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Photo: Sticher

Every culture has its own taboos, and it is important to remain aware of them when traveling or

when visiting a foreign country, so as to avoid making an embarrassing social faux pas. There are many taboos surrounding special occasions like birthdays and weddings in Chinese culture.

Here are 9 taboos in Chinese culture, courtesy of

1. Wear a green hat

The Chinese character for "green hat" is l màozi.A green hat is not the same as any other hat in China, despite what some tourists may believe. A "green hat" in China is a sign that a man's wife is cheating on him. A green hat is the color most offensive to a Chinese man, according to a proverb.

Why is there a special connotation in China attached to the phrase "l màozi?" A cloth merchant's wife allegedly had an affair with her husband in ancient China. She sewed a green hat for him to wear on business trips, and the cloth merchant would spot him and know it was time to meet his lover. According to iChinese Learning, "(l màozi)" has since come to represent a wife who has cheated on her husband. It's no surprise a green hat is so hard to come by in Chinese shops.

2. Put Dōngxi things in your mouth

You might be confused; don't "dng" and "(x)" mean "east" and "west," respectively? That's correct, but the combination of those two words forms a new word: "thing." I picked up some " (dngxi)" at the grocery store this morning, for instance. (dngxi)" is an extremely derogatory term to use when referring to a living being. I'm bad" is roughly translated as "w bsh dngxi" in English. Your pals may tease you and ask, "(n sh dngxi ma)?" If you answer "yes," you are essentially saying, "I exist." But if you say "I am bad" (w bsh dngxi), you are admitting that you are bad.

3. Odd numbers and number "4"

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Photo: Yoyo Chinese

The Chinese believe that two is better than one. So, parties like weddings and birthdays never have an odd number of guests. According to an article by ThoughtCo, people try to avoid doing things in pairs to reduce the likelihood of bad luck.

The Chinese character for four (s) sounds similar to the character for "death" (s). Because of this stigma, the number four is rarely used anywhere, including but not limited to phone numbers, license plates, and addresses. Addresses with a four in them tend to have lower rents, and apartments on the fourth floor are popular with expats.

4. Kiss to Greet!

If you kiss a Chinese woman as a greeting, not only will she be mortified, but so will any Chinese men who may be present. Western cultures commonly use kisses and hugs as a form of greeting, but this is not the case in China. A simple, friendly handshake will do. A less than calm exchange may result from trying to change things.

5. Share a Pear

In Chinese culture, there is a strong stigma attached to giving a pear to a close friend or family member. The Chinese characters for "sharing a pear" are fn l. It's a homonym of the verb "to separate" (fn l). Obviously, being separated from loved ones is a terrible prospect. Therefore, you should never share a pear with anyone.

6. Leave chopsticks standing straight up

A common faux pas at Chinese tables is to leave the chopsticks upright in the rice. In Chinese culture, this is seen as extremely rude at a meal. It is considered extremely unlucky in China because the shape of the chopsticks in the rice resembles a tombstone. When you are done using them, place them on the table.

7. Give clock as a gift

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You should never give 钟 clock as a gift. Photo: Culture Guru

The giving and receiving of presents is highly valued in Chinese culture. The relationships benefit from the gift-giving. However, the following are not acceptable presents for a Chinese friend: Don't ever give a clock as a present. The word "the end" (zhn) sounds very similar to the word "the end" (zhn). And the term "to give a clock" () can also mean "to farewell a person who is dying" (). Like how you shouldn't give the pronounced "sàn" (which means "to go separate ways"), the "sn" (which means "to give") is pronounced similarly.

8. Cry on New Year’s Day

In China, no other holiday compares in significance to Chinese New Year. Many customs are associated with the Chinese New Year, including the exchanging of New Year's greetings and the lighting of fireworks. The Chinese will strive for a "perfect" festival because it marks a new beginning and they will not tolerate any sadness or tears during this time. People say that if you cry, you'll be sad for the rest of the year.

9. Whistle at Night

Whistling late at night is strictly forbidden. The Chinese believe that at night, ghosts and spirits will emerge and go about their daily lives. Whistling at night, say the elderly, will attract the attention of wandering spirits who will follow the whistle and take the whistler away. Think that's a scary idea?

Chinese New Year

Be wary of breaking any of the many New Year's Eve taboos the Chinese observe. You shouldn't say anything unlucky on the first day of the Chinese New Year. Words like "break," "spoil," "die," "gone," and "poor" should be avoided.

Nothing should be harmed or broken on Chinese New Year. Diners should exercise caution when eating fish so as not to shatter their plates or choke on the bones. It is also bad luck to cut anything during Chinese New Year because it represents a premature end to one's life. Avoid getting a haircut and don't snip your noodles. During Chinese New Year, it is customary to put away sharp objects like knives and scissors.

On New Year's Eve, it is traditional to welcome the New Year by throwing open all of the house's windows and doors. Nothing should be borrowed on the Chinese New Year, and all debts must be paid in full.

Women who are menstruating, people who are in mourning, and infants are not allowed near paper dragons while the cloth is being pasted to the dragon's body in preparation for Chinese New Year.

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