Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette Guide

chinese business meeting

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.