Four Gestures in China to Avoid

When in China, there are certain gestures in everyday life that can be misinterpreted.

You want to ensure that you are extra careful when communicating with your hands and your body so you don’t send the wrong message.  There are specific gestures that should be avoided while abroad to show respect to Chinese people and to best connect with them during your time in China.

These are four gestures in China to avoid:

If you use hand movements to express yourself, it can be viewed as being very dramatic and unusual.

If you use hand movements to express yourself, it can be viewed as being very dramatic and unusual.

1. Excessive Hand Movements

People in China tend to not use their hands a lot when speaking.  If you are a person who often uses your hands when speaking, you want to be extra careful when having a conversation.  When I first moved to China, I simply had to tone this down by keeping my hands closer to my body to not annoy or discomfort anyone.  

In China, one of the go-to gestures when taking photos is making a peace sign with your fingers.

In China, one of the go-to gestures when taking photos is making a peace sign with your fingers.

2. Gestures With Certain Fingers

When you are taking photos with others, you generally do not want to put your arms around other people or touch others in any other way.  The solution to this is making cute gestures such as the peace sign, with one hand or even both.

I found myself constantly making the peace sign (facing outward) in photos, and later realized that I rarely done this gesture outside of China.  When taking photos with others, you want to be respectful and do not want to make any obscene hand gestures. Two gestures in particular to especially avoid is sticking up only your pinky finger and also sticking your pointer and middle fingers together in photos.

After you become friends, you can hug!

After you become friends, you can hug!

3. No Touchy Exchanges (At First)

You will discover that in China, people are not very touchy when it comes to interactions with others. Especially with strangers or meeting new people, you should not handshake, hug, kiss, or touch them in any way.  Instead slightly nodding your head is a perfect introduction.

The exceptions to this norm are within families and depending on the level of closeness with someone.  When I made some of my closest friends in China, we hugged each other by the end of my time in China before I left and it was fully acceptable.  

In public, it is best to not hum music or whistle any tunes because they are both seen as very vulgar gestures.

In public, it is best to not hum music or whistle any tunes because they are both seen as very vulgar gestures.

4. Don’t Ever Wink or Whistle

In China, the gestures of winking and whistling have very negative connotations.  They are aggressive in nature and there is a sexual meaning behind them so it’s best to avoid them.

When you are in China, you’ll want to make sure that you start your friendships and relationships on the right foot.  As you make China your home during your stay, you’ll want to be a great guest to see the best side of this beautiful country.

Curious to learn more about how to interact with other in China?  Check out Five Important Tips When Meeting People in China!