Shanghai has many rules of etiquettes. There are personal and public customs regarding social relations, greetings, table manners, weddings and funeral ceremonies, etc.
For instance, it used to be a taboo to take a medical kit along when paying a visit to someone. If the visitor had something filthy or a wet umbrella with him, he was supposed to leave it outside the host’s house.
Today, when a guest arrives, the host should offer him candies, tea and cigarettes and the guest should stand up and accept them with both hands and should not drink up the tea offered to him or spit tea leaves on the table or the floor.
The host, on the other hand should not sweep the scold or beat his children in front of the guest. He should not leave the guest alone, and should invite him to stay for dinner and prepare at least eight dishes and call it “a simple meal”.
The eight dishes should include a chicken and a duck, the upper part of a ham and a whole fish. The guest should not start eating before the host invites him.
Both the host and guest should not drink a cup of wine in one draught. Rather, the should sip it slowly without playing drinking games.
Besides, there are some table manners to be observed: no putting the food back after picking it up with chopsticks, no siring the dishes with chopsticks, etc.
The host should not start eating the rice before the guest has finished his wine, not should he leave the table before the guest has finished his meal. When the guest takes his leave, the host should accompany him to the door.
Weddings & Funerals
When attending a wedding or funeral ceremony, relatives and friends should offer gifts to the host, such as money or other things. those who are lavish in giving gifts are called Chuke (Roughly meaning too much of a guest) in Shanghai dialect, and those who are tight-fisted are usually called Zuorenjia (Roughly meaning too thrifty).
Before 1950’s people tended to give fruit, longan, red dates and cakes as gifts. Around the 1980’s, when attending a wedding, the relatives of the bride often gave quilt covers, bed sheets, cloth, thermos bottles and basins as gifts, which have gradually been replaced by money in most cases.
The relatives and friends of the bridegroom always give him money as gifts.
Daily Etiquettes, Birthdays and Giving Birth
In rural areas, when a peasant builds a private house, should offer steamed breads and cakes to his neighbours.
When a family moves into the new house, they normally give neighbours noodles and cakes.
When a woman gives birth to a baby, her relatives and friends should give her nutritious food, hens or crucian carp, baby products and gift money.
The family of the woman in labor should distribute red eggs and walnuts to friends, relatives and neighbours. Since the 1990’s when a women gave birth to a baby, her family would distribute red eggs among colleagues and acquaintances. Sometimes hundreds of red eggs would be given out.
Later giving chocolates became popular. On children’s birthdays, relatives and friends usually gave money or children’s products to them. Some grandparents would cook noodles for them. Classmates often gave birthday cards and small gifts.
The parents would sometimes distribute noodles to neighbours. Adult seldom celebrated their birthdays.
Lovers often gave each other cards or red roses. According to old customs, people should not celebrate their birthdays until they reach the age of 30.
And they should not celebrate their 40th birthday, After they were fifty years old, they might celebrate their birthday once every ten years.
Some people proffered to celebrate their birthdays when they reached the ages of 49, 59, 69, 79 or 89. Birthday gifts included noodles, peaches, cakes, incense, wines, etc…
When one moved to a new house, his friends and colleagues would give him cakes or handicrafts as gifts.
When someone died, his friends and colleagues would offer quilt covers, tin foil papers and money to the family of the dead. In the 1990s, giving of flowers become poplar when ones colleague was promoted or moved to a new house or celebrated his birthday.
The gifts to be given on other occasions included cards or something else in the Spring Festival or on New Years Day, vegetable dumplings and rice dumplings on Tomb Sweeping Day and Dragon Boat Day.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s when Chinese people were short of materials, they attached greater importance to gifts.
Since the 1980’s people began to live a better life and giving valuable gifts has became popular among people.