Building relationships in different cultures is always a bit of a challenge. In China I learned that if I did not pay attention to certain etiquette I could get in trouble and unable to build relationships. Going out to eat dinner or lunch is one of the most common ways to build relationships in most cultures. I think this especially applies in Chinese culture.
I know that going out for lunch may not sound challenging at all since we do it very often in the U.S. However, this social activity in China runs with different etiquette rules. As I mentioned in last post, hierarchy is imperative in Chinese culture. For this reason, the oldest person in the table is the most important person in the table who also gets serve first. The host will always make sure his or her guests are enjoying their time; they will make sure they have everything they need. In most occasions the guest would not even have to ask. I noticed that Chinese are very proactive in these events.
For instance, if they see that you ran out of water they would fill up your cup without even telling you, unless you ask them not to. Then, they would keep insisting on serving you, until you agree to or decline again. This part is a bit tricky because they will keep on insisting at least once or twice. At first I found this a little bit strange, but it is just a way of them showing you how polite they are and how much they care for you. I also learned that is important to reciprocate gestures and be proactive in these occasions, this way they would realize that you are also putting an effort into becoming their friend. For instance, if you notice that your friend likes one dish better than others, you would place that dish near them, or even serve them more food from that dish. I think that is clever because the time that my friend did that I was just thinking of also getting more food. It was like they read my mind, which I appreciate. Overall, I think most social events in China involve food. Learning how to behave in these events is key when making friends.