Chinese Business Etiquette
If you’re traveling to China for corporate reasons, you may want to brush up on Chinese business etiquette before you go. Having proper business etiquette in China, along with adapting some Chinese table manners will give you a better chance of success in the boardroom. Remember that China represents an ancient culture with many long-held traditions and customs that they treasure. Practical etiquette’s rule of respectfulness certainly applies, but knowing some specifics also helps greatly.
Dress for Success
Business meetings generally have a conservative air. Dress pants and suit coats in gray, brown, and black dominate. Women wear low-heeled shoes and long-sleeve tops, likewise in neutral tones. Jeans are never acceptable in a business meeting, nor is any revealing item of clothing on a woman.
Chinese Business Etiquette 101
As you discuss business watch your body language. Avoid using your hands to illustrate your words. This is regarded as a distraction to the presentation. Also avoid pointing to individuals, and patting people on the shoulder or touching them, particularly if you’re a man meeting with a woman. All of these actions are social faux pas not readily forgiven. If you are meeting with a group, offering a banquet of food is an acceptable gift that isn’t regarded as a bribe. However, ask first as hosts sometimes prefer to do this to show hospitality.
BE ON TIME
. This is not an option. If anything happens that could delay you immediately inform the meeting host of the situation and ask if they would like alternative arrangements. Should food be part of your meeting try to sample each dish you receive, but leave a little on your plate so that your host knows you’ve been fully satisfied. Put chopsticks down across the plate when finished.
Meet and Greet
When you first meet business associates follow their lead. You can offer your hand for shaking only if the associates do so first. Otherwise, a nod or bow is common. Greet your associates using formal titles unless given leave to use a different name. Because of the complexity of Chinese language, business people sometimes offer a nickname to ease communications.
Definitely provide business cards and meeting documentation, and be prepared for a slow pace. Chinese do not rush business decisions. They look to create business relationships that will last a long time. The person of the highest company rank should present the materials for your company as they respect status.
Know Before You Go
Don’t assume you know anything about Chinese business etiquette. This is the worst mistake, and the most common, that people make. The first impression you give potential business partners can make or break your deal. So take some time and brush up before you leave. If possible, speak to someone who has traveled to China previously about Chinese etiquette and protocols. First hand experience proves invaluable to your knowledge base.
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