Chinese Business Practices & Etiquette
In order to be successful when doing business internationally, it is vital to gain an understanding of the cultural differences you may encounter. This short guide looks at different aspects of Chinese culture and how these influence business practices and etiquette.
Background and Culture
Chinese traditions and customs have a great deal ofinfluence on the business practices and cultures in China. When doing business in China, these influences can be seen in the directive management style, aversion to conflict, maintenance of composure and the importance of face. The importance of “face” The importance of “face” is crucial to understanding Chinese culture. It is based upon honour and good reputation and is the basis for a company’s orperson’s reputation and social standing. Causing someone to lose face through embarrassment or insult, even unintentionally, can be devastating for any business relationship. Be careful at all times to show the proper amount of respect and always bear in mind a person’s status in an organisation.
• Meetings are very formal and must be scheduled in advance • The busiest time inChina is usually December and January, Chinese New Year (January or February) and National day holidays (beginning of October). Try to avoid these days when scheduling appointments • Once the meeting has been set and introductions made, send the company some information and literature about your company • Arriving late is very insulting. Be sure to arrive on time or early • Meetings will beginwith small talk. Keep the conversation positive when speaking about any experiences in China and avoid politics • Seating will be in descending order of rank with senior people sitting opposite each other • When speaking, address the most senior representative from the Chinese company • Be prepared for the Chinese to talk about all of the issues at once; not in “order” as people in the West might do• Be patient as topics or questions can be raised repeatedly • Never assume comprehension. Cover the same ground several times and constantly check for understanding • The Chinese are non-confrontational and will not say “no” directly, an answer other than yes could mean no • If you are planning to discuss legal or very technical topics, bringing an interpreter is highly recommended
Greetings• When doing business, shaking hands is the accepted greeting • A nod or slight bow is also a widely used greeting • Avoid using physical contact, other than a handshake, when greeting a new contact (i.e. kissing, patting or putting your arm around someone’s shoulders) • In China the surname comes before the first name (i.e. for Li Hui, Li is the surname, Hui is the first name) • For businesspurposes it is appropriate to address a Chinese person by their business title and surname (i.e. President Li) • If a person does not have a business title, use their family name only (i.e. Mr Li) • First names should not be used unless invited to do so
• Business cards are exchanged after the initial introduction • One side of business cards should be translated into Chinese(simplified Chinese characters) • Present the business cards using two hands (as a sign of respect), with the Chinese side facing out • Once received, examine the business card, read it and acknowledge name and title before placing it in your card case • Avoid writing on someone’s card unless told to do so
It is important to recognise, and to take into consideration, thedifferences in typical communication styles used by different cultures. Typical Chinese communication styles: • Communicate specific or detailed information with their “in-group”; good friends, families and close colleagues • Rely on shared history; shared experience; nuances; non-verbal and implicit messages (i.e. is dependent on a strong relationship) • Consider ‘how’ something is said, versus ‘what’...
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