcony Family Galleried Room Landing Study Inside the author s house at Dragon Villas , Beijing City Centre or Suburbs? Author s house at Greenland Gardens , Beijing - Floor 1 In choosing whether to live in the city centre or the suburbs, the arguments for and against each must be weighed up: Main Location City Centre Suburbs Bedroom Bedroom Convenience Quality of life (i.e. proximity to (e.g. fresh air and Dressing Landing For work & school) green spaces) Room Amenities Cheaper Balcony Travel time and Noise traffic congestion Against Pollution Isolation Expensive Lack of amenities Author s house at Greenland Gardens , Beijing - Floor 2 Page A2
  11. 11. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ Status the developer to comply once the residents are installed The status (i.e. type, location, size, furnishing etc.) A word of warning about shuttle-buses: some of of your accommodation may not only reflect your their drivers are the worst in the world own worth to your employer but also - and more importantly - be interpreted by others (Chinese and The estate management normally has an army of foreigners alike) as an indicator of your employer’s tradesmen and gardeners of indifferent ability at worth as a business its disposal: thus, do not be surprised if your lawn is cut by a small platoon using hand-shears! In other words: just as you are an “ambassador” for your employer, so is your accommodation its Rentals “residence” It is important, therefore, that your accommodation Rentals tend to be for a minimum of 12 months, should correctly reflect your employer’s worth, and renewable annually. Shorter periods may be in relation to accommodation provided by other available at a premium; whilst longer terms may comparable employers (e.g. not significantly much provide for earlier termination. A security deposit larger and/or more ornate than theirs) is required, normally equal to 3 months rent (but may be less for unfurnished accommodation). For example: the author had to submit to his Head Rent is not normally negotiable, though extras may Office details of accommodation provided by other be (e.g. club membership); and is payable in leading Western insurance companies advance, monthly or quarterly, usually in US$. Unfurnished accommodation may be cheaper than Security furnished, but not necessarily; and suburban rents than in the city Foreign compounds are normally very safe places, being surrounded by a perimeter fence or wall with Despite the greater choice and quality of security guards at the entrance gate and patrolling accommodation, expatriates may still be expected the grounds. Additionally, individual properties to pay exorbitant rents for the following reasons: may be fitted with intercom entry-phones, burglar ¾ They constitute a captive-market of wealthy alarms, security locks and strong entry-doors; and clients (see next point) chasing a finite supply occupants, drivers and maids required to carry ID of good quality Western-style accommodation cards. Nevertheless, burglaries and attacks do – although supply is now catching up with occur occasionally; for which reason it is advisable demand keep valuables in a locked cupboard (if not install a ¾ Expatriate executives are perceived as being safe) and carry a personal alarm or mobile phone, sufficiently affluent to afford high rents – respectively. Also, remember to reclaim keys and particularly those whose accommodation costs ID cards when dispensing with the services of are known or assumed to be borne by their maids and drivers; and that the landlord and estate employer management probably have spare keys for tradesmen to carry out maintenance and repairs, ¾ Real estate in Beijing and Shanghai is not always with the occupants’ knowledge amongst the most expensive in the world - although prices are gradually falling, as supply Since most landlords allow pets (subject to local catches up with demand and in the wake of the laws) and many Chinese are unaccustomed to and Asian crisis so afraid of them, dogs are an excellent deterrent, for whom gardens may be fairly easily secured According to Colliers Jardine, average rentals per 2 nd metre /month during the 2 quarter of 2002 were: Other “unwelcome visitors” include winged insects, which are best deterred by fitting fly-screens Average Luxury Luxury Service Rent per Residential Apart- Apart- 2 Facilities m /Month Market ments ments Beijing US$ 23 US$23 US$ 30 Foreign compounds and apartment-blocks often Shanghai US$ 17 claim to include: shops (e.g. western supermarket, hair- dresser, clothing), restaurant (Chinese and Utilities western), bar, clubhouse or recreational facilities (e.g. tennis, swimming, snooker, ten-pin bowling), Utilities (i.e. electricity, gas, water, telephone) and child-minding facilities. Before moving in, ensure service charges (e.g. management, cleaning, that such claims are true: there is less incentive for gardening, waste disposal, use of communal Page A3
