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.
- 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.
- Offer your own business card in exchange. If your has one side translated on the local language, then make sure that side faces up.
- 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.
- 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.
Smoking cigarette is also usual in China, even when you are having lunch or dinner together. Chinese people are not accustomed to the concept of non-smoking area. So if your clients or hosts start smoking while having a meal, please don’t be surprised.
Wine is very important in Chinese lunch or dinner. Drink as much as you can is an essential sign of your respect to the host. So please never try to reject this while having a meal with your host. Wine from Europe also is considered a great gift to give on a first meeting with the host.
magandang umaga / gabi (good morning / good evening)
In Chinese companies everything is decided by the person with the highest rank within the company. Try to find out who is the person you need to talk to. Hints could be the arrangement of persons when having a dinner, or who enters the room first when negotiating.
In China, spouses are not included in business entertainments. However, it is common to bring your secretary or assistant along. Unlike in western countries, most women in China don’t smoke or drink.
Great conversation topics with your Chinese host are family, children, football or other sports, food or industry. With the topics you can build up a closer relationship with your host. Please try to be open about your own personal life also, this is very much appreciated.
If you are talking with Chinese please be very careful when talking about Tibet, Taiwan, Japan or Chinese politics. Chinese do not like to talk about these subjects, but also they are very easy offended with these conversation topics. Try not to mention these topics or keep a neutral opinion.
Avoid discussing Diaoyu Island
Diaoyu Island has been a cause of conflicts between China and Japan for decades. This is the one of the most concerned political issues in Chinese society. The Japanese culture has a great influence on younger generation of China, but politically, the hatred towards the Japanese among Chinese citizens has never diminished since WWII. Such emotions are still easily provoked when it comes to politics. Therefore, it is not advised to talk about these issues with Chinese people.
When you are in China or taking meals with Chinese, please don’t mind if all the people at the same table share same dishes by using their own chopsticks, without common chopsticks or spoon. Some people may also offer you food to show their hospitality, but by using their own chopsticks. It is not sanitary to some extent, but it is Chinese style of sharing food.
Have you eaten? is the direct translation from Chi le ma, but indeed it is a greeting phrase when people meet each other, representing an intimate relations between them. It’s important to understand this is NOT an invitation for meal. It is also important if you master this phrase and use it in daily greetings, very idiomatic
In China, a toast is always accompanied by a little speech of appreciation and goodwill. It is very common that the host makes a toast by giving a speech celebrating your business relationship and cooperation. Other people will also make toasts to express their goodwill. You are expected to do the same during the meal.
Meals and social events with your Chinese host are not the place for business discussions. Mostly they are part of creating a bond between you and your Chinese host. Try to keep your patience and always participate in these occasions. But whatever you do don’t mention business related topics unless your host does.
The Chinese prefer face-to-face meetings rather than written or telephonic communication. When you are in China always try to have face-to-face communication. Contact by mail, phone or Skype is not taken that serious.