Dispatches From China

Small talk, toasts, karaoke and courtesy in China

Children, sports (especially basketball, soccer and golf), favorite foods, travel, cars, basic humor and hobbies are all great topics for small talk and conversation while having dinner in China.

Politics and history should be avoided. Use the dinner table to identify shared mutual interests. It is also a great way of figuring out what kind of gift would be well-received.

Be careful about expressing a direct interest in something, as it could be inferred by your host as a desire. I once expressed an interest in golf at a dinner, and the next day found myself working my way through 18 holes in 100-degree-plus heat, instead of visiting the chemical lab which was the main purpose of my trip.

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