Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette Guide

When attending business meeting in China, there are cultural customs that needs to be taken into account. Language isn’t an issue anymore, as nowadays most sales staff as well as business owners speak decent English. Yet, there’s still some cultural differences that needs to be bridged. Follow this guide to prepare yourself perfectly for a Chinese business meeting!

Arrive early

This is a do that is quite normal everywhere but do try to arrive more early before a meeting. Chinese are very punctual in a business setting. So by coming earlier you make a good image for yourself.

Business Cards Exchange

When meeting your host, you’ll see the ritual of exchanging business cards will follow. It’s important to use both your hands when giving and receiving business cards!

A few more tips:

  • Do not write on the received business card, that’s considered rude.
  • Have your business card translated in the local language. While your host likely can read English, having a translated side of your business card, shows that you’re well prepared and professional.

Do not write in red

Writing in red is a big no no in Chinese meetings. Read this article for more information:

Communicate Your Dinner Preferences

If you go for a dinner and you don’t like some of Chinese food please let your host knows ahead of time. You may feel this is rude, but if you don’t and you don’t eat it will be considered an insult and lose “Face” of your host. This is a big thing in China and definitely make you lose that business opportunity. My tip: be brave and try. That will make you look very good.

Sometimes a good host will ask you proactively what you like. In such case, don’t shy away, and simply tell him/her your preferences.

At last, using chopsticks will impress your host, but if you really can’t, it’s perfectly ok to ask for forks, spoons and knives.

Leverage on Chinese stereotypes

Many Chinese have great trust in Western products and services, and rate their quality often higher than their Chinese counterparts. From a B2B perspective, Western suppliers of products and services should demonstrate their focus on safety, reliability, user friendliness and comfort.

Chinese business partners are then more likely to view collaboration as a way to create added value.

Do not open a gift directly when receiving

When you receive a gift from your host never open it in front of them! This could embarrass your host and also is not common. Only when your host keep insist to open it you can do it. In other cultures this is quite normal.

Get used to lengthy meetings

When you are at a meeting with a group of Chinese people, you may experience it to be very lengthy. That’s normal in China. The Chinese love to discuss everything and even take small breaks in between. During the meeting there may even be frequent periods of silence. The reason for such long meetings is that meetings are often attended by more people relative to the West. In Western countries, people want to limit the amount of attendants and meet effectively and fast.

In China, the meetings could get extremely lengthy, with the speaker giving those long pauses during the speech. You may feel uncomfortable as a Westerner, but it would be a bad idea to interrupt them. Try to be patient and understandable during such meetings.

Tea Etiquette

Sometimes meetings are held around a traditional Chinese tea table. Impress your host by learning about these tea ceremony etiquette.

Exchange & Examine a Business Card

In Asia, exchanging business cards is a true ritual. There’s a few important customs that you need to keep in mind for successful meeting.

  1. Always make sure to receive the business card with both hands. In some countries, it’s rude to accept a card with a single hand or even worse with your right hand. Right hands are perceived to be used only during toilet visits. Thus, use both your hands to make sure you don’t upset someone and make a good first impression that you’ve done your homework.
  2. Offer your own business card in exchange. If your has one side translated on the local language, then make sure that side faces up.
  3. After you receive a business card of your Chinese host try to examine it closely to get a good image.  Make sure to remember the name and position/role of the person.
  4. After you looked at it well, place it on the table in front of you and keep it there until after the meeting. Don’t put it away directly.

Tip: Have your business card translated in the local language. This show that you really care and that you’re professionally prepared.

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Korean Business & Company Culture: Greetings, Cheabols & Dinners

Are planning to go on a business trip to Korea? Or have you been hired to work for a South Korean company? Then this article offers a valuable introduction to Korean company culture.

In South Korea, work is no joke. Work is a very serious part of life and sometimes a near 24-7 experience. This emphasis on work, and especially intense fealty to a boss or company often leads to toxic work environments, overwork for less productive output, and unhealthy work-life balances. Though these realities are concerning and highly prescient, this article will focus more on an objective overview of unique Korean work culture and company etiquette.

Chaebol: Now Rise for The Company’s Anthem

To begin, Korea is home to many large, family owned, global companies, or Chaebol (제벌) like Hyundai, Samsung and LG. At many of the chaebol there are morning opening stretches and a recitation of the company anthem. That’s right! The companies have their own songs to instill pride and loyalty in the hearts of their workers. These anthems, as well as physical warm up stretches to help keep employees limber and fit (so they can keep working harder) are usually performed in the morning as well as the afternoon and sometimes in the evening when many (not all) the employees go home for the night.