  12. 12. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ facilities, club membership etc.) are usually ¾ The inspector will allow you to export only additional to, and not included in, the rental; and those items that (s)he deems than 150 years may be payable in RMB or US$ old - marking such items with a read wax seal Ensure that all utilities are connected and working and noting them on a Bureau of Antiquities before, and as condition of, moving in since there Export Permit is less incentive for the landlord to comply once the ¾ Unless you can persuade the inspector tenant is installed. In particular, check that the otherwise, (s)he will NOT allow you to export mains gas and water pressures are sufficient to items deemed older than 150 years, also meet peak demand (e.g. Sunday lunch and noting them on the same Export Permit summer, respectively). Be aware that electric ¾ A fee is payable for the inspection (the author plugs and sockets come in various shapes and paid RMB 150) plus a variable amount sizes (but normally 5-amp 2-pin flat); and stock up between RMB 5 and RMB 40 (approximately) on locally-available adaptors. Use only the most per read wax seal expensive plugs, sockets, adapters and wiring as also being the safest. The supply is 220 volts, 50 ¾ You should retain the Export Permit for cycles AC. As to drinking water: tap water is not customs clearance purposes drinkable; but most estate managers can organise regular deliveries of carboys which, for ease of use, should be connected to a freestanding hot/cold dispenser From figures published by FPD Savills, utility costs in Beijing during the 1st quarter of 2002 averaged: Electricity RMB 0.75 per kwh Gas RMB 2.30 per m3 Cold Water RMB 2.50 per ton Hot Water RMB 7.35 per ton Heating RMB 6.70 per m2 Restrictions on Exporting Antique Furniture In order to ship home any antiques that you purchase in China, you will need to arrange for them to be inspected by the Antiquities Bureau, as follows: ¾ (Ask a Chinese-speaking person to) contact the Bureau about four to six weeks before your removal date. In Beijing, their telephone number is +86 10 6401 4608 ¾ Before the inspection, ensure you have: Author s Export Permit 1. a letter from your employer, in Chinese, Moving Notices and Name Cards confirming the dates of your arrival in and departure from China In China, a change of address card is usually 2. your passport or residence card called a moving notice ; and, when appropriately 3. the corresponding receipts. (While not designed, can also serve as a personal name card necessary, a low value may persuade the For example: the author’s (see below) was: inspector that an item is too cheap to be a prohibited item) ¾ made of card 4. RMB cash for the inspection and ¾ the size of a compliments slip, so that it fitted certification fees easily into a standard business envelope ¾ divided by a vertical perforation into two ¾ Arrange (for your driver) to bring the inspector to your home, and hand over the letter from unequal portions (say 75% and 25%) – the your employer; and afterwards return him/her larger serving as the notice per se; the smaller to the Bureau as a (detachable) name card Page A4
  13. 13. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ ¾ printed on both sides: one in English, the other Help! in Chinese ¾ illustrated on the back of the name card portion To make sense of all the options and reach the with a sketch map, in English and Chinese, of optimum decision, it is advisable to retain the where he lived services of an estate agent (normally for a fee of one month s rent); and talk to other expatriates, especially about the service level of the estate management Some estate agents (and removal companies) also offer relocation services, such as country briefing, cultural orientation and a local induction programme Removal Companies Beijing Crown Worldwide Room 201 West Tower Golden Bridge Building A1 Jianguomenwai Dajie Beijing 100020 Tel: +86 10 6585 0640 Fax: +86 10 6585 0648 E-Mail: Web: Shanghai Crown Worldwide Room 6303-6305 Rui Jin Business Centre No. 118 Rui Jin Er Road Author s change of address and personal name card Shanghai 200020 - front (top) and back (above) Tel: +86 21 6472 0254 Fax: +86 21 6472 0255 The purpose of such an arrangement is to: E-Mail: ¾ notify Chinese and non-Chinese speakers of Web: your new address ¾ provide both with directions for taxi-drivers, who may not be familiar with areas primarily Estate Agents inhabited by foreigners Beijing Colliers Jardine ¾ allow non-Chinese correspondents to stick a 1606 Capital Mansion photocopy of the Chinese version on their mail 6 Xin Yuan Nan Road to you, which the local postal workers can read Chaoyang District Beijing 100004 Should you move without knowing your new Tel: +86 10 8486 3099 permanent address (e.g. when you arrive in China, Fax: +86 10 8486 3789 or move from one city to another, or return home), E-Mail: distribute cards with at least your mobile phone Web: number and e-mail address - for example: FPD Savills 415 East Wing Office China World Trade Centre 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie Beijing 100004 Tel: +86 10 6505 2348 Fax: +86 10 6505 2356 E-mail: Web: Page A5
