Australia China Friendship Society South Australia
Australia China Friendship Society website
Become a Member of the ACFSSA
Join Today!
Australia China Friendship Society South Australia

Understanding Chinese Etiquette and Culture

Mianzi – How to Make & Keep ‘Face’ in China

Almost anyone who has done business with China, or is planning to, has heard the term “face.” Western businessmen coming to China for the first time often hear about how important face is to the Chinese, and are advised to avoid offending a Chinese person’s face –  but what does “face” really mean? – Learn Chinese Business

Keep Face, Keep Relationship

Like guan xi, mianzi or face keeping is an important feature of Chinese etiquette. it is so important that it can sometime sweep business or relationship aside.

If you are insensitive to the face issue, you may unwittingly lose the support you need. The price can be heavy if the support is critical. This refers not only to relationships with Chinese in China, but also with Chinese outside the country, such as those in Singapore and Malaysia. – Chinese on the Go

When Your Chinese Employees Lose Face, You Lose Them

Losing face

As described in the above scene, being criticized or challenged publicly causes a loss of face. So too does openly losing your temper, direct confrontation or failing to show respect.

Saving face

The severe consequences of losing face make many Chinese strive to save face, for themselves and others. This can be observed by the Chinese tendency to suppress negative opinions and emotions, show respect and avoid causing shame or dishonor.

Giving face

Even more proactive is finding ways to create or give face. Acknowledging social status, showing appreciation through public praise or giving expensive gifts and recognizing prestige all elevate the recipient and give face. Forbes

Retail and Restaurant Do’s and Don’ts


  • Hold business card with 2 hands and don’t put the receiving card in your back pocket
  • Brand your product “Australian”
  • Use English on your product
  • Use a QR code
  • Use WeChat AND Facebook
  • Customer service must be fast
  • Excessive packaging is good!
  • Use Chinese festivals as an excuse for promotions
  • Use numbers 8 and 9
  • Use red and gold
  • Use Chinese with pictures on a restaurant/café menu
  • Use Union Pay and make sure you display the Union Pay sign on your storefront
  • Use “exclusive” offers
  • Have a clear store layout with plenty of signage (finding the bathroom should not be complicated)
  • Hire a bilingual staff member
  • If you are restaurant/café have a rice dish (not risotto) on the menu
  • If you are a restaurant/café have something exotic/shareable/expensive on the menu
  • If you are a restaurant/café make spoons readily available


  • Judge your Chinese customer based on their appearance/clothing
  • Use white wrapping paper/bags as white symbolises death
  • Use number 4—it is an unlucky number
  • Use green
  • Be offended by bad behaviour in restaurants (remember the major culture differences)

Source: Confucius Institute – Adelaide Uni