Chinese body language: feet and legs.


Some studies show that up to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. One’s body movements may contradict your words and others may easily spot it. Many expressions, gestures and other body movements seem to be universal across different countries and cultures. For example, a smile and an outstretched hand are usually used to show welcome and yawning at talk shows boredom. However, body language may also have some peculiarities and be different across the globe.

Here I will tell you about what movements with feet and legs may indicate in China.

According to Australian body language expert, Allan Pease, people usually start to unconsciously move their feet when lying. It is true for all ages and sexes.

However, in China this rule may not be applied in some situations. For instance, you will hardly see the Chinese doing that during business negotiations. This is because one’s feet are considered to be dirty in China and, therefore, you will always see your counterpart have their feet firmly on the floor during such meetings.

Moreover, as in other countries putting one’s feet on a chair or table is considered to be a very impolite gesture. One may not transmit anything or point at anything with their feet. For example, Chinese usually avoid moving baggage with their feet when standing in a queue at the airport. It is believed that such actions with feet are characteristics of animals.

It is worth noting that the perceptions mentioned above are widespread not only in China but in many other parts of Asia. You should never touch any part of someone else’s body with your foot when being there. If you accidentally do this, you should apologize by touching your hand to the person’s arm and then touching your own head.

Please comment and share your thoughts.


Names and titles in China

Names and titles

The names of Chinese people have their own tradition. The family name in China is put first, followed by the given name.

It may be confusing at first, but you should never call someone by their family name. Also, do not use the given name unless you are asked to do so. The best way to address someone is to use the surname plus a title or honorific titles like Xian1 Sheng1 (Sir), Nv3 Shi4 (Madam). This is because a person’s position and associated roles are mostly important in an organization. Furthermore, addressing someone by his or her professional title and last name conveys respect. Earlier titles were vital parts of the hierarchical and ethical systems, they also helped overcome the duplication of names.


Given Name

Chinese names are supposed to convey special meaning, with the given names often expressing the best of wishes on the new-born. Some imply the birthplace, birth time or natural phenomenon.

Family Name

Today there are about 3,500 family names commonly used. The most popular three are Li, Wang and Zhang. There are totally about 270 million Chinese people who have one of these top three surnames. Interestingly, it is not mandatory that children must take their father’s surname. One child may often take the father’s surname and the other, the mother’s.