  14. 14. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ Jones Lang LaSalle Unit 12. 8/F, Tower B Full Link Plaza No. 18 Chaoyangmenwai Avenue Beijing 100020 Tel: +86 10 6588 1300 Fax: +86 10 6588 1330 E-Mail: david.hand Web: Photos: Shanghai Colliers Jardine 1881 City Centre Tower B 100 Zun Yi Road Shanghai 200051 Tel: +86 21 6237 0088 Fax: +86 21 6237 2122 E-Mail: Web: Photos: Beijing This Month, May 1998 FPD Savills Unit 2301-2308 Bibliography 23/F Shanghai Central Plaza 381 Huai Hai Middle Road Luwan District General China, Lonely Planet Publications, th Shanghai 200020 Australia, 7 edition, 2000, pp. 132, 134 Tel: +86 21 6391 6688 China Business Handbook 2002, China Fax: +86 21 6391 6699 Economic Review, Alain Charles th E-mail: Publishing Ltd, 5 edition, London, 2002, Web: pp. 39, 42, 370-371 Jones Lang LaSalle Culture Shock! China, Kevin Sinclair with rd 48/f Shanghai Plaza 66 Iris Wong Po-yee, Kuperard, London, 3 1266 Nanjing Rd (West) edition, 1999, pp. 210-211 Jing An District Greater China Property Index, Jones Lang Shanghai 200040 China LaSalle, China, July 2002, pp. 8, 12 Tel: +86 21 6393 3333 Greater China Residential Market Fax: +86 21 6393 3080 Overview, Colliers Jardine, China, July E-Mail: calvin.yang 2002, pp. 3-5 Web: Guide to Household Moving, Crown Worldwide, Beijing, 1998, pp. 16-17 Living and Working in China, Employment Examples of Expatriate Compounds in Beijing Conditions Abroad Limited, UK, 1996, pp. 18-19, 25-28 Living and Working in China, Christina Hall, How To Books, Plymouth (UK), 1996, pp. 58-63, 92 Beijing Beijing, Lonely Planet Publications, rd Australia, 3 edition, 1998, pp. 57, 121 Beijing Scene Guidebook, Beijing Scene Publishing, USA, 1997, pp. 203-217, 223- 233 Welcome to Beijing, Jones Lang Wootton, Beijing, 1997. p. 26 Shanghai Shanghai, Lonely Planet Publications, st Australia, 1 edition, 2001, pp. 70, 136 Information correct as at August 2002 Page A6
  15. 15. The China Syndrome - Accommodation ______________________________________________________________________________________ Appendix Author’s Shipping List Apart from clothes and other personal items such The list comprises items that are: as anyone would take on holiday, the author s ¾ personal (e.g. photographs) family flew the following items to China on several flights, and was only once charged for excess ¾ difficult or impossible to obtain locally (e.g. baggage: picture hooks) ¾ available locally but of poor quality (e.g. potato peeler) ________________________________________ Kitchen ________________________________________ Lounge Cafetiere Cake tins Books Cassettes Cheese board Cheese knife CDs Games Ice-cream scoop Iron (steam) Hearth Rug Ornaments (small) Meat charger Meat Roasting tin Photographs, pictures Picture hooks Milk jug ) stainless Potato peeler & certificates (all framed) Video player and Videos Sugar bowl ) steel Tea strainer ________________________________________ Thermos bag Tin opener Hobbies Trays Music stands & scores Fishing tackle ________________________________________ Dining Room Violin ________________________________________ Post Script Candlesticks Coasters Cutlery Meat carvers Note: It was impossible to rent or purchase a Napkin rings Tablemats decent upright piano at a reasonable ________________________________________ price; for which reason the author s wife Other had to contend with a locally manufactured good-quality electronic keyboard Barbecue utensils Cable clips Desk set Garden games On the other hand, it was possible to purchase a top-quality drum-kit for the Racquets (squash & tennis) author s son at a reasonable price Page A7
  16. 16. Chi nese Puzzl es – A voi d Tabo o S bj ect s u 6. DO NOT: a. Ask: “Have you got children?” In our 1. Chinese people may be genuinely offended if you experience, even the most Westernised Chinese criticise Mao (or other party leaders, dead or alive), may find this question funny, and laugh in your the government, or anything to do with politics face at your ignorance of the one-child policy. Instead, say: “Have you got a child?” or even ¡ However: Do not be surprised or caught off “Have you got a son?”