17 tips for proper etiquette if you decide to do business in China
Think about it if you suddenly decide to spend your vacation in China. What do you decide to do first? You will read about certain places that deserve your attention, learn some of the most useful phrases so you don't get lost in the city. Of course, you will also check the weather before you leave, so that you know what to wear.
But if you're on a business trip, that's not what we're talking about.
Doing business in this country will require you to learn its cultural peculiarities. After all, we can't deny that Chinese business etiquette and customs can be very different from Western ones, so if you have a business trip to China in mind, you need to familiarize yourself with them. Why? Because understanding will be vital in order for you to make contact with your Chinese business partners as quickly as possible, and not to offend them.
Here are 17 basic techniques used in the Chinese business environment that you need to become familiar with.
1. The importance of the face
The face is very important if you are going to do business in China. The phrase "keep a face" in this case is more useful than ever. In fact, in all your dealings with the Chinese, you can either lose face or gain face (think of it as your reputation). For example, if you say compliments correctly and thank your colleagues, you will gain face in their eyes, but if you fail, the effect will be just the opposite. Note that in order to build a proper reputation, you will need to spend some amount of time. Nothing will be instantaneous.
2. Be sure to prepare for the meeting
The Chinese love the small details, so they will spend a great deal of time going over your company, your prospects and your employees in detail. In doing so, they will expect you to do the same. Be sure to make sure you don't choose to hold the meeting during a Chinese holiday, which is not normally celebrated in Western culture. Find out who will be making the final decision on the deal. Also send your Chinese partners all your conditions and requirements for a comfortable meeting. This includes the room, technology and equipment. Think about these ahead of time.
3. Prepare good printed materials
If you want to bring some meeting materials, make sure they are printed on quality paper (preferably black and white). Colors can have different meanings in different provinces of China, so it is best to avoid them. Your business card should also preferably be made in several variations. In addition to the original, it is advisable that you always have several copies with you, so that you can give them to your Chinese colleagues in case of emergency.
4. Decide how appropriate your gift will be
According to Chinese business etiquette, it is not easy to give a gift. Officials may quietly consider your gift an attempt at bribery, which would be considered disrespectful and sometimes even illegal. However, thanks to the interaction between Western and Eastern organizations, gift-giving is becoming more lenient, so perhaps your Chinese partner will be only too happy to commission a gift. Nevertheless, before giving a gift, consider how appropriate it would be in your case. It is important to rule out even the theoretical possibility that the gift might be offensive to your Chinese partner (it is advisable to observe Chinese gift-giving traditions).
5. Think about language differences
Find out in advance whether your Chinese partners know English. If they have a problem with it, figure out how you will translate. Be sure to provide documents and business cards in Chinese. It is important that the translation be done professionally, because Chinese is quite multifaceted, and an incorrect translation can be offensive and disrespectful to your partners' language. Even if the partners with whom you are directly communicating know English, it is important that their supervisors understand what you are talking about, since they will have to make the final decision.
6. Dress respectfully
Know what the dress code should be for your meeting. In China, most officials and top managers try to dress very formally, while lower and middle-level employees allow themselves to wear more casual clothing. If you still can't decide what to wear, go for the classics and you'll never go wrong. Dark, soft colors are a great choice for a business meeting, while brighter colors are likely to be considered a poor choice.
7. Don't be late
Punctuality is important in any situation, especially in business among the Chinese. Tardiness will be seen as a sign of disrespect among your colleagues. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for a meeting and not be late. If you encounter any force majeure while on the road, thank yourself for giving yourself the extra time to arrive on time.
8. Enter the room in the correct order
The Chinese honor authority, and this has been established in their culture for centuries, so they usually enter a room in a certain order strictly according to the hierarchy. When you enter a room, try to adhere to the same principle. The person who has the upper hand in your team should go in first, followed by the next in rank.
9. Formal Introductions
In Chinese business culture, it is customary to bow in greeting or nod, but more familiar handshakes are becoming more common. Allow your Chinese colleague to be the first to extend his hand to you. In addition, if you want to address your Chinese colleague, call them by their correct name (vice president, chairman, etc.), and their title should be followed by their last name. If a Chinese person uses the full first name, they usually put the last name before the patronymic or first name. Chinese businessmen are used to calling their company name before their title, and then the first name.
10. Don't be afraid of small talk
The Chinese like to do business with people they know and who have gained their trust. So even the art of making small talk will be of utmost importance in your business dealings. It is decent for the Chinese to ask your colleague if he has had time to eat and where he has been recently. A great topic of conversation would be to discuss something from Chinese culture. Try to learn a little bit about Chinese history, or their art, then you can easily keep your partner talking. Normal topics like the weather or family matters can help you as well.
11. Chinese speech
The word "no" has a very negative connotation, and you should try to use it as little as possible in discussion. Instead, it's much better if you say, "I need a little more time to decide. The Chinese have a certain peculiarity. They may say that there is "no problem," or that everything is "okay," but in fact the situation will be quite the opposite. Also, try to avoid dangerous topics like politics. This is an area where your beliefs may come into serious conflict with your partners, who will simply feel that their way of life and spheres of influence should not concern you.
12: Avoid unnecessary body contact, sounds
The Chinese hardly ever use gestures when they talk, so instead of your index finger, it's better to use an open palm. Don't put your hand in your mouth - it's an indecent gesture. The Chinese also respect the privacy of their fellow passengers and avoid unnecessary bodily contact. Even if you think you have a buddy in front of you, you shouldn't slap him on the back. Try not to snap your fingers or whistle.
13. Be calm and cool
Chinese business etiquette calls for calmness in negotiating, even if the situation excites you and makes you tense. It is also important that your body is in the right position throughout the conversation. Aside from indecent hand gestures, try to slouch less, and even more so, don't put your feet on the table.
14. Observe a certain structure during your meeting
The host should be seated first, and everyone else after him. The leader speaks first, followed by the deputy or senior member of the team. Lower-level colleagues provide additional information and opinions when they are directly approached.
15. Exchange of business cards
In Chinese business as well as in Western business it is common to exchange business cards. The Chinese, however, like to use both their hands to give a business card, and try to give it first to the one who has the highest position in the team of partners. Try to do exactly the same. Look at the information on your partner's business card, and then keep the business card in your briefcase (not in your wallet or purse). Again, make bilingual business cards that clearly spell out your title and what you do.
16. Let the Chinese go first
It's considered a show of respect if you wait until the host of the meeting is done and stands up before you do. The Chinese will leave in the same order in which they entered the room (strictly by hierarchy). Make sure you exit in exactly the same manner so that there are no future problems.
17. Waiting for a response
Building personal relationships while you're doing business is very important to your Chinese partners. They will not immediately make a serious deal after one meeting. It is quite normal for them to drag out the negotiations, longer than agreed upon, so don't try to rush them, and don't remind them of these deadlines.
Doing business in the Eastern market, will give your company an opportunity to grow even stronger and you can get more potential opportunities to grow your career, but you have to do it right if you hope for a successful deal. If you follow the etiquette tips listed, you will have a good chance of making a successful deal with one of the most powerful countries in Asia and the world.
Was this article helpful?3 Posted by: 👨 Thomas M. Stanley