The quarrel among teenagers in Tsim Sha Tsui on New Year Eve 2001 arouses concern about social etiquette of Chinese in Hong Kong. Do H.K. Chinese still stick to the traditional etiquette or do they just abandon them for a long time? Do Chinese have a clear picture of Chinese traditional etiquette? In this issue, a number of items of social etiquette are listed below. So, starting from now, we should know our social etiquette.

(A) Etiquette for everyday practices

(i) Common practices

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1/. Shaking hands is a common practice when one meet each other. Shaking hands is a expression of good will in trust and collaboration. This can strengthen mutual relationship. Another point is that when one gets an award in a ceremony, the award receiver often shakes hands with the prize presenter. This shows receivers’ respect toward the prize presenter and likewise, this shows the prize presenters’ cordial congratulations to the prize receiver. Similar meanings also apply to fabulous banquets and wonderful feasts.

2/. Bowing and nodding is a common practice to show one’s respect toward the other. Traditionally, mutual respect is only manifested in bowing. To show sincere respect, one should give a 90 degree bow to the other. As time flies, owing to the robust of Hongkongers’ life, the 90 degree bow is simplified to a 40 degree something or even simply a nod. Yet, the deep meaning of such practice is still kept. One bows or nods especially when saying ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’. These practices further enhance and consolidate mutual relationships.

3/. Salutation of a family tree – Unlike Westerners, Chinese see family relationships as utmost importance. Specific titles are given for each family member ranged from the highest status. Though some people think that the names adopted by Chinese practice are clumsy, this reveals a clear distinction between the roles or ranks of each family member. Once can never challenge those who are of higher status and this also implicitly shows mutual relationships, say, children shows filial piety to their parents, and at the same time, parents raise their children. This is certainly different from occidental practice, just simply calling any elder relatives or acquaintances as ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’.

(ii) Mutual relationships – Confucianism is the main ideology for Chinese. Confucianism empathizes on certain relationships that extend to social etiquette:

1/. Employer-employee: common practices mentioned above in (i) are often adopted to enhance employer-employee relation so as to boost the company’s efficiency.

2/. Parent-children: Children ought to show filial piety to parents implicitly and explicitly. Explicit etiquette, like salutation can often link to deeper implicit etiquette, say, when one grows up, he or she has the responsibility to take care of their parents and ensure they have a comfortable living environment, and not abandoning them in elderly hostels. Indeed, most Chinese often go to Chinese restaurants (yum cha) to have tea with their family. This also enhances the harmony within the family as a whole.

3/. Siblings: Elder brothers should let younger brother play or have candies first. Mutual vicious competition or conflicts should be avoided. Elder brothers behave themselves and show concern about and take care of younger brothers while younger brother should respect elder brothers and treat elder brothers as facilitators who guide them in their journey.

4/. Couples: Unlike Westerners, Chinese couples do not focus on love or sex. Independent and individual personalities are respected. They are placed at a higher position than strong passion. Relationships between couples are not sacrilegious. No-one can intrude others’ personal life.

5/. Friends: Like Westerners, Chinese friendship focuses on mutual trust and credibility. Friends should be frank and honest and act as a medium for consolation. However, unlike Westerners, helping friends to pay the bill is a common practice in Hong Kong (it is rare and unusual in Western countries). For Chinese, such practices focus on establishing further relationships and eliminate any ‘invisible’ confrontation. This practice is not something flattering at all.

All in all, being a Hongkonger, being Chinese, we must know our Chinese culture and social etiquette clearly so that we would be proud of ourselves, proud of being Chinese. Due to economic robust, Western cultures are fluxing in Hong Kong. But, we need to know well our deep-rooted Confucianism and etiquette, and not to stage protests on such excellent etiquette.


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