. Be prepared for guard or tempted if they criticise them to you! boasting about a son, and lamenting over a Especially Mao’s alleged penchant for large daughter female tractor drivers! Or the spoilt only-sons or b. Say “no” (see Page 28: Meeting and Greeting – little emperors produced by the one-child policy! paragraphs 11-12) In our case, the former subject was raised by a Chinese colleague with whom we had a close c. Preach the Gospel, or invite Chinese to your relationship; the latter by a very senior Church. Nevertheless, you may mention your government official, father of a daughter, whom I faith and visit a Chinese Church. Certainly, our had only just met at a select banquet friends and colleagues asked us about Christianity and were disappointed they could not attend our Church, not realising it was 2. They are worried that someone overhears the forbidden. When I declared Good Friday a conversation and reports it to the party secretary and company holiday, one colleague wanted to they get into trouble “convert” on the spot! – a modern day example of a “rice Christian” 3. The person you are talking to may have been sent by a party official to sound out if you are politically safe S fe S bj ect s a u ¡ On one occasion, when visiting an academic institution with our chairman, the host delegation was led by the institution’s party secretary rather 7. These subjects are safe to talk about: than the Dean ¡ food, weather, landscapes, sights in China, your family, their family, money, wealth, income, 4. Subjects to avoid, at least until you have been in careers, non-political literature, hobbies, sport, China long enough to develop an instinct for what you stamp collecting, holidays and festivals, customs can say, when and to whom: and traditions, food and cooking, holidays; entertainment (TV, films, music), clothes ¡ Chinese politics, human rights, Tibet, explicit ¡ When talking about jobs and careers, do not be sex, boyfriend/girlfriend, violence, drugs; surprised by an apparent inverted social Tiananmen Square, Taiwan hierarchy (in Western terms). For example: ¡ We were very surprised, only a few days after whilst practising conversational Chinese and arriving in China in 1997, when my then English with our first driver (my Chinese, his Personal Assistant spoke very openly about English), after I struggled to explain that my Tiananmen Square: she had been there, as a father was dead and had been a doctor, he student; whilst her now husband (this was before beamed back at me in obvious pride and with they were married), a doctor, attended to the great superiority that his father was a peasant casualties in hospital 5. Subjects with which you must deal in a sensitive way are: ¡ Politics in other countries; freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom to choose a job, career or place to live; sex in connection with marriage, health or crime; religion; the supernatural; one child policy ¡ For many Chinese, still their lives are chosen for them: jobs according to degree, accommodation according to employer etc. For example: when Source: Christine Hall, Living and Working in China, How to Books, asked by a very senior government official what Plymouth (UK) 1996, pp. 87,106 was the greatest benefit of my job, I replied: Comments: Minim Consulting, based on personal experience “Being able to resign” ________________________________________________________________________________________________ “Chinese Puzzles” – Page 0 8 Minim Consulting isthe trading partnership of Andrew and Eileen Williamson
  17. 17. Chinese Puzzles - Banqueting Introduction to the banquet room, which the most senior guest should enter first. If the hosts greet their guests This article describes the etiquette for formal with applause, the correct response is to applaud banquets hosted by Chinese for foreign guests, back. Before eating, the (principal) guests may be and vice-versa, in China. Whilst the degree of invited to sit in easy-chairs, offered tea and formality may vary, according to the nature and cigarettes, and briefly indulge in small-talk, until the importance of the occasion, the number of people, restaurant staff indicate that everything is ready the individuals involved and their relationships with each other, the underlying principles are still the Seating same (although they are being gradually relaxed) Seating is hierarchical, based on rank. Thus: the Displaying some knowledge of banquet etiquette hosts should request or be sent before-hand a list demonstrates respect for Chinese way of life of the guests’ names, in order of seniority, in order to prepare seating plans; and guests wait to be Venue shown to their seats, normally indicated by bi- lingual name cards (and/or, at large banquets, on Banquets are usually held in reserved private table-plans displayed outside the banquet room). rooms in restaurants. Round tables are preferred, This also ensures that the Chinese and foreigners as they seat more diners (ten to twelve each) and mingle, rather than gravitating into two camps allow them to face each other As in the West, the right-hand side is of higher Invitations status than the left: hence, the principal guest sits on the right-hand of the principal host, facing the door; and the second-ranking guest and host For very formal banquets, written invitations may directly opposite. Any interpreters are placed on be issued in English and/or Chinese (one or two the right-hand of the principal and second-ranking weeks in advance) which recipients should answer guests (or opposite, at a rectangular table), which - in