Globalization is upon us and it is only increasing by the day. One of the countries on the forefront of the globalization wave is China. With more and more countries doing business with China, and the Chinese language and culture becoming a deeper matter of interest, it is getting more and more important for those looking to do business in China to learn about Chinese etiquette and customs in order to have the most pleasant experience with the Chinese. By learning Chinese business etiquette and culture, you will open yourself up to a world of better understanding and more productive business. Here are a few essential tips to help you navigate the world of Chinese business culture.
Etiquette for Greetings
It is very important to smile and nod as much as you can when greeting in Chinese. You will often be offered a handshake, which you should never initiate. Allow your Chinese counterpart to extend it first.
You can say “hello” (ni hao) or “nice to meet you” (hen gaoxing renshi ni). These are the most common, though “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you” (jiuyang) and “I’m charmed to meet you” (xing hui) are also acceptable and might even impress your counterpart. Of course, being able to extend greetings in Chinese always earns you points, but make sure you only use words whose exact meanings you are familiar with.
How to Address People
It is important to be courteous when addressing your Chinese counterparts. Use their titles first and then follow with their surname. If you’re not sure what their titles are then just use the normal “Sir/Mr.” (xiansheng), “Miss” (xiaojie), or “Madam” (nushi).
Etiquette for Exchanging Business Cards
Exchanging business cards is a very important practice when getting introduced to each other. The business card is regarded by the Chinese as an extension of the person, and so should be treated with care. You should politely accept the business card without both hands and look at it carefully even as you receive it. “It’s also a great way to find out what the title and rank of your Chinese counterpart are.” – says Jake Gardener, translator at assignment help services, research paper writing service, and bestessays.com.au.
Etiquette for Small Talk
The Chinese are not that much different from the rest of the world in that they begin their conversations with small talk. They will ask whether you’ve eaten or where you have been to break the ice. These are pretty common pleasantries among the Chinese. Don’t go too much into detail as you answer them. They’re as simple as a “how are you?” in English.
You can talk about simple things, such the scenery, or travel, or the climate, or even food. These are all pretty safe topics. Be sure to mention how much you love China as far as these things are concerned. What you should avoid talking about at all costs is politics. This is especially true for such topics as human rights, or matters related to Tibet and Taiwan. Keep the politics to an absolute minimum and you should be fine. Again, this isn’t that different from what you would expect from other cultures. No one likes a foreigner criticizing local politics during a business discussion. Controversial matters don’t make for friendly conversation between strangers.
The Importance of Face
Face is an important part of Chinese culture. The Chinese do not like to lose face, and so are always looking to save it or give it in deference to those who rank higher. You should pay attention to rankings and elders, giving the appropriate level of respect, especially to government officials.
Do not make strong negative comments. The Chinese consider direct critical statements to be impolite. An outright “no” is unacceptable. A “maybe”, which is merely a euphemism for no, or an “I’ll think about it”, is much better.
The Chinese sit in a certain order at dinner. The more senior the person, the earlier they are seated. As a general rule, just stand until your Chinese counterpart shows you where to sit.
Again, the more senior the person, the earlier they eat. You should not eat before the rest, and certainly not before the elders. Also, don’t finish your food. The Chinese take this as a sign that you are still hungry and that the feeding was inadequate. They might put more food on your plate.
Whoever invites the other to a meal or activity is expected to pay for it. “Going Dutch” is frowned upon in Chinese business etiquette. Do not show your money in front of your guests as you pay. Do it discreetly.
With the rise of globalization, the younger Chinese businessmen have become more tolerant of cultural differences. They are not strict about foreigners fully observing their etiquette. However, it is still good to have a basic grasp of Chinese culture and business etiquette. This is guaranteed to impress your Chinese counterparts and will help you build stronger business relationships with them.