You don’t always have to say the words “thank you” to show your heartfelt appreciation. From giving a gift to cooking dinner, there are many ways to convey your sentiments that are appropriate in China. Here are a few of them.
Give a Gift
It’s common in China for people to give gifts for occasions like holidays, birthdays, dinner at a friend’s home, and even during official business meetings. However, what you give, how you give it to them and how much you give all play a role in the overall process. It’s customary to give money in red envelopes, often decorated with gold Chinese characters, during events like weddings and Chinese New Year.
When offering a red envelope, you should give it to the person using both hands in reverence to this solemn gesture. It’s considered very serious – giving someone a gift – even though in America it is not such a somber affair; rather, it’s something to be celebrated. When deciding how much money to give, go by this rule of thumb: the more you know the recipient, the more you give. Just be sure to avoid denominations of four, which sounds similar to “death” in Chinese. When possible, go with even numbers (besides the obvious four) over odd.
Because the value of a gift is often determined by the price, the Chinese don’t worry about removing price tags from items before giving them like we do here in America. Rather, they want the recipient to know how much they spent as a sign of how much they value the friendship.
Saying Thank You
Of course, you can actually say thank you, which in Mandarin Chinese is “xièxiè.” However, you should know the Chinese and Westerners are a bit different when it comes to thank you gifts. Here, most times, a sincere thank you or a nice note is a sufficient gesture of appreciation and ends the exchange. However, in China, a more tangible form of thanks is expected, in the form of a gift or money.
Food is always a comforting way to say thanks for a nice gesture. There are many popular meals you can make, such as sweet and sour chicken, gong bao chicken, ma po tofu, wontons, chow mein, dumplings, spring rolls, and Peking duck. If YOU are the recipient of the thanks and are invited out to dinner, the host will pay. Never offer to split the cost of the dinner, as this is perceived as an insult. The reverse is true too.
Wait until the host tells you to sit. Be prepared to share food. Sometimes, up to a dozen meals are presented, with each one offered to each guest. Meals typically take up to two hours, so don’t think you’ll be rushing through like you do here in America.
Learn more ways to say thank you in Chinese. Take a Mandarin Chinese course from BRIC Language Systems and get cultured!