writing or by ‘phone - and may need to produce avoids them constantly having to swivel their head. to gain entry. The invitation will specify the host, If several tables are used, third and fourth rankers date, time, venue and, where appropriate, the may sit opposite each other at a second table; and occasion and principal guest fifth and sixth at a third etc. Alternatively, second rankers may head a second table, and third rankers a third etc. In both cases, the top table is the furthest away from door; and the secondary tables arranged so that their senior hosts can see and be seen by the principal host at the top table. With mixed guests (from different organisations), the most senior member of each delegation should sit at the top table. On less formal occasions, the organisers should still work out beforehand where the principal host(s) and guest(s) will sit So much for the theory: in reality, the list of Chinese guests may not be finalised until the last minute, since their acceptances or refusals could be telephoned very late. Worse still: a guest who is unable to attend may send a substitute, possibly of Author’s invitation to a banquet in honour of the different rank, which will upset the seating protocol British Prime Minister – Beijing, October 1998 x x x Arrival and Welcome Principal Host Interpreter D nd In China, punctuality is a virtue, and tardiness an Principal 2 Ranking o Guest Guest o insult. Thus: guests should arrive on time (and nd r together, if members of the same organisation); Interpreter 2 Ranking whilst the hosts assemble earlier in the banquet Host room ready to greet the guests, to keep whom x x x waiting is even ruder. On arrival, guests should be met by the hosts’ representative and accompanied Simple seating plan for a one-table banquet Page 9 / 1
  18. 18. Chinese Puzzles - Banqueting Toasting When the host yourself: avoid serving alcohol beforehand Alcohol plays an important part in banquets, and Although well-bred Chinese women do not drink should flow freely. Toasting is mandatory alcohol (except beer) in public, Western female Drinking alcohol should not start until after the guests may do so in moderation without incurring principal host stands to propose the first toast any shame, as the Chinese do expect Westerners with a speech (averaging three to five minutes) to behave strangely! and/or the words “gan bei” (equivalent to “bottoms up”; literally “empty” or “dry the glass”). A few Serving courses later, it is customary and courteous for the principal guest to reply in similar fashion. The main difference from Western practice is that Thereafter, anyone may propose a toast, to the in China, rather than diners being served individual group or individually, standing or sitting, spoken or plates of food, dishes are placed in the centre of silently, with alcohol or a soft drink. Indeed, never the table for everyone not only to share but also to drink alcohol alone: instead, catch someone’s eye, admire make a silent toast by smiling, and drink together Appreciation of the presentation is almost as To make a toast: hold the glass in both hands and important as of the taste. Thus, guests are extend it towards the toastee, without clinking. At expected ritually to praise both - both from time to one time, glasses had to be drained and turned time during, and at the end of, the banquet. upside down: today, however, sobriety has Beware, however, of ritually praising food that replaced tradition, and a token sip is now quite you do not like: your host may remember, and sufficient & acceptable. At less formal banquets, serve the same again next time! Chinese now touch the table (“lazy Susan”) with Equally, self-deprecation is considered polite the bottom of their glass, instead of clinking them behaviour in China, the host should reply by If several tables are used, it is customary and ritually apologising for serving a meagre meal – courteous for the principal host and guest to visit which the cynics might consider false modesty & propose a standing toast to each table, clinking “fishing for compliments” glasses (rim to stem) with other principal guests In the absence of waiters, it is the hosts’ The main toasting drink is “maotai”, a 100%+ spirit responsibility to monitor guests’ plates and serve made in Maotai (Guizhou Province) from wheat & them throughout the meal. Do not start the first sorghum (a type of millet), which could be course until either the principal host has served mistaken for lighter-fuel. You have been warned! the principal guest and others within chopstick reach (by selecting the best morsels and placing Drinking them on their plates) or raised his chopsticks and invited the diners to eat. Then you may serve Between toasts, sip beer, a soft drink or tea. If yourself with your own chopsticks, or the public your glass or cup is empty, however, do not fill it chopsticks or serving spoons (if provided). With yourself, which is impolite. Rather, take care to fill