This may sound strange to outside observers but when Korea was just rebuilding from the Korean War, these large companies were seen as very much a refuge of sorts. Many companies like POSCO, a steel company, helped drive Korea’s economic boom that helped lift the country from one of the lowest GDP’s in the world after the Korean War, and one of the highest recipients of foreign aid, to now being among other OECD countries of the world, and a leader in providing aid to other, developing nations. Employees would work and receive benefits from the company even up until they died, with some providing benefits to their families and widows after their deaths, too.

korean women discussing korean business culture
If you’re wondering who wrote this article. Hi, this is me!

Hierarchy & Military Service

The devotion workers may exhibit to their respective company does not exclusively extend to the company name alone, but further extends to their bosses, managers and superiors. A mix of Confucian values and the experience of strict hierarchies and chains of command from the mandatory military service Korean men participate in during their 20’s, leads to a corporate culture very much centered on company roles and deferring to elder or higher ranked workers. Questioning or challenging older or higher ranked workers is seen as very taboo, with corporate meetings sometimes functioning more as a boss, manager or team leader giving directives or even lecturing their colleagues, rather than asking for input or collaborative ideas from subordinates or younger employees. But this is not always the case and work culture is still developing and changing.

Company Dinners: Hwaesik

Another more colorful aspect of Korean company culture are the group dinner outings, known as hwaesik (회식). The Hwaesik originally was a company dining engagement, where employees would eat and drink together, often times followed by other activities (also usually involving drinking) at other venues.

But in recent years hwaesik has developed and changed, and so not all hwaesik necessarily involve drinking. Hwaesik were also originally mandatory, but today they are not. The hwaesik is intended as a way for employees and management to build relationships and bond outside of work. Usually the elder or higher ranking employees set the pace and tone for eating and drinking, they also often lead the conversation and topics of discussion.

At Korean companies, group harmony and cohesion is very important. Outward or aggressive disagreement, challenging or questioning elders or superiors, criticizing colleagues, and other actions that may threaten workplace harmony are usually frowned upon.

Greetings

Courtesy is extended to greetings as well, bowing and possible handshakes among men is common when meeting another person in a professional capacity. Business cards are also often exchanged. When exchanging business cards, one person will hand their card over, holding it with both hands, and the recipient will accept it with both hands too. Handing or accepting things with one hand is seen as disrespectful, especially to elders or higher ranked employees. A business card will of course include the person’s name, their company and their title or company position. This determines which person when meeting for the first time is higher ranked, an important distinction within the context of Korean social customs.

So for those who are lucky enough to have just been hired by a Korean company. Whether it is a small startup or a large chaebol, I hope some of the information and tips mentioned in this article gives you a hand at your new place of work. And for those just curious of Korean work customs and corporate culture, I hope you learned a little bit about Korea as well. So remember, if you are working at a job that has a company anthem, make sure to sing your heart out, even if your voice cracks!

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Getting the Most Out Of Your Business Trip To Singapore

Singapore offers a little bit of everything for anybody traveling to Southeast Asia. However, the question is, what makes Singapore an attractive hub to investors and business people alike?

Multicultural Society

Singapore boasts four predominant cultures: Malay, Chinese, Eurasian, and Indians. Business people can take a trip to this city-state to enjoy the cultural diversity.

Ease of Doing Business

Singapore offers a smooth and short process for acquiring business permits and setting up shop within the country – both for locals and non-locals. Additionally, Singapore is among the first nations within Asia to embrace new tech for business people to use.

Are you planning to visit Singapore any time soon for a business trip? Here are excellent pointers to make the most out of your stay there.

Find the Right Accommodation

Singapore has plenty of excellent places of accommodation for business travelers. If you are looking forward to staying there for an extended period, you can always check in to corporate apartments.

These apartments are designed for business tourists and are 30% cheaper than hotels. Additionally, they’re fitted with modern facilities alongside social amenities located within the neighborhood.

Get Connected   

Singapore is a telecommunication hub and, being a corporate center of the Asian continent, staying connected is easy. You can easily buy a SIM card; however, you will need to show your passport at the time of purchase.

Besides that, the city-state is supplied with high-speed free internet.

Understand the Language

Singaporeans speak Malay, Mandarin, and English. Also, there is Singlish, which borrows heavily from English. It is crucial that you understand a few phrases from the local languages which may come in handy when you need help.

Get Yourself a Work Permit

Singapore has strict immigration rules. If you’re visiting the country for a business trip, having a work permit is essential. Besides a work permit, it is also important to know how you’ll get your visa.

This shouldn’t be a bother. You can visit Visa Express, where you can find assistance in getting the necessary documentation for a trouble-free stay.

