Are Chinese people always late or on time? It really varies from case to case. Chinese people prefer to show up fifteen minutes early if it is a formal meeting or the first time meeting someone in order to give others a good impression of their professionalism. As for casual gatherings with friends, it is completely opposite. It's common to be about 15 minutes late. As long as you won't be more than half an hour late and cause everyone to starve because of your absence, people won't be mad at you. Generally, there is a tolerance for 5 to 15 minutes for both informal gatherings with friends and more formal meetings.
It is common for someone to treat the others if he or she is late, especially more than 20 minutes. The person who is late might feel very embarrassed that they made everyone wait for them. It's polite to offer a treat, such as a cup of coffee or milk tea as a way to apologize. How big the treat is always depends on how late it is. Don't be too late or you'll have to treat your co-workers or friends to a very nice dinner! In business, some companies have a tradition of "punishing" those who are late for a meeting.
There is a very interesting phenomenon at Chinese meetings which is the boss is always the last one to show up. The Chinese business philosophy is based on the foundation of cultural Confucianism traditions. Everyone in the company should show their respect to the boss. Most Chinese people think it is acceptable for everyone to wait for the boss, even though they complain about it.
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