Publish Date: April 30, 2017      Author: Matteo Preabianca


In the previous post, we talk about some Chinese taboos, here’s a few more:

4.Never say “ 不是 西 (wǒ bú shì Dongxi)”

This sentence will certainly confuse: the words “东 (Dong)” and “西 (xi)” mean east and west, right? True, but when we match them, they have a new meaning: “thing”. For example, we can say: I bought some “东西 (Dongxi)”. But if you use 东西 (Dongxi) towards people is an insult. It is roughly translated as “I am bad”. If somebody asks you “” 你 是 东西 吗 (nǐ shì Dongxi ma)? If the answer is “yes” that means “I am a thing.” But, if you anwers is   “我 不是 东西 (wǒ bú shì Dongxi)” you mean you are bad. Very confusing.

5.Avoiding some numbers

To be fair, this issue is not only in China. For example, 13 is a positive number in many countries. Likewise, people avoid saying the number 4 because “四 (sì)” sounds like “死 (sǐ), which means “death”. Furthermore, Chinese people use the number 250 for a careless person. In this case, we do not say二百 五十 (èr bǎi wǔ shi) but 二百, without  十.

6.Don’t say hello with a kiss!

If you greet a Chinese woman with kiss, she will feel  embarrassed and, if there is a man with her, it is better to start running away. In the western world, kisses or hugs for greeting is quite normal, but not in China. A handshake is enough!

7.Do not ask: “Why are you wearing the same clothes?”

Most of Chinese people does not change clothes every day. Although many Westerners do not take a bath every day (me neither) they do change clothes more frequently. In China is different: many people used to wear the same clothes for 2/3 days. In my opinion, it is not a bad habit at all, but some foreigners might ask the reason. Please don’t ask. It is very impolite.


绿 帽子 (lǜ Maozi) green hat (adjective +noun)

东西 (dōngxi) thing (noun)

二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ) careless person (adjective +noun)

筷子 (kuàizi) chopsticks (noun)

送 钟 (sòng zhōng) to give a watch as a present

送终 (sòngzhōng) to attend a funeral


Let’s do a fun test:

  1. Which one is NOT a taboo?
  2. saying 二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ)
  3. to give a green hat as a gift
  4. leave the chopsticks horizontally
  5. asking your Chinese friend “why are you wearing the same clothes every day?”


  1. How to greet a Chinese woman?


  1. To kiss her cheek
  2. to hug her
  3. to smile her
  4. handshake



  1. C 2. D

No matter where you are, always remember that all cultures, even the most distant from yours, deserve to be respected. Without prejudice and with a lot of curiosity. It is always worthwhile.

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