successive courses, it is equally polite again to your neighbours’, and you should find that they wait until the principal guests have been served will reciprocate. The fuller you fill someone’s before serving yourself glass, without it spilling over, the more respect and Help yourself to the dishes and portions nearest to friendship you demonstrate you: it is rude to reach across the table and/or help Beware of the host who tries to make you drunk or yourself to the best portions. Rather, take care to challenge you to drinking games: it may be a offer the choicest morsels to your neighbours, and matter of courtesy or honour for him to do so! To you should find that they will reciprocate. Indeed, be drunk, or exhibit signs of drunkenness, in helping fellow diners to food is both polite and public (e.g. staggering, falling, vomiting) is shows respect. If public chopsticks and serving unacceptable and a loss of face. A polite way of spoons are out of reach, reverse your chopsticks refusing alcohol is to turn the glass upside down or and use the end that has not been in your mouth. place your hand over it. In desperation, cite health Do not serve with a spoon used for personal eating reasons (e.g. allergy!); and, to save face, continue Note, however, that, contrary to Western custom, to toast eagerly with a soft drink! Chinese protocol is to serve others rather than Do not stop drinking, or change from hard to soft oneself, although this practice is changing through drinks, in the middle of a banquet, since the hosts foreign influence. You should, therefore, observe may incorrectly conclude they have offended you how the Chinese diners behave and follow suit Page 9 / 2
  19. 19. Chinese Puzzles - Banqueting Eating Menu Diners can eat as much or little as they like of each A banquet is a demonstration of the generosity and course, according to their taste, without offending prosperity of the host by giving the guests a taste the host. However, they should pace themselves, of many different dishes served successively eating slowly and steadily, and tasting a bit of The banquet will start with an even number (four to everything; and not rush or fill up too early, since it ten) of cold appetizers (e.g. meat, seafood and to stop eating in the middle of a banquet is rude, pickled vegetables), which do not count as part of and may lead the hosts incorrectly to conclude that the meal proper but are intended to whet the they have caused offence diners’ appetites and to accompany the first toast. To refuse food is at worst impolite; and at best The main courses (6-12) follow, comprising hot ineffective, susceptible to being interpreted by the meat, fish or “yu”, poultry, seafood and vegetable Chinese in their own terms as ritual modesty, not dishes; and staple food (e.g. rice or “mifan”, to be taken literally. However, to refrain from noodles, dumplings or “jiaozi”). The Chinese do eating something is acceptable (albeit ungracious). not generally eat dessert, but fruit is considered Indeed, you should try to sample every dish an appropriate finale to a good meal Thus, when faced with something you dislike or distrust, accept but do not eat it: instead, just push Banquet offered by the British Embassy and the it around on your plate a bit and pretend you have British Chamber of Commerce in China to honour sampled it. The main exception to this rule is the British Prime Minister – Beijing, October 1998 when your host serves you personally, even from his own plate, when he has probably chosen the Barbecued Meat Combination most succulent morsel. On such an occasion, to Sautéed Diced Chicken with Assorted Vegetables refuse would be an insult: sometimes, you just and Cashew Nuts have to grin and swallow! Sliced Goose with Bean Curd To remove something from your mouth: use your Diced Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce chopsticks or spit discreetly into a cloth rather than Braised Shark’s Fin and Fish Maw in Soup using your fingers (which is considered impolite) Steamed Mandarin Fish with Light Soya Sauce Young Vegetables In Superior Broth Chopsticks (“kwaizi”) Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaves Westerners who have difficulty using chopsticks Beijing Pork Dumpling may use the porcelain spoon provided at each Traditional Moon Cake with Lotus Bean Paste place setting, but only after “having a go”. Whilst Seasonal Fresh Fruit Platter foreigners who find chopsticks awkward do not offend them, the Chinese do appreciate their trying: after all, they cannot all use a knife and fork! Fish The Chinese use chopsticks any way they like, even spearing food with them (despite what the When serving a whole fish, the head should point books say). If there is a correct way, however, it towards, and may be offered to, the principal guest is to use your right hand (to avoid clashing with your neighbour), whilst keeping your left on the Rice table (to avoid any speculation as to what it is doing). Also, the