The art of giving
Many Chinese people will politely decline a gift when you first make an offer. Don’t be put off by this though – you have to persist with gentle persuasion before your kind gesture is graciously accepted.
On the subject of gifts, bear in mind that a clock symbolizes death. It should not be sent as a birthday gift especially for old people.
Also, avoid presenting gifts wrapped in plain white and black paper because this represents a funeral The color red is always warmly received, especially for weddings and some traditional festivals, because it is a symbol of good luck.
You also have to pay attention to numbers when you present gifts in China…
- The numbers 4 and 7 symbolize death or injury
- The number 8 represents prosperity
- When a Chinese man buys flowers for his beloved, he always sends 9 or (draw a deep breath here guys) 99, because the number 9 stands for eternity or “forever”.
- And we usually present a pair of wedding gifts when the occasion demands, because the number 2 means “togetherness”.
Here in Germany, my friend told me it’s polite to bring some flowers, wine, or chocolates when you visit a friend. I was told however that carnations, lilies, and chrysanthemums are unsuitable. When I heard this I was surprised, because in China the lily symbolizes lasting love and the carnation is the most popular flower for mothers, since it represents respect for women.
Open all hours
I still remember my first Sunday in Germany when I visited the main street in Heidelberg. I thought it would be as crowded as the shopping streets on Sunday in China. But to my surprise, it was entirely empty and all shops were closed.
In China, business and government hours are 08:00-17:00 from Monday through Saturday. There is, however, a five-day working week in larger cities.
Standard store opening hours in China are 09:00- 21:00 daily. Most stores in the south part of China, however, remain open until 22:00. In summer, most Chinese workers take a siesta break from 12:00 until 14:00.
Miscellaneous daily differences
Chinese food is so different from western food. You know, I have to cook some Chinese traditional food everyday; otherwise my stomach feels empty.
We always cook vegetables, but salad appears more popular in the west. And we cut meat before it is cooked, as opposed to carving the meat on the plate at the dinner table, which appears to be the norm over here.
In China, we drink warm or hot water in the morning during winter (it really helps digestion), a practice that is not very common in Germany. And by the way, I couldn’t get used to water with bubbles when I first came to Germany.
Chinese party etiquette is also very different. You might not get to talk to everyone during a party in western societies. People tend to cluster in very small groups. But at a Chinese party, all the people sit together, play games, and eat snacks. We get to know everyone at the party.
I hope you enjoyed my musings. I am really happy with my decision to spend a year in Germany. I have had wonderful experiences and really enjoy working at SAP. I should give my many thanks to all the colleagues and friends here who helped me a lot, particularly Steffen Reisacher, my original mentor at the IBU – he moved to Atlanta a few months back, to take the role as SAP Global Account Director at ExxonMobil. In addition, I think I have broadened my own cultural horizons and awareness, which will enable me to help friends back home if they need tips on doing business in Europe.
Tschüss! or zaijian!
BTW some young kids write 88 when they say goodbye because the pronunciation is similar between 88 and byebye. 🙂
Just a quick note on something that is very close to my heart…
As most of you know that many people in Southwest China are now suffering a lot after the catastrophic earthquake. I would really appreciate it if you could help them. You can help by donating to either one of the following organizations…