Your Behavior

Singapore has made significant progress thanks to the discipline of its citizens. As a foreigner, you’ll be required to behave well else you will find yourself on the wrong hand of the law. Here are some of the don’ts: do not litter, avoid PDA (Public Displays of Affection), and avoid emotional behavior in public.

Carry the Right Clothes

Singapore has a tropical climate, meaning the weather there is hot and humid. Cotton clothes are the best since they allow for proper aeration and comfort. Additionally, get yourself an umbrella or a stylish raincoat for the rainy days.

Be Polite

This is standard in all countries. Always be sure to let the hosts speak first during meetings, keeping your interruptions low if possible. Additionally, make your speech or talk brief and to the point.

5 Major Insights On Chinese Business Culture And Etiquette

The difference between China and other western countries regarding business culture and etiquette cannot get ignored. It’s big and diverse. China’s unique history contributes immensely to their distinctive business culture and etiquette. With China’s economy opening up and joining trade organizations like WTO, it sure has become a darling of many in doing business. If you intend to travel to China for business reasons, there’s no better advice than you having to learn some basic Chinese business culture before traveling.

In this article, you will gain insight on how to conduct a successful business in China as you avoid cultural and social disasters. Here are the tips:

The First Approach.

Chinese prefer doing business with people recommended to them by other business associates other than direct contacts. Referrals form the basis of business relationships. If you have no connections, contact investment committee for direction and advise.

Friendship.

Unlike business relationships in the Western countries, in China, they graduate to a social relationship with time. Business relationships become closer as you share more of your political opinions, personal life, hobbies, aspirations, and family. They accept your deal based on how much they know you.

Precedence.

Chinese business people value addressing each other based on rank. One gets addressed according to his/her seniority and especially in the state-owned businesses. The other party gets addressed as Chairman, Director, Manager, or other titles that represent a particular rank. They avoid addressing each other as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. While giving out any documentation like name cards, always start with the senior person. Make sure you stretch out your both hands.

Giving Face.

Giving face also refers to giving due respect. Respect gets accorded according to rank. When giving gifts, they should differ according to seniority. Those in high positions get better gifts than those in lower levels. Sitting in board meetings or when dining should get accorded according to rank.

Gifts and presents.

Gifts, especially from the western origin significantly enhance business relationships in China and especially in the small cities and towns. Similarly, you will receive gifts from them and especially products with a touch of Chinese art. You should not refuse gifts from them as they refer such an act as impolite and will affect your business relationship.

While conversing with the Chinese, never mention the following topics and avoid them as plague:

  • Independence of Taiwan as a country.
  • Your Friendship with Japanese or show that you praise them over Chinese.
  • Anything to criticize Deng Hsiao Ping.

They term them as taboo and mentioning the above topics results to nasty arguments. Converse anything else under the sun with the Chinese except for the above topics.

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Say goodbye to clients

Do not wave your client goodbye at the door. Always walk them to the elevator and walk back after the elevator door closes. For business partners you have been known for a long time, walk them to their car in the parking lot and leave only after their car makes the first turn.

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Respect all nations and their customs

Being a large multi-national country, China is composed of 56 ethnic groups, among which Han people account for over 90% of the population. The rest 55 minority groups are distributed extensively throughout China. They all have different culture, costumes, food and lifestyles. In Yunnan Province alone, 25 nations can be found, living in individual communities. You need to understand the particular culture and rules of behavior of each nation before conducting business with them.

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Check your suppliers business

For the last couple decades, China has become the hottest destination of sourcing. As a buyer, you definitely have to know about your products, know general rules, but that’s not enough, if you want to source in China. In my opinion, such things are important: 1. Business rules in China; 2. Due diligence; 3. IP protection. Rule No. 1 is: CHECK YOUR SUPPLIER’S BUSINESS LICENSE. In China, Business License is like ID card or passport of an individual, it’s certificate of identity.

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Importance of Guanxi

When doing business, Chinese attach great importance to “Guanxi”, which is the private relationship with the partners. So please keep in touch with your Chinese friends by making phone calls with them to have a talk. This shows that they are important in your mind. Building a harmonious relationship will help you a lot when you want to do business with them.

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Guanxi is the key to opportunities

Chinese people don’t like to do business with strangers, instead, they believe in “relations after business”. Therefore, to sign your first contract with your Chinese counterparts might require months of work, negotiation and guanxi building. The Chinese term guanxi, similar to networking, is the key to minimizing the obstacles and opening doors when doing business in China. An intermediary is very crucial when you need the introduction to an organization or individual. Guanxi can be created by hosting banquets, exchanging favors and sending gifts. A wide guanxi is always the key to opportunities.

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