nearer the top (i.e. further away Hosts may not always serve rice at a banquet; in from tip) you hold the chopsticks, the better bred which case, guests should never ask for it, as this you are considered would imply that the host has not provided enough food. Similarly, when rice is served, guests only It is bad manners to play with chopsticks, point need to pick at it, by way of indicating their them at anyone, or lay them directly on the table. satisfaction. (This is in contrast to private meals, Above all, do not leave your chopsticks in the rice- where, in deference to the importance of rice in bowl while doing something else - which is an Chinese history & culture, to leave rice is impolite: omen of death, being reminiscent of incense sticks just as Western children are encouraged to “finish in a bowl of ashes offered to the dead: instead, lay their greens”, so Chinese children are to eat their them on the rest provided, or the rim of your plate rice). Surprisingly, the correct way to eat rice is to raise the bowl to your mouth with one hand, and “shovel in” the rice with the chopsticks Page 9 / 3
  20. 20. Chinese Puzzles - Banqueting Noodles Drivers and Interpreters Do not be surprised if the Chinese diners eat the Ensure that arrangements are made to feed your noodles noisily as a sign of their enjoyment and guests’ drivers, according to local custom (from appreciation providing a simple meal in a separate room, to giving them cash to buy their own food somewhere However, eating noisily on other occasions (e.g. else) soup) is no longer as acceptable as it used to be For example: when hosting his first large-scale Soup senior banquet (including the British Ambassador and the Chair of the People’s Life Insurance Soup (a thin broth to aid digestion) may be served Company of China), only thanks to the author’s before or after the main courses, depending on Chinese personal assistant’s quick-wittedness was where in China; and dispensed by the host. The a near-disaster averted when she took immediate bowl may be held in one hand, and the soup remedial action on learning that no such sipped from the bowl or using a porcelain spoon arrangements had been made for the drivers Similarly: agree beforehand how and when the Bones interpreter(s) should eat For example: at the author’s first formal banquet, Leave bones and shells on your plate, which the the British guests were embarrassed that the waiters will remove and replace with a clean one Chinese interpreter was not expected to eat until the end of the meal Conversation Gifts Normal rules of conversational etiquette in China apply (as for business meetings and negotiations). Personal gifts may be left at the place settings Thus, diners other than the principals may have to before the banquet begins; whilst the principal or wait to be invited to speak communal gifts (i.e. between the principal guest For example: at his first formal banquet on a and host) should be presented publicly and single-table hosted by a Vice-Minister of the formally at an appropriate moment, using both Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co- hands (e.g. when making or responding to the Operation (MOFTEC), the author had to remain main toast) silent for nearly one hour Each side should let the other side know of its gift, In particular, your neighbours may not speak to avoid the embarrassment of one party coming English: however, if you do not know Chinese, you empty-handed and being unable to reciprocate should still try to communicate with them somehow In China, the thought counts more than the gift (“li (e.g. in another language). Not to do so is a social qing; ren yi zhong”); for which reason, it is not blunder customary to open gifts in the presence of the For example: when the author’s wife found herself giver, since to do so would draw attention to the next to the Director-General of the Chinese gift, and detract from the thought. Thus, personal Performing Arts Agency, they were soon gifts are not opened during the banquet, but conducting a very animated conversation in afterwards in private – which practice also avoids Spanish! the embarrassment of having to feign drooling over kitsch. Exceptionally, however, you may ask the Never speak off the record at a banquet: your Chinese to open your principal or communal gift to words may come back to haunt you. Also, some them, explaining that this is a Western custom say: wait until after the fish dish has arrived to discuss business Smoking Dress Smoking between courses is not unusual Standard banquet attire is a dark, lounge suit and Although Chinese women tend not to smoke, and tie for men; and a dress or trouser suit for ladies. especially in public, Western female guests may There is no need to wear a dinner-jacket, unless do so in moderation without incurring shame, as specifically requested (for example: as the author the Chinese expect Westerners to behave oddly! was, at the China Club in Beijing) Page 9 / 4