Everybody knows when you visit a foreign country you should adapt to the new environment. Of course, there will be some “weird” customs you are not familiar with. Let me help you to avoid naïve behavior. Among those, there is the large taboo topic. Some of them are pretty well known:  for example, eating with hand, only the right hand, is common in India, Middle East and some African country. The left hand is for other, let’s say, purposes.  In Thailand, the head is sacred, so never touch somebody else’s head. And again, in Korea, never give a pat on the back to someone who is not part of your family member or a good friend, he/she will feel very uncomfortable. What about China? Let’s find out together.

1.Wearing a green hat means  bad news are coming

In Chinese language, “Green hat”  is绿 帽子 (lǜ Maozi).” In China, a “green hat” means  marital infidelity. There is even a saying about it: the most horrible color for a Chinese man hat is green.

Why   “绿 帽子 (lǜ Maozi)” has this meaning in China?

It is in a story from ancient China. The wife of a merchant had an affair with a clothing merchant. The dealer gave a green hat to wear to her husband when he would go out for work. In this way, the merchant of clothes would  have “green light” to the house of his mistress once saw her husband wearing the green hat. From that moment, “绿 帽子 (lǜ Maozi)” has become a cheating symbol. So it is virtually impossible to find a green hat in the Chinese market!

2.Vertical chopsticks

Everybody knows that chopsticks or “筷子 (kuàizi)” are like knives and spoons for westerners.  Some taboos regarding how to use chopsticks have developed during their long history. For example, holding your chopsticks upright in your bowl is a bad manner. Why? Because they seem burning incenses, which are  strongly associated to   tombs or graves of ancestors.

3.Do not bring a watch as a a gift

When they invite you to some social events, remember please to bring a gift to the host. There are several options: food, clothes, books, etc. But there are some exceptions as well. For example, never give a watch“钟 (zhōng)” as a gift.

In Chinese “钟 (zhōng)” and death “终 (zhōng)”  have the same pronunciation.   Let’s have a look at these 2 sentences:

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

“送终 (sòngzhōng)”  to attend a funeral.


Naturally, It is easy to see how these two homophonic sentences are similar in people’s minds and in their culture, so  “送 钟 (sòng zhōng)” is a  taboo. At first, people   gave watches as a present but elders, then they extended the practice to each person. Can you imagine the awkward moment if you  send a watch as a gift? It would mean a curse.


What about the other 4? Check the next post out!


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