7 Tips to Help with Understanding Chinese Business Etiquette

Doing business in China

Doing business in China is increasingly a reality for a lot of businesses. Ensuring you follow the correct protocols is important to ensure your repuatation remains solid. Here are some tips on how to do so.

1. Expecting a certain standard of time

In China, the definition of time doesn’t always designate a certain hour giving way to the next one. As an example, for a Westerner noon is a definite time, whereas for the Chinese it is a two-hour period of time ranging from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

2. Mistakenly thinking that loud voices are a sign of hostility

It might be a quirk of the Chinese language or just the sheer number of individuals in China attempting to say something at once, but whatever it is, the Chinese have a tendency to speak louder than most Westerners are comfortable with.

3. Misinterpreting a display of deference by the Chinese

Although shaking hands is something completely natural for Westerners, for the Chinese it isn’t necessarily a comfortable practice. They consider over-friendliness to be disrespectful and impolite. During their greetings, most Chinese are very reserved and offer only a weak handshake. Don’t take offense from this.

4. Underestimating how important exchanging business cards is before a meeting

Offering a doubled-sided Western-style business card with one side having simplified Chinese on it indicates respect for your Chinese colleague. On the other hand, its absence is similar to refusing a handshake to open a Western business meeting. Even when you already know what the person’s position and title is, study his card. If you are at a table, place it in plain view – this is important according to Reputation Communications

5. Not understanding the importance of “guanxi”

It is not easy to translate guanxi into one word that has the same exact meaning. Connections or relationships outside of the family is about as close as one can get to the meaning of a concept that is central to Chinese culture and society. Before conducting business, it is very important for Chinese people to really get to know the individual or individuals they are considering doing business with. The when, why and how it is done all depends on the nature of the relationships.

6. Mistakenly believing that a meal is only a meal in China

You will most certainly invited to dinner or lunch. Discussing any business during this time is considered to be rude. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any business goal connected with the meal. (Due to guanxi). There is a good chance there will be people appearing at the dining table who haven’t been present at any of your business meetings. Here is a cool infographic on etiquette.


7. Not remembering table etiquette

The Chinese believe that good table manners bring luck, while bad ones result in shame. From a Westerner’s perspective, too much food is always on the table (which for the Chinese indicates the host’s prosperity). However, you should try every dish. Also make sure that you accept the final offering of what has been pointed out by your host as the best dish. This is a sign of your host’s hospitality.

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Topics: Operations
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