Chinese Manners

20 Nov
November 20, 2014

During my stay in Hong Kong last week, I got several lessons in Chinese manners, usually after I’d managed to mix things up.  I assumed that the two sets of chopsticks at a formal Chinese dinner were there so that a backup would be available if necessary, not realizing that each had a specific role (a bit like the salad and dinner forks I’m a little more familiar with).  And after handing out a few business cards, I learned that the proper etiquette is to present your card with both hands, rather than just one.

Trickiest for me is the rule that, if you cross your legs while sitting down, it’s impolite to point a shoe toward the person or persons opposite you.  Pointing your shoe is a sign of disrespect.  If you happen to watch the video of my lecture “Is Justice Possible?” at Hong Kong University, you’ll notice that I paid nearly as much attention to my feet as to the very challenging and interesting questions.  I finally concluded the best bet was simply not to cross my legs.