Olympic training for spectators includes lessons in Chinese etiquette

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — First-time visitors to China can score points with the host country if they study the local culture and etiquette before they arrive, says a Purdue University expert who helped prepare college students who are interning at the Olympics.

“People in China are very friendly and welcoming,” says Wei Hong, a professor of Chinese who is from Hangzhou, China. “When you meet someone, smile, say ‘Ni-Hao,’ and shake hands.”

Hong recently taught Chinese etiquette and culture to 11 Purdue students and three graduates from Purdue who are interning at the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics. Hong is director of the university’s Confucius Institute, which offers Chinese language and cultural programs for students and the public.

Hong also recommends people traveling to China for the Olympics print business cards with a Chinese translation on the back.

“You never know who you will meet in China, plus it is a great conversation starter,” she says.

Hong has led four study abroad trips to China, and she says students are most surprised by the food. For example, seafood and poultry are often served with the animal’s body intact, she says. Whether dining at a restaurant or with friends, tourists may not expect the host to continue refilling a person’s plate without asking.

“It is OK to tell them you enjoyed the food but you are full,” she says. “If you don’t, the food will keep coming.”

Hong also says be prepared to negotiate prices with market vendors and at small shops. She says not to do so at the department stores.

“Chinese people admire Americans a lot, so I certainly encourage tourists to be understanding and eager to learn about China and its people,” Hong says.

The Purdue students and recent graduates are spending seven weeks in China to assist with news media coverage for events related to